When Inclusivity Means Playing Safe: Ideological Discourses and Representations in English Testing Materials

Selvi A. F., Saracoğlu E., Çalışkan E.

RELC Journal, 2021 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume:
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/00336882211008662
  • Journal Name: RELC Journal
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts
  • Keywords: Discourse, ideology, inclusivity, proficiency tests, critical discourse analysis
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


© The Author(s) 2021.Over the years, we have been witnessing the burgeoning of interdisciplinary interest in the use of ideological discourses and enactment of representations through linguistic and semiotic choices in positioning, (re)constructing and expressing identities. In this picture, there is an evident paucity of research investigating the kinds of representations (e.g. discourses of identity and the notions of inclusivity and exclusivity) in domains other than academic writing and instructional materials (e.g. second language testing materials). Responding to this need, the current study investigates the representations of ideologies and discourses in the Yabancı Dil Sınavı (Foreign Language Exam, abbreviated as YDS) developed and administered by the Ölçme, Seçme ve Yerleştirme Merkezi (The Measuring, Selection, and Placement Centre, abbreviated as ÖSYM) in Turkey. The data set used in this study consists of a total of 880 multiple-choice questions that appeared in 11 YDS tests administered between 2014 and 2018. The analysis of our data set helped us acknowledge the complex and multi-layered nature of ideological discourses and representations of inclusivity/exclusivity embedded in language constructions and choices (the first-person plural pronoun we) and their manifestations (referents). Even though surface-level analyses indicated a seemingly artificial sense of inclusivity, deeper-level analyses portrayed a ‘safe zone’ demarcated by conceptual decisions (emotional topic effect) broader policy implications (tests as sociocultural artifacts). In conclusion, the findings indicated that informed by the ongoing sociocultural and sociopolitical context, the test and examination bodies (e.g. ÖSYM) have a defining role in establishing a local culture of testing.