Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper

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(First certificate Star, Luke Prodromou, p.134)

Definitely there are advantages and disadvantages of the following test format. According to Weir, due to the frequency of the deleted items there is a great possibility to include more tested items in the test. Moreover, this test is economical. However, despite all the advantages, the test can mislead the students as it is fragmented. The examples are deprived from the context that could be very helpful for the students guessing of the missing parts.

5.5 True/False items


This test format is familiar for all the teachers and students. Each reading task will always be followed with true/false activities that will intend to check the students comprehension of a text. The students will be offered a set of statements some of which are true and some are wrong, e.g.:

1.       People went to see Cats because of the story. T F

2.       Lloyd Webbers father helped his career. T F

3.       Lloyd Webber comes from a musical family. T F

( Famous Britons, Michael Dean)

They usually should be ticked, and in order to tick the correct variants the students have to be able to employ various guessing strategies.

According to Weir (1990:48), the advantage of such test is found in its applicability and suitability. One can write more true/false statements for a test and use them to check the students progress or achievement. Furthermore, the current sort of testing could be more motivating for the students than a multiple-choice test. It will not make the students confused offering just one possibility than a multiple-choice test, which typically proposes more than one option to choose from. Moreover, it is easy to answer for the students and check for the teachers.



5.6 Dictation


Another test format that could be applied in the language classroom is dictation. We commonly use dictations to check spelling; nevertheless, it could be applied to test listening comprehension, as well. It is obvious that to dictate something we have either to speak or read. It means that while writing a dictation the student has to be able to perceive the spoken language efficiently enough to produce in on paper. For this purpose the student will require a variety of techniques such as schemata and its application, predictions, guessing and context clues, etc. Further, it also is constrained that dictation help the students develop their abilities to distinguish between phonemes, separate words and intonation. Besides, dictations function in spoken language; thereof the students have an opportunity to learn to understand the language through listening. To conclude what has been mentioned above we can agree with Weir (1990:49) that dictations will force the students to use the variety of skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing skills.

Heaton (1990:28) advises that to enable the students comprehend successfully, the teacher need to read carefully and clearly, however avoiding slow, word for word reading. Moreover, to allow the students to check what they have written the repetition will be required. The author of the paper when giving dictations to her students had encountered the need for repetition for a number of times. The following could be explained by many factors, such as the students are not able to perceive spoken speech through listening; they are not able to elaborate various guessing, inferring of the meaning techniques or their pace of writing is simply rather slow. Thus, we entirely support the next statement claimed by Heaton that it is wise after the first reading of a dictation to ask a set of comprehension questions to make the students aware of the general idea of a text. It will simplify the process of the understanding.

Notwithstanding, even an ideal variant will definitely contain some drawbacks. The same could be applied to dictations. First, to write a dictation, the student requires a good memory. S/he has to retain information they have heard in order to display it later; moreover, the information should be identical to the original. Therefore, we can claim that the student has to recognize at least seventy-eighty per cent of what has been dictated. In that case we short-term memory should be well developed.

Apart from memory, scoring could be problematic, as well. Weir (1990:50) believes that is difficult to decide what to pay attention to: whether to evaluate spelling and grammar, or just perceived information. Thus, the teacher has to work out a certain set of criteria, as we have already mentioned that in Chapter 1, the criteria s/he will be operating with. Besides, the students should be acquainted with it, as well.

In addition, Weir (ibid.) says that dictating is more efficient if it is recorded on the tape and is delivered by a native speaker. It could mean that the students will have a chance to fell themselves in the real-life situation; for this is the actual purpose they learn the language for. The following has been expanded by Heaton (ibid.) that speaking face to face with a speaker is even more beneficial, for we can compensate the lack of understanding by his/her facial expression, gestures and movements. Listening to a cassette does not provide us with such a chance, and therefore, it is more challenging and requires more developed skills to understand a recorded message.



5.7 Listening Recall

This test format is specifically applied to testing listening skills. It differs from a dictation that it supplies the students with a printed text. However, the text is given not as the complete script of the tape. Certain words that carry the meaning load are deleted from a passage, and the students after listening to the tape are supposed to insert them. Hence, it could be related to a gap-filling test. Here the cassette is usually played for two times; first, the students listen for information and attempt to insert the missing details. The second time allows them to add what they had failed to understand at the beginning. The author of the paper had not used that as a direct test format but as a while-listening activity during her classes. According to her scrutiny the students with more advanced language abilities were able to comprehend the texts immediately, whereas the weaker students sometimes could not manage to understand the message even listening for the tape for the third time. That again proves the significance of usage of pre-, while and post-listening activities in the language classroom. Weir (ibid.) states that such type of testing involves the students short-time memory, which they need to switch while listening to the tape.

