Methods of Assessment

Reasons for testing i.e. the objectives of test-types

answer - 1. What basic questions should a teacher/tester ask himself/herself before setting a test?

What to test. How to do it. Whether to test at all. Why the assessment is being made. What it should contain. The consequences for teaching, learning and administration. The quality of the proposed test material.

The characteristics of a good test are:

answer - 2. What are the relationships between learning, teaching & testing?

Content validity: purposes for assessment: aims of teacher / learner. Content specification = list: ensures that test reflects all areas to be assessed in suitable proportion.

Balanced sample (nature of items included). Backwash/Washback: influence on learning & teaching before the test. Teaching through testing.

answer - 3. What are the main reasons for testing?

Achievement/Attainment tests: usually more formal, designed to show mastery of a particular syllabus (e.g. end-of-year tests, school-leaving exams, public tests) though similar (re-syllabus) to progress tests. Rarely constructed by classroom teacher for a particular class. Designed primarily to measure individual progress rather than as a means of motivating or reinforcing language.

Progress Tests: Most classroom tests take this form. Assess progress students make in mastering material taught in the classroom. Often given to motivate students. They also enable students to assess the degree of success of teaching and learning and to identify areas of weakness & difficulty. Progress tests can also be diagnostic to some degree.

Diagnostic Tests can include Progress, Achievement and Proficiency tests, enabling teachers to identify specific weaknesses/difficulties so that an appropriate remedial programme can be planned. Diagnostic Tests are primarily designed to assess students' knowledge & skills in particular areas before a course of study is begun. Reference back to class-work. Motivation. Remedial work.

Placement Tests sort new students into teaching groups so that they are approx. the same level as others when they start. Present standing. General ability rather than specific points of learning. Variety of tests necessary. Reference forward to future learning. Results of Placement Tests are needed quickly. Administrative load.

Proficiency Tests measure students' achievements in relation to a specific task which they are later required to perform (e.g. follow a university course in the English medium; do a particular job). Reference forward to particular application of language acquired: future performance rather than past achievement. They rarely take into account the syllabus that students have followed. Definition of operational needs. Practical situations. Authentic strategies for coping. Common standard e.g. driving test regardless of previous learning. Application of common standard whether the syllabus is known or unknown.

Aptitude Tests: measure students probable performance. Reference forward but can be distinguished from proficiency tests. Aptitude tests assess proficiency in language for language use (e.g. will S experience difficulty in identifying sounds or the grammatical structure of a new language?) while Proficiency tests measure adequacy of control in L2 for studying other things through the medium of that language.

answer - 4. What are the essential differences between a classroom test and an external examination?

Most external exams are designed to discriminate as widely as possible among testees.

answer - 5. Briefly describe the following types of test in terms of their objectives: a) aptitude b) placement c) diagnostic d) achievement e) proficiency.

a) Aptitude has no past and concerns the future: re language performance itself e.g. Modern Language Aptitude Test University of York

b) Placement Tests: sort new students into teaching groups so that they are approx. the same level as others when they start.

c) Diagnostic concerns the past. It may or may not refer to a known syllabus (e.g. Kernel entry test and tests on each 3 units)

d) Achievement has a known syllabus and concerns the future (e.g. "O" & A level or University degree exams)

e) Proficiency relates to the future: re- Use of Language to undertake a non-language task (e.g. Cambridge Proficiency, TOEFL)

answer - 6. How far is it possible to predict student success in language learning?

Aptitude tests assess profieciency in language for language use i.e. language performance itself. They do not assess the use of language to undertake a non-linguistic task.

Problem one: definition of student success in language learning: should we consider language learning for other goals.

Problem two: before we can predict success we have to be able to measure it. How do we measure proficiency?

Problem three: if aptitude tests are conceived as measuring the amount of linguistic skill needed for language learning, supposing we are able to measure linguistic skill, surely this is not the only factor which accounts for successful performance.

Is it possible to separate linguistic skill (even if we think we are testing it!) from factors such as intelligence, motivation, the whole teaching situtation? There are too many variables. Need for more research into what is fundamentally involved in LL.

How do we separate APTITUDE from IQ? There is a correlation between HIGH IQ and SUCCESS IN LL.

answer - 7. Can one measure a student's progress in learning a L2? What are the difficulties?

Defining the syllabus: Clear statement of aims & methods & specification of the content of learning.

The design and content of the progress test will seek to show that students have attained those abilities the course seeks to develop.

Difficulty in knowing whether to attribute progress to the course, previous knowledge, outside influences, time in host environment or classroom, etc. The quality of the test and the assumptions on which it is based.

answer - 8. How does one specify test objectives? How far does the way objectives are defined influence subsequent assessment?

Definition of objectives: "The best basis for setting valid tests is to ask questions at every stage, but especially at the beginning of test development process, so that specification is as clear a statement as possible of why assessment is being made, what it will contain and the consequences for teaching, learning and administration.

Linguistic Competence ("Levels"): Tests of grammar & usage (Morphology & Syntax), vocabulary (Lexis & Semantics: collocations), LC (Phonology: discrimination, recognition, pronunciation, stress & intonation) & writing skills (graphology)

answer - 9. What are the main language skills and their components? Are there other skills that should be tested?

For lists of skills and sub-skills see: