Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper

Advancing further, we have come to norm-referenced test that measures the knowledge of the learner and compares it with the knowledge of another member of his/her group. The learners score is compared with the scores of the other students. According to Hughes (ibid.), this type of test does not show us what exactly the student knows. Therefore, we presume that the best test format for the following type of testing could be a placement test, for it concerns the students placement and division according to their knowledge of the foreign language. There the score is vital, as well.

4.4 Objective and subjective testing


It worth mentioning that apart from scoring and testing the learners abilities another essential role could be devoted to indirect factors that influence evaluating. These are objective and subjective issues in testing. According to Hughes (1989:19), the difference between these two types is the way of scoring and presence or absence of the examiners judgement. If there is not any judgement, the test is objective. On the contrary, the subjective test involves personal judgement of the examiner. The author of the paper sees it as when testing the students objectively, the teacher usually checks just the knowledge of the topic. Whereas, testing subjectively could imply the teachers ideas and judgements. This could be encountered during speaking test where the student can produce either positive or negative impression on the teacher. Moreover, the teachers impression and his/her knowledge of the students true abilities can seriously influence assessing process. For example, the student has failed the test; however, the teacher knows the true abilities of the student and, therefore, s/he will assess the work of that student differently taking all the factors into account.


4.5 Communicative language testing


Referring to Bynom (ibid.), this type of testing has become popular since 1970-80s. It involves the knowledge of grammar and how it could be applied in written and oral language; the knowledge when to speak and what to say in an appropriate situation; knowledge of verbal and non-verbal communication. All these types of knowledge should be successfully used in a situation. It bases on the functional use of the language. Moreover, communicative language testing helps the learners feel themselves in real-life situation and acquire the relevant language.

Weir (1990:7) stipulates that the current type of testing tests exactly the performance of communication. Further, he develops the idea of competence due to the fact that an individual usually acts in a variety of situations. Afterwards, reconsidering Bachmans idea he comes with another notion communicative language ability.

Weir (1990:10-11) assumes that in order to work out a good communicative language test we have to bear in mind the issue of precision: both the skills and performance should be accurate. Besides, their collaboration is vital for the students placement in the so-called real life situation. However, without a context the communicative language test would not function. The context should be as closer to the real life as possible. It is required in order to help the student feel him/herself in the natural environment. Furthermore, Weir (ibid.) stresses that language fades if deprived of the context.

Weir (ibid., p.11) says: to measure language proficiency adequately in each situation, account must be taken of: where, when, how, with whom, and why the language is to be used, and on what topics, and with what effect. Moreover, Weirs (ibid.) emphasises the crucial role of the schemata (prior knowledge) in the communicative language tests.

The tasks used in the communicative language testing should be authentic and direct in order the student will be able to perform as it is done in everyday life.

According to Weir (ibid.), the students have to be ready to speak in any situation; they have to be ready to discuss some topics in groups and be able to overcome difficulties met in the natural environment. Therefore, the tests of this type are never simplified, but are given as they could be encountered in the surroundings of the native speaker. Moreover, the student has to possess some communicative skills, that is how to behave in a certain situation, how to apply body language, etc.

Finally, we can repeat that communicative language testing involves the learners ability to operate with the language s/he knows and apply it in a certain situation s/he is placed in. S/he should be capable of behaving in real-life situation with confidence and be ready to supply the information required by a certain situation. Thereof, we can speak about communicative language testing as a testing of the students ability to behave him/herself, as he or she would do in everyday life. We evaluate their performance.

To conclude we will repeat that there are different types testing used in the language teaching: discreet point and integrative testing, direct and indirect testing, etc. All of them are vital for testing the students.


Chapter 5

Testing the Language Skills


In this chapter we will attempt to examine the various elements or formats of tests that could be applied for testing of four language skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. First, we will look at multiple-choice tests, after that we will come to cloze tests and gap filling, then to dictations and so on. Ultimately, we will attempt to draw a parallel between them and the skills they could be used for.

