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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

Anželika 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 think into account, for each student has his/her own pace, and some students may fail just because they have not managed to accomplish the required tasks in time.

Furthermore, Alderson assumes (ibid.) that the instructions of the test should be unambiguous. The students should clearly see what they are supposed and asked to do and not to be frustrated during the test. Otherwise, they will spend more time on asking the teacher to explain what they are supposed to do, but not on the completing of the tasks themselves. Finally, according to Heaton (1990:10) and Alderson (1996:214), the teacher should not give the tasks studied in the classroom for the test. They explain it by the fact, that when testing we need to learn about the students progress, but not to check what they remember. The author of the paper concurs the idea and assumes that the one of the aims of the test is to check whether the students are able to apply their knowledge in various contexts. If this happens, that means they have acquired the new material.

Chapter 2

Reliability and validity

 

2.1  Inaccurate tests


Hughes (1989:2) conceives that one of the reasons why the tests are not favoured is that they measure not exactly what they have to measure. The author of the paper supports the idea that it is impossible to evaluate someones true abilities by tests. An individual might be a bright student possessing a good knowledge of English, but, unfortunately, due to his/her nervousness may fail the test, or vice versa, the student might have crammed the tested material without a full comprehension of it. As a result, during the test s/he is just capable of producing what has been learnt by tremendous efforts, but not elaboration of the exact actual knowledge of the student (that, unfortunately, does not exist at all). Moreover, there could be even more disastrous case when the student has cheated and used his/her neighbours work. Apart from the above-mentioned there could be other factors that could influence an inadequate completion of the test (sleepless night, various personal and health problems, etc.)

However, very often the test itself can provoke the failure of the students to complete it. With the respect to the linguists, such as Hughes (1989) and Alderson (1996), we are able to state that there are two main causes of the test being inaccurate:

        Test content and techniques;

        Lack of reliability.

The first one means that the tests design should response to what is being tested. First, the test must content the exact material that is to be tested. Second, the activities, or techniques, used in the test should be adequate and relevant to what is being tested. This denotes they should not frustrate the learners, but, on the contrary, facilitate and help the students write the test successfully.

The next one denotes that one and the same test given at a different time must score the same points. The results should not be different because of the shift in time. For example, the test cannot be called reliable if the score gathered during the first time the test was completed by the students differs from that administered for the second time, though knowledge of the learners has not changed at all. Furthermore, reliability can fail due to the improper design of a test (unclear instructions and questions, etc.) and due to the ways it is scored. The teacher may evaluate various students differently taking different aspects into consideration (level of the students, participation, effort, and even personal preferences.) If there are two markers, then definitely there will be two different evaluations, for each marker will possess his/her own criteria of marking and evaluating one and the same work. For example, let us mention testing speaking skills. Here one of the makers will probably treat grammar as the most significant point to be evaluated, whereas the other will emphasise the fluency more. Sometimes this could lead to the arguments between the makers; nevertheless, we should never forget that still the main figure we have to deal with is the student.

 

2.2. Validity

 

Now we can come to one of the important aspects of testing validity. Concerning Hughes, every test should be reliable as well as valid. Both notions are very crucial elements of testing. However, according to Moss (1994) there can be validity without reliability, or sometimes the border between these two notions can just blur. Although, apart from those elements, a good test should be efficient as well.

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