According to Weir (ibid.), one of the advantages of listening recall is uncomplicated construction, administration and marking.

Nevertheless, there are several disadvantages, as well. There is a danger, that the students will read the passage before listening to the tape, thus we will not be able to evaluate exactly their listening skills. The author of the current paper had encountered the similar situation, where the teacher warns the students not to read but just listen. However, they start reading immediately after receiving the text, even though the tape record being still turned off.

5.8 Testing Grammar Through Error-recognition Items and Word Formation Tasks

One of the test formats for testing grammar is error-recognition items. Here the teacher writes sentences underlining various words. One of the words is obligatory wrong, and the students have to identify what word is wrong and should be corrected. Heaton (ibid.) introduces a variation of that type, saying that the teacher can supply the students with incorrect sentences asking the students to provide the right variant. This again demands a fairly good knowledge of the subject from the students to differentiate between the right and wrong variants. In that case the error-recognition format could be compared with multiple-choice format and even called a branch of it. Below you can find the example of error-recognition items format:

1.               I cant come to the phone I have / Im having a shower!

2.               I watched/ I was watching TV when suddenly the telephone rang.

3.               I had been waiting/ I had waited in the rain for ages when she finally turned up.

(First certificate Star, Luke Prodromou, p.12)

Further, for testing grammar and language structures we often use word-formation tasks, e.g.:

Making friends and people is a gift that some influence

.people seem to be born with, while for others it luck

is a skill that has to be ..through practice and acquire

hard work. It is, however, .to know that most skills, comfort

particularly .skill, can be learnt and that it is never society

too late to start improving.

(First certificate Star, Luke Prodromou, p.41)










It is frequently used in centralized exams to know the students ability to coin new words that displays the students advanced level of the language. The students are demanded coining nouns from verbs, adjectives from nouns, etc. This requires certain knowledge of prefixes, suffixes and roots in order to create a necessary word. Word coinage is an inevitable skill for recognizing new word items either.

5.9 Controlled writing

In order to check the students grammar and writing ability the teacher can use different test formats: transformation, broken sentences, sentence and paragraph completion, form filling, notes and diaries.

According to Heaton (1990:32), transformation deals with re-writing sentences. For example, the students are asked to change a sentence in Active voice into a sentence in Passive voice. To differ the task the teacher can put the required word in brackets at the end of each sentence. The students will need to transform a sentence to fit the word in brackets. Or another example of transformation could be changing the focus of the sentence, e.g.:

1.       Berlin is not an easy city to move about in.


Itin Berlin.

2.       I wonder if you could open the window.


You couldnt .

3.       When did you start to learn English?



(First certificate Star, Luke Prodromou, and p.40)

Further, he discusses the sentences that are divided into fragments (he calls them broken sentences), and the students task is to arrange the words in order to produce correct examples. Thus, the students have to know grammar and syntaxes to make a right sentence with the correct word order. Sometimes the students are asked to alter the words to make grammatically correct sentences, e.g.:

1.       a German/hunting/huge/black dog

2.      a 25-year-old/Opera/tall singer

3.      a brand-new/plastic/shopping/green bag

4.      an English/young/interesting teacher

(First certificate Star, Luke Prodromou, and p.80)

Afterwards, the students can be asked to complete the whole paragraphs, finish dialogues, write diaries using the given information, and fill the form, for example hotel check-in. The author of the paper had used writing a diary in her 8th form, when the learners had to write the diary of captains wife whose husband disappeared in the sea. They also had to write the diary of the captain himself before the catastrophe. The students liked the task immensely.

5.10 Free writing

Heaton (ibid.) believes that the most suitable way to check the students writing skills is asking them to write a composition. The teacher can include a variety of testing criteria there depending on what is really being tested. The topics for a composition should be appropriate to the age of the students and respond to their interest. However, the teacher has to establish clearly what s/he is going to check (the material studied: e.g. grammar) and what could be neglected. The students have to know whether the teacher is interested in the context or may be s/he is concerned with grammar and spelling, as well.

5.11 Test Formats Used in Testing Speaking Skills

We are not going to deep into details of test formats used for testing speaking skills. Heaton (ibid.) displays that one of the most essential elements of testing speaking is pronunciation. To check how the students pronounce certain testing items the teacher may ask his/her students to read aloud and retell stories. Moreover, the teacher will receive the impression how well his/her students can operate with the spoken language.