5.1 Multiple choice tests


It is not surprising why we have started exactly with multiple-choice tests (MCQs, further in the text). To the authors concern these tests are widely used by teachers in their teaching practice, and, moreover, are favoured by the students (Here the author has been supported by the equivalent idea of Alderson (1996:222)). Heaton (1990:79) believes that multiple-choice questions are basically employed to test vocabulary. However, we can argue with the statement, for the multiple choice tests could be successfully used for testing grammar, as well as for testing listening or reading skills.

It is a well-known fact how a multiple-choice test looks like:

1.      ---- not until the invention of the camera that artists correctly painted horses racing.

(A)   There was

(B)   It was

(C)   There

(D)   It

Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test:

A task basically is represented by a number of sentences, which should be provided with the right variant, that, in its turn, is usually given below. Furthermore, apart from the right variant the students are offered a set of distractors, which are normally introduced in order to deceive the learner. If the student knows the material that is being tested, s/he will spot the right variant, supply it and successfully accomplish the task. The distractors, or wrong words, basically slightly differ from the correct variant and sometimes are even funny. Nevertheless, very often they could be represented by the synonyms of the correct answer whose differences are known to those who encounter the language more frequently as their job or study field. In that case they could be hardly differentiated, and the students are frustrated. Certainly, the following cases could be implied when teaching vocabulary, and, consequently, will demand the students ability to use the right synonym. The author of the paper had given the multiple-choice tests to her students and must confess that despite difficulties in preparing them, the students found them easier to do. They motivated their favour for them as it was rather convenient for them to find the right variant, definitely if they knew what to look for. We presume that such test format as if motivated the learners and supplied them additional support that they were deprived during the test where nobody could hope for the teachers help.

Everything mentioned above has raised the authors interest in the theory on multiple-choice test format and, therefore, she finds extremely useful the following list of advantages and disadvantages generated by Weir. He (1990:43) lists four advantages and six disadvantages of the multiple-choice questions test. Let us look at the advantages first:

        According to Weir, the multiple-choice questions are structured in such a form that there is no possibility for the teacher or as he places marker to apply his/her personal attitude to the marking process.

The author of the paper finds it to be very significant, for employing the test of this format we see only what the student knows or does not know; the teacher cannot raise or lower the marker basing on the students additional ideas displayed in the work. Furthermore, the teacher, though knowing the strong and weak points of his/her students, cannot apply this information as well to influence the mark. What s/he gets are the pure facts of the students knowledge.

Another advantage is:

        The usage of pre-test that could be helpful for stating the level of difficulty of the examples and the test in the whole. That will reduce the probability of the test being inadequate or too complicated both for completing and marking.

This could mean that the teacher can ensure his/her students and him/herself against failures. For this purposes s/he just has to test the multiple-choice test to avoid troubles connected with its inadequacy that later can lead to the disaster for the students receiving bad marks due to the fact that the tests examples were too complicated or too ambiguous.

The next advantage concerns the format of the test that clearly implies the idea of what the learner should do. The instructions are clear, unambiguous. The students know what they are expected to do and do not waste their precious time on trying to figure out what they are supposed to do.

The last advantage displayed by Weir is that the MCQs in a certain context are better than open-ended or short-answer questions, for the learners are not required to produce their writing skills. This eliminates the students fear of mistakes they can make while writing; moreover, the task does not demand any creative activity, but only checks the exact knowledge of the material.

Having considered the advantages of MCQs, it is worth speaking about its disadvantages. We will not present all of them only what we find of the utmost interest and value for us.

The first disadvantage concerns the students guessing the answers; therefore, we cannot objectively judge his/her true knowledge of the topic. We are not able to see whether the student knows the material or have just luckily ticked or circled the right variant. Therefore, it could be connected with another shortcoming of the following test format that while scoring the teacher will not get the right and true picture of what the students really know.

