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. Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper






Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper

University of Latvia

Faculty of Modern Languages

English Department

Types of Tests Used in English Language.

Bachelor Paper

An?elika Ozerova

Riga

2004

Declaration of academic Integrity

I hereby declare that this study is my own and does not contain any

unacknowledged material from any source.

Signed:

12 May, 2004

Abstract.

The present paper attempts to investigate various types of tests and

their application in the language classroom. The theoretical part deals

with the basic data about testing, the comparison of such issues as

assessment and valuation, reasons for testing, types of tests, such as

diagnostic, progress, achievement, placement and proficiency tests; test

formats and ways of testing.

It relates theory to practice by analyzing two proficiency tests:

TOEFL and CFC tests. They are carefully discussed and compared to find

any similarities or differences in their structure and design. The

conclusions drawn are based on the theory and analyses of the tests. The

data obtained indicate that the both tests though being sometimes

different in their purpose, design and structure, are constructed

according to the universally accepted pattern.

Table of Contents

Introduction ........................1

Chapter 1

What is test?3

Chapter 2

2.1 Inaccurate tests....7

2.2 Validity....8

2.3 Reliability.. 11

Chapter 3

3.1 Diagnostic tests. .13

3.2 Placement tests....15

3.3 Progress tests...........................17

3.4 Achievement tests...18

3.5 Proficiency tests..20

Chapter 4

4.1 Direct and Indirect testing......22

4.2 Discrete point and integrative testing..24

4.3 Criterion-refernced and Norm-referenced testing25

4.4 Objective and Subjective testing.....26

4.5 Communicative language testing26

Chapter 5

5.1 Multiple choice tests29

5.2 Short answer tests32

5.3 The Cloze tests and Gap-filling tests..33

5.4 C-Test..35

5.5 True/false items36

5.6 Dictation...36

5.7 Listening Recall38

5.8 Testing Grammar through Error-recognition Items.38

5.9 Controlled Writing39

5.10 Free Writing40

5.11 Test Formats Used in Testing Speaking Skills..41

Chapter 6

Analysis of the Test of English as a Foreign Language and Cambridge

First

Certificate test according to test design criteria..43

Conclusions...55

Theses. ..........................57

Bibliography.......................59

Appendix

Introduction

Among all words used in a classroom there is the only word that

usually makes the students shudder: test. There is hardly a person who

would claim that s/he favours tests and finds them very motivating.

However, tests cannot be avoided completely, for they are inevitable

elements of learning process. They are included into curriculum at schools

and are to check the students level of knowledge and what they are able to

do; they could be accomplished at the beginning of the study year and at

the end of it; the students could be tested after working on new topics and

acquiring new vocabulary. Moreover, the students are to face the tests in

order to enter any foreign university or reveal the level of their English

language skills for themselves. For that purpose they take specially

designed tests that are Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL

test (further in the text) and CFC (further in the text), or Cambridge

First Certificate. Although, these tests can sometimes serve for different

purposes and are unrelated, they are sometimes quite common in their design

and structure. Therefore, the author of the paper is particularly

interested in the present research, for she assumes it to be of a great

significance not only for herself, but also for the individuals who are

either involved in the field or just want to learn more about TOEFL and CFC

tests, their structure, design and application. Therefore, the present

research will display various aspects of the theory discussed, accompanied

with the practical part vastly analyzed.

Thus, the goal of the present research is to investigate various types

of test formats and ways of testing, focusing particularly on TOEFL and CFC

tests, in order to see how the theory is used and could be applied in

practice.

The hypothesis is as follows: Serving for almost similar purpose, however

being sometimes different in their design and structure, the TOEFL and CFC

tests are usually constructed according to the accepted universal pattern.

The enabling objectives are as follows:

. To review literature on the nature of tests in order to make

theoretically well-motivated discussions on the choice of testing types;

. To analyse the selected types of tests, such as TOEFL and CFC tests;

. To draw relevant conclusions.

Methods of Research:

Theoretical:

1) Analytical and selective study of the theory available;

2) Juxtaposition of the ideas selected from theory and tested against

practical evidences;

3) Drawing conclusions.