Afterwards, the teachers can use pictures to test the students speaking skills. This is widely used task, and a lot of teachers use it to check the students speaking skills and the knowledge of the vocabulary. Moreover, while describing the picture the student will have to imply the correct grammar and knowledge of the English sentence structure. The description could be done on the spot and does not require a lot of time for preparation, though Heaton (ibid.) stipulates that the teacher should ensure his/her students with a time during which they can formulate their ideas before presentation.

Apart from the pictures the students could be offered to describe a person if their topic is peoples appearance or jobs, stay the sequence of events basing on the provided information or pictures accompanying the task, spot differences between two pictures and compare them. Further, Heaton (ibid.) displays a rather interesting task. The students receive a picture with speech bubbles. They are asked to write what they think people are saying. This in turn involves creativity from the students and could be assessed as an additional element and contribute to the students marks. Definitely, each teacher will develop and give the students various tasks regarding the criteria and demands to be tested.

In conclusion we can say that the teacher can use a variety of test formats, such as multiple-choice questions, transfer of information; reordering the words, describe a picture, listening to the instructions to check the language skills of his/her students. Every teacher has to choose him/herself the tasks that will be appropriate to their way of teaching and the needs of the students.

Below we have attached the table of four language skills and test formats applicable for each skill.


Language Skills


Test Formats

Reading skills

1.       1 Multiple-choice items

2.       Short answers test

3.       Cloze test

4.       Gap-filling test

5.       False/true statement


Listening skills

1.      Multiple-choice items

2.      False/true statements

3.      Gap-filling tests

4.      Dictations

5.      Listening recall


Writing skills

1.        Dictations

2.        Compositions

3.        Reproductions

4.        Writing stories

5.        Writing diaries

6.        Filling-in forms

7.        Word formation

8.        Sentence transformation


Speaking skills

1.    Retelling stories

2.    Describing pictures

3.    Describing people

4.    Spotting the differences

Chapter 6

Analysis of the Test of English as a Foreign Language and Cambridge First Certificate test according to test design criteria.

The present chapter deals with the practical part of the research. It will be based on the analysis and comparison of two proficiency tests formats TOEFL (The Test of English as a Foreign Language) test and CFC (Cambridge First Certificate) test. We will start with the brief description of their overall features; afterwards we will make an attempt to contrast them and draw relevant conclusions.

The first test to be discussed is Cambridge First Certificate test. It will usually consist of five papers: reading with the duration time 1 hour and 15 minutes, writing -1 hour 30 minutes, use of English -1 hour 15 minutes, listening - 40 minutes and speaking approximately 14 minutes. There is no absolute pass mark, but the candidates need to get about 60% of the total marks to pass with a Grade C (Prodromou, 1998:6-7).

TOEFL test is an examination that intends to evaluate the level of the English language of a foreign speaker (Gear, 1996:3-4). Moreover, it is commonly one of the aspects included into the entrance exams of any university in the USA. The institution the person requires the test for could implement the demanded score here. Nevertheless, the highest score does not differ from that of the CFC. TOEFL test as CFC test consists of four different parts: listening comprehension that occupies approximately 35 minutes and consists of three parts, structure and written expression with time limit 25 minutes composed of two tasks and reading comprehension 55 minutes, consisting of several passages.

Here we can notice some differences between CFC and TOEFL tests: when TOEFL test consists of just four parts, CFC includes a speaking part more. Moreover, each part of each test will include a various range of tasks, i.e. each part TOEFL test will mainly be composed of two tasks, whereas CFC will classically contain four different activities.

Doing the tests in both cases the students will get special answers sheets where they will have to mark the answers they think are the right ones. The instructions before the taking the test usually warn the participants not to write in the books with questions. Moreover, both tests are checked by the scoring machine, therefore the students should be aware of what type of marking the answers they have to use. In both cases it should be a black lead pencil for the scoring machine to read. The answers should not be circled or lightly marked; in TOEFL test the students are supposed to fill in an oval answer with a letter inside corresponding to the question, whereas in CFC the students will have to fill in a small rectangular under a certain letter. Together the two tests remind the participants to choose only one answer. If the student changes his/her mind and decides to choose another answer, s/he can easily rub out the previous answer.

We can call the both tests valid, for they test what is supposed to be tested and measured and they usually have the same format and length; regarding reliability, we cannot say exactly whether there is reliability or not, for if the student was not lucky for the first time taking the test, s/he can study hard and take the test again for the second time and, thus, score a better result.

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2009 .