Another interesting point that could be mentioned it that multiple-choice differ from the real-life situation by the choice of alternatives. Usually, in our everyday life we have to choose between two alternatives, whereas the multiple-choice testing might confuse the learner by the examples s/he even has not thought about. That will definitely lead to frustration, and, consequently, to the students failure to accomplish the task successfully.

Besides, regarding Weir (ibid.) who quotes Heaton (1975) we can stipulate that in some cases multiple-choice tests are not adequate and it is better to use open-ended questions to avoid the pro-long lists of multiple-choice items. This probably will concern the subject, which will require a more precise description and explanation from the students side.

To finish up with the drawbacks of MCQs we can declare that they are relatively costly and time-consuming to prepare. The test designer should carefully select and analyse each item to be included in the test to avoid ambiguity and imprecision. Furthermore, s/he should check all possible grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, evaluate the quality of information offered for the learners tasks and choose the correct and relevant distractors for the students not to confuse them during the test.

To conclude we can cite Heaton (1990:17) who stipulates that designing a multiple-choice items test is not so fearful and hard as many teachers think. The only thing you need is practice accompanied by a bit of theory. He suggests for an inexperienced teacher to use not more than three options if the teacher encounters certain difficulties in supplying more examples for the distractors. The options should be grammatically correct and of equal length. Moreover, the context should be appropriate to illustrate an example and make the student guess right.

5.2 Short answer tests

A further format that is worth mentioning is short answer test format. According to Alderson (1996:223) short answer tests could be substitutes to multiple-choice tests. The only difference is that apart from the optional answers the students will have to provide short answers. The author of the paper had not used this test format, thus, she cannot draw on her experience. Therefore, she will just list the ideas produced by other linguists, to be more exact Aldersons suggestions.

Alderson (ibid.) believes that short answer tests will contribute to the students results, for they will be able to support their answers and, if necessary, clarify why they responded in that way but not the other. It could be explained that the students will have an opportunity to prove their answers and support them if necessary.

Nevertheless, the short answer tests are relatively complicated for the teacher to be designed. The teacher has to consider a variety of ideas and thoughts to create a fairy relevant test with fairly relevant items. May be that could explain the fact why this test format is not such a common occasion as MCQs are.

At this point we have come to advantages and drawbacks of short answer tests. Weir (1990:44) says that this type of testing differs from MCQs by the absence of the answers. The students have to provide the answer themselves. That will give the marker the clear idea whether the students know what they write about or not. Certainly, the teacher will be definite about the students knowledge, whereas in MCQs s/he can doubt whether the students know or have just guessed the correct answer. Moreover, short answer test could make the students apply their various language skills techniques they use while dealing with any reading, listening or speaking activity.

Finally, Weir (ibid.) stipulates that if the questions are well formulated, there is a high chance the student will supply short, well-formulated answer. Therefore, a variety of questions could be included in the test to cover a broader field of the students knowledge, and certainly it will require a great work from the teacher.

Nevertheless, there are certain drawbacks displayed by the following test format. One of the major disadvantages could be the students involvement in writing. For if we are determined to check the students reading abilities, it is not appropriate to give the students writing tasks due to the high possibility of the spelling and grammar mistakes that may occur during the process. Therefore, we have to decide upon our priorities what do we want to test. Furthermore, the students while writing can produce far different answers than expected. It will be rather complicated to decide whether to consider them as mistakes or not.


5.3 The cloze test and gap-filling tests


Before coming to the theory on cloze tests we assume that it is necessary for us to speak about a term cloze. Weir (1990:46) informs that it was coined by W.L. Taylor (1953) from the word closure and meant the individuals ability to complete a model.

However, to follow the model one has to posses certain skills to do so. Hence, we can speak about introduction of such skill that Weir calls deduction. Deduction is an important aspect for dealing with anything that is unknown and unfamiliar. Thus, before giving a cloze test the teacher has to be certain whether his/her students are familiar with the deduction technique.