Practical:

. Selecting and adapting appropriate tests types, such as TOEFL and CFC, to

exemplify the theory.

The paper consists of six chapters each including sub-chapters.

Chapter 1 discusses the general data about tests. Chapter 2 describes

reliability and validity. Chapter 3 focuses on various types of tests.

Chapter 4 deals with ways of testing. Chapter 5 speaks on four language

skills. Chapter 6 offers the practical part of the paper.

Chapter 1

What is test?

Hicks (2000:155) considers that the role of tests is very useful and

important, especially in language learning. It is a means to show both the

students and the teacher how much the learners have learnt during a course.

The author of the paper agrees with the statement, for she believes that in

order to see whether the students have acquired the material and are making

constant progress, the teacher will inevitably have to test his/her

learners. It does not mean that a usual test format with a set of

activities will be used all the time. To check the students knowledge the

teacher can apply a great range of assessment techniques, including even

the self-evaluation technique that is so beloved and favoured by the

students. Moreover, according to Heaton (1990:6), tests could be used to

display the strength and weaknesses of the teaching process and help the

teacher improve it. They can demonstrate what should be paid more attention

to, should be worked on and practised. Furthermore, the tests results will

display the students their weak points, and if carefully guided by the

teacher, the students will be even able to take any remedial actions.

Thompson (Forum, 2001) believes that students learn more when they

have tests. Here we can both agree and disagree. Certainly, preparing for a

test, the student has to study the material that is supposed to be tested,

but often it does not mean that such type of learning will obligatory lead

to acquisition and full understanding of it. On the opposite, it could

often lead to the pure cramming. That, consequently, will result in a

stressful situation the student will find her/himself before or during the

test, and the final outcome will be a complete deletion of the studied

material. We can base that previous statement on our own experience: when

working at school, the author of the present research had encountered such

examples for many times.

However, very often the tests can facilitate the students acquisition

process, i.e.: the students are to be checked the knowledge of the

irregular verbs forms. Being constantly tested by means of a small test,

they can learn them successfully and transfer them to their long-term

memory, as well. Although, according to Thompson tests decrease practice

and instruction time. What he means is that the students are as if limited;

they are exposed to practice of a new material, however, very often the

time implied for it is strictly recommended and observed by a syllabus.

That denotes that there will be certain requirements when to use a test.

Thus, the students find themselves in definite frames that the teacher will

employ. Nevertheless, there could be advantages that tests can offer: they

increase learning, for the students are supposed to study harder during the

preparation time before a test.

Thompson (ibid.) quotes Eggan, who emphasises the idea that the

learners study hard for the classes they are tested thoroughly. Further, he

cites Hilles, who considers that the students want and expect to be tested.

Nonetheless, this statement has been rather generalized. Speaking about the

students at school, we can declare that there is hardly a student who will

truly enjoy tests and their procedure. Usually, what we will see just sore

faces when a test is being mentioned. According to Thompson, the above-

mentioned idea could be applied to the students who want to pass their

final exams or to get a certificate in Test of English as a Foreign

Language (TOEFL) or First Certificate (FCE). Mostly this concerns adults or

the students who have their own special needs, such as going abroad to

study or work. This again supports the idea that motivation factor plays a

significant role in the learning process.

Moreover, too much of testing could be disastrous. It can entirely

change the students attitude towards learning the language, especially if

the results are usually dissatisfying and decrease their motivation towards

learning and the subject in general.

Furthermore, as Alderson (1996:212) assumes, we should not forget that

the tests when administered receive less support from the teacher as it is

usually during the exercises in a usual language classroom. The students

have to cope themselves; they cannot rely on the help of the teacher if

they are in doubt. During a usual procedure when doing various activities

the students know they can encounter the teachers help if they require it.

They know the teacher is always near and ready to assist, therefore, no one

is afraid to make a mistake and try to take a chance to do the exercises.

However, when writing a test and being left alone to deal with the test

activities, the students panic and forget everything they knew before. The

author of the paper believes that first what the teacher should do is to

teach the students to overcome their fear of tests and secondly, help them

acquire the ability to work independently believing in their own knowledge.

