Formal Testing in TESOL
Jun 17, 2010 Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (T 4550 Views
Formal testing is important to both student and teacher and may be administered at either the start of a course; end of a course or at the end of a specific area of work such as at the end of a unit in a course book. There are various types of formal tests which will be discussed as well as what should be tested and the criteria for tests.
Reasons for Testing
There are various reasons for testing:
For the teacher
• It shows the effectiveness of the teaching/learning
• It tells you what needs to be taught/learnt/revised
• It helps place the student in the school's grading system
• It is usually required by the school/institution
For the student
• It gives an idea of own progress which is motivating
• Good for class dynamic
• Shows student there is something to learn, or problem areas to sort out
• Surprisingly, perhaps a high percentage of students either like or expect tests
Types of Tests
There are four types of formal tests:
A progress test may be administered either at the end of a particular unit, week, month, term or year. This type of test is usually prepared or set by the class teacher or someone else in the school in order to take account of the overall syllabus of the school.
A proficiency test is a test which is set by an external examination body such as Oxford or Cambridge.
A placement test is the test administered to new students entering the school. This test allows the new student to be placed in the correct class according to his or her level.
A diagnostic test is simply a test that a teacher may initially give to a class in order to find out what it is that they already know and to further assist in determining what the syllabus should contain.
What to Test?
• You can test specific items that you have taught in class such as vocabulary, structure, function, register and pronunciation
• You can test skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking
• You may also decide to test the general fluency and communicative efficiency of your students
Criteria for Tests
There are a number of considerations to bear in mind when setting a test or deciding whether a test is suitable or appropriate for your students. These will depend on the particular needs and situation of your students. Here are a few criteria to consider:
• Does the particular quiz test exactly what it is that you want to test or does it merely test memory?
• Which English skills are involved for the students to be able to successfully complete the test?
• Is the test reliable? Reliability concerns the extent to which test results are stable, consistent and accurate and therefore the extent of dependability for making decisions about students.
• Is the test long enough to be representative of what you want?
• Is the marking system objective or subjective? If there is simply one correct answer as in a multiple choice exercise, the scheme is objective. On the other hand, a mark for an essay or assessment of a student's oral fluency is likely to be subjective. This is because different assessors, examiners or markers could disagree on the level or standard of the work.
• Is the test easy to administer? Oral testing may often be a little tricky!
• Is the test culturally biased or fair?
• Is the test varied in format and interesting?
An important thing to remember when administering a test is to mark and return it quickly. Go over it with your students, check answers and give appropriate feedback and clarification. Avoid conducting tests in an atmosphere of fear or looming personal defeat or doom. This will only serve to undermine student confidence and self esteem.