Alderson (1996:224) assumes that there are two cloze test techniques: pseudo-random and rational cloze technique. In the pseudo-random test the test designer deletes words at a definite rate, or as Heaton (1990:19) places it, systematically, for example every 7th word should be deleted occasionally with the initiate letter of the omitting word left as a prompt:

Although you may think of Britain as England ,i...is really four countries in one. There a.. ..four very distinct nations within the British I: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, each with their o..unique culture, history, cuisine, literature a..even languages.

(Discovering Britain, Pavlockij B. M., 2000)

However, the task could be more demanding if the teacher will not assist the learners guesses and will not provide any hints:

Scotland is in the north and Wales in the west wereseparate countries. They have different customs,.., language and, in Scotland s case, different legal and educational.


The examples shown above do not yield to be ideal examples at all. Without doubt, the material used in the task should more or less provide the students with the appropriate clues to form correct guessing. Notwithstanding, the author of the paper has used such tests in her practice and according to her observations; she can conclude that the tasks with the first letter left are highly motivating for the students and supply a lot of help for them. Moreover, having discussed the following test format the teacher has revealed that the students like it and receive a real pleasure if they are able to confirm their guess and find the right variant.

However, according to Alderson (ibid.), the teacher commonly does not intend to check a certain material by the cloze test. The main point here is the independence of the student and his/her ability to apply all the necessary techniques to fill in the blank spaces. Concerning the mentioned-above scholars, we have to agree that the following type of test is actually relatively challenging, for it demands vast language knowledge from the student. Heaton (ibid.) believes that each third or fourth deleted word can turn into the handicap for the learner due to the lack of prompting devices, such as collocations, prepositions, etc. Whereas, the removal of each ninth word may even lead to the exhausting reading process.

On the contrary, the rational cloze technique, or as it is usually called gap-filling, is based on the deletion of words connected with the topic the teacher wants or intends to check. At this time the teacher controls the procedure more than it is in the pseudo-random test discussed above. Moreover, s/he tries to delete every fifth or sixth word, but does it rather carefully not to distort the meaning and mislead the learner. Besides, a significant factor in this type of testing is that the teacher removes exactly the main words that are supposed to be checked, i.e.:

Britain.a deceptively large island and surrounded by some very beautiful coastline. The south of England has popular sandy beaches, especially in the west. But the coast in the south west Wales..a unique coastal National Park. Its beaches great for sunbathing and the rock pools and cliffs ..havens for wildlife. Up in Scotland, the striking white beaches of the west coast and islandsexcellent places for explorative walks.

(Discovering Britain, Pavlockij B. M., 2000)

It is evident that the teachers aim by the help of the rational cloze test is to check the students knowledge of the Present simple of the verb to be. Thereof, the cloze tests could be successfully used for testing grammar, as well.

We have come again to the point when we are going to mention the advantages and disadvantages of cloze and gap-filling testing coined by Weir. Regarding Weir, there are more disadvantages than advantages in applying the cloze tests. He says that to design a cloze test is fairly easy, and they are easy to evaluate, and it is the best means to check reading comprehension. Concerning the drawbacks, we can emphasise that randomly removed words usually will act as distractors and will not be of true importance for the students to comprehend a message if, for example, it is a reading task.

Compared to the cloze test, gap filling is more material based, for it checks the students knowledge of a particular topic. Therefore, we can speak about the first advantage that is the learners will know exactly what they should insert. Moreover, the selectively deleted items allow focusing exactly on them and do not confuse the student.

The last what could be said about gap filling tests is that this technique limits us to check only a certain language skill, e.g. a vocabulary on different topics.

5.4 C-Tests

It is worth mentioning that in the 80s German school introduced an alternative to cloze test another type of testing C-Tests. This test was based on the cloze test system; however, every second word there was deleted. It could seem quite a complicated type, though it is not. According to Weir (1990:47) in this type every deleted word is partially preserved. Thus, the students, if they possess a fairly good knowledge of the language and can activate their schemata, or background knowledge of a topic or the world, they will succeed in completing the test. Such test format could look as follows:

: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

2009 .