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LANGUAGE TESTING Although tests are the dreaded learning part for our students, they are considered

an important teaching tool. They create competition within the classroom, provide feedback and give a sense of success to the learners. What is a test? A test is a method of measuring a persons ability or knowledge in a given area. It is obviously a set of technique or procedures that samples performance but infers competence and which takes into consideration the testees previous experience. Some fundamental characteristics of a test are the following: It is a measuring of ability or knowledge The measuring can be broad and inexact as in informal tests (a good tennis player) But it can also be mathematically quantified ( exact) as in formal tests It is the performance that is tested but the underlying knowledge that is targeted or inferred The target can be a given area (proficiency, grammar, pronunciation ) Tests take into consideration the testees previous experience.

Requirement of tests 1. Practicality: It must be practical in terms of financial limitation, time constraints, ease of administration, scoring and interpretation 2. Reliability: There are two types of test reliability:

Test reliability mean that if we assign the same test to the same subjects or matched subjects on two different occasions it would yield the same result. Scorer or rater reliability on the other hand refer to the cosistency of scoring by two or more scorers

3. Validity Does the test measure what it is intended to measure? This refers to content and construct validity

If a test samples the class situations or the universe of the subject matter about which conclusions are to be drawn, it is said to have content validity. Constructs are things like proficiency, communicative competence, self-esteem Any theoretical category can be thought of as a construct. Tests reflect these constructs. When preparing tests one need to be satisfied that these tests are adequate definitions of a construct.

Kinds of tests 1. 2. 3. 4. proficiency test Diagnostic test Achievement test Aptitude test

Discrete vs Integrative tests Discrete tests derive from audio-lingual structural approach of language learning. Language is seen in this approach as a sum of discrete blocks to be learned separately. It focuses on isolated language points that students must master before proceeding to a higher level.

Integrative tests appeared as the communicative approach started to gain fields in the foreign and second language teaching. If discrete items take language skill apart integrative tests put it back together. Examples of such tests include cloze tests and dictation. Assessing communicative competence Testing has to be pragmatically relevant. It should revolve around three main areas, namely

grammar, discourse sociolinguistics and illocutionary competence

Merill swain (1984) listed four primary criteria for the construction of communicative tests: 1. Start from somewhere. Building on existing knowledge and principles. This refers to a theoretical framework that is a foundation for devising any communicative tests. 2. Concentrate on content Instead of requiring the testee to jump from one topic to another, a communicative test need to have motivating, interesting and substantive content. This includes, for example, problem solving and situations that use context and are integrative and interactive. 3. Bias for best. Tests need to do everything possible to elicit the very best performance. This is possible only if the testee feel that s/he can indeed succeed and is provided with a stress free environment. The testee should also be given enough time to complete the task. 4. Work for wash back. Tests provide feedback. This means that we should not teach to test. Tests are rather teaching tools for better achievements. In a nutshell, while our students fear being tested, a lot of teachers contend that we cannot do without tests. Tests provide feedback and create competition. Nevertheless, there are some legitimate questions that need to be answered:

Is everything we teach testable? Do we actually test performance or competence? Arent there any external factors that might affect tests? Is high scoring in a test really an evidence of language mastery?

COMMON TEST TECHNIQUES Language Skills and Their Components Four Major Language Skills: Components of Language Skills:


Test techniques are means of eliciting behavior from candidates that will tell us about their language abilities Characteristics of good techniques: They will elicit behavior which is a reliable and valid indicator of the ability in which we are interested

They will elicit behavior which can be reliably scored They are as economical of time and effort as possible They will have a beneficial backwash effect

COMMON TESTING TECHNIQUES 1) MULTIPLE CHOICE ITEMS A stem: Enid has been here..half an hour. Choices: One of which is the correct answer, the others being distractors a. During b. For c. While d. since Advantages:


tests only recognition knowledge


of producing appropriate distracters may not help in testing


It allows the examinee to compose That is, using his own words to express himself in writing. It tests not only grammatical structures and lexicon, but also ideas, their organization and the mechanics of writing

Disadvantages: not being able to elicit specific language items

3) INTERVIEW Advantages: it allows the candidate to use his own words to express himself in speaking it tests not only grammatical structures and lexicon, but also ideas Disadvantages: not being able to elicit specific language items

Unreliable and uneconomical evaluation

4) YES/NO and TRUE/FALSE Items Unsuitable in testing unless asking examinees to give the reason for their choice 5) SHORT ANSWER Items Examples, I wish I (have) a new car. John knew the answer to the problem Advantages: -choice and composition

No distracters Items are easier to write Disadvantages: Less items Test takers produce language Unreliable and invalid scoring

6) GAP FILLING Items See examples on pages 80-81 An example, Hannibal particularly liked to eat brains because of their and their. It works best with tests of listening and reading where the missing word is to be found in the text It does not work well with tests of grammar and vocabulary where the missing word can be filled with more than one choice It has the advantages of the short answer technique It does not call for significant productive skills Scoring can be highly reliable provided that it is carried out with a carefully constructed answer key

A Final Remark: What should you do to make sure that such a component is considered in your test? rate, you have to time the test to make sure that examinees answer the items in an appropriate speed fluency, you can easily determine whether a speaker is fluent or not