That ability according to Alderson is the main point, the core meaning of

the test. The students should be given confidence. Here we can refer to

Heaton (1990:7) who conceives, supported by Hicks, that students

encouragement is a vital element in language learning. Another question

that may emerge here is how to reach the goal described above, how to

encourage the students. Thus, at this point we can speak about positive

results. In fact, our success motivates us to study further, encourages us

to proceed even if it is rather difficult and we are about to lose

confidence in ourselves. Therefore, we can speak about the tests as a tool

to increase motivation. However, having failed for considerable number of

times, the student would definitely oppose the previous statement. Hence,

we can speak about assessment and evaluation as means for increasing the

students motivation.

Concerning Hicks (2000:162), we often perceive these two terms

evaluating and assessment as two similar notions, though they are

entirely different. She states that when we assess our students we commonly

are interested in how and how much our students have learnt, but when we

evaluate them we are concerned with how the learning process is

developing. These both aspects are of great importance for the teacher and

the students and should be correlated in order to make evaluation and

assessment go hand in hand. However, very frequently, the teachers assess

the students without taking the aspect of evaluation into account.

According to Hicks, this assessment is typically applied when dealing with

examinations that take place either at the end of the course or school

year. Such assessment is known as achievement test. With the help of these

tests the teacher receives a clear picture of what his/her students have

learnt and which level they are comparing with the rest of the class. The

author of the paper agrees that achievement tests are very essential for

comparing how the students knowledge has changed during the course. This

could be of a great interest not only for the teacher, but also for the

authorities of the educational establishment the teacher is employed by.

Thus, evaluation of the learning process is not of the major importance

here. We can speak about evaluation when we deal with small tests the

teachers use during the course or studying year. It is a well-known fact

that these tests are employed in order to check how the learning process is

going on, where the students are, what difficulties they encounter and what

they are good at. These tests are also called diagnostic tests; they

could be of a great help for the teacher: judging from the results of the

test, analysing them the teacher will be able to improve or alter the

course and even introduce various innovations. These tests will define

whether the teacher can proceed with the new material or has to stop and

return to what has not been learnt sufficiently in order to implement

additional practice.

With respect to Hicks, we can display some of her useful and practical

ideas she proposes for the teachers to use in the classroom. In order to

incorporate evaluation together with assessment she suggests involving the

students directly into the process of testing. Before testing vocabulary

the teacher can ask the students to guess what kind of activities could be

applied in the test. The author of the paper believes that it will give

them an opportunity to visage how they are going to be tested, to be aware

of and wait for, and the most important, it will reduce fear the students

might face. Moreover, at the end of each test the students could be asked

their reflections: if there was a multiple choice, what helped them guess

correctly, what they used for that their schemata or just pure guessing;

if there was a cloze test - did they use guessing from the context or some

other skills, etc. Furthermore, Hicks emphasises that such analysis will

display the students the way they are tested and establish an appropriate

test for each student. Likewise, evaluation will benefit the teacher as

well. S/he not only will be able to discover the students preferences, but

also find out why the students have failed a particular type of activity or

even the whole test. The evaluation will determine what is really wrong

with the structure or design of the test itself. Finally, the students

should be taught to evaluate the results of the test. They should be asked

to spot the places they have failed and together with the teacher attempt

to find out what has particularly caused the difficulties. This will lead

to consolidation of the material and may be even to comprehension of it.

And again the teachers role is very essential, for the students alone are

not able to cope with their mistakes. Thus, evaluation is inevitable

element of assessment if the teachers aim is to design a test that will

not make the students fail, but on the contrary, anticipate the tests

results.

To conclude we can add alluding to Alderson (1996:212) that the usual

classroom test should not be too complicated and should not discriminate

between the levels of the students. The test should test what was taught.

The author of the paper has the same opinion, for the students are very

different and the level of their knowledge is different either. It is

inappropriate to design a test of advanced level if among your learners

there are those whose level hardly exceeds lower intermediate.

Above all, the tests should take the learners ability to work and

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