Top 5 Characteristics of a Good Language Test

A good language test should have a positive effect on learning and teaching. Such a test should aim at specifying areas of difficulties experienced by the class or the individual students so that additional practice and corrective exercises can be given.

A good language test should also measure students’ performance without setting “traps” for them. It should be developed well to provide an opportunity for students to show their ability to perform certain language tasks.

On the other side, the test should enable the teachers to find out which parts of the language program cause difficulty for the class. In this way, the teachers can evaluate the effectiveness of the syllabus as well as the methods and materials they are using.

Although language testing is a fundamental part of learning and teaching in school today, it is at any level a highly complex process because it must be based on theory as well as practice.

A written language test is a classic example of formal assessment where students should be aware of being tested for a reason. There are some various characteristics that should be taken into account when constructing and using a language test. These qualities should be addressed with high consideration in order for a language test to have the positive effect.

This article sheds some light on the top five characteristics of a good language test. In order to describe it as Good, a language test should be:

1. Reliable:

Reliability is consistency, dependence and trust. This means that the results of a reliable test should be dependable. They should be consistent (remain stable, should not be different when the test is used in different days).  A test that is called reliable yield similar results with similar group of students took the same test under identical conditions.

Thus reliability has three aspects:  reliability of the test itself, reliability of the way in which it has been marked, and reliability of the way in which it has been administered.

The three aspects of reliability are named: equivalence, stability and internal consistency (homogeneity).

The first aspect, equivalence, refers to the amount of agreement between two or more tests that are administered at nearly the same point in time.

Equivalence is measured through administering two parallel forms of the same test to the same group. This administration of the parallel forms occurs at the same time or following some time delay.

The second aspect of reliability, stability, is said to occur when similar scores are obtained with repeated testing with the same group of respondents. In other words, the scores are consistent from one time to the next. Stability is assessed through administering the same test to the same individuals under the same conditions after some period of time.

The third and last aspect of reliability is internal consistency (or homogeneity). Internal consistency concerns the extent to which items on the test are measuring the same thing.

There are three factors affect test reliability:

  1. The length of the test. longer tests produce more reliable results than very brief quizzes. In general, the more items on a test, the more reliable it is considered to be.
  2. The administration of the test which include the classroom setting (lighting, seating arrangements, acoustics, lack of intrusive noise etc.) and how the teacher manages the test administration.
  3. Affective status of students. Test anxiety can affect students’ test results.

2. Valid:

The term validity refers to whether or not the test measures what it claims to measure. On a test with high validity the items will be closely linked to the test’s intended focus. Unless a test is valid it serves no useful function.

One of the most important types of validity for teachers is content validity which means that the test assesses the course content and the outcomes using formats familiar to the students.

Content validity is the extent to which the selection of tasks in a test is representative of the larger set of tasks of which the test is assumed to be a sample. A test needs to be a representative sample of the teaching contents as defined and covered in the curriculum.

Like reliability there are also some factors which affect the validity of test scores.

Factors in the test:

  • Unclear directions to students to respond the test.
  • Difficulty of the reading vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • Too easy or too difficult test items.
  • Ambiguous statements in the test items.
  • Inappropriate test items for measuring a particular outcome.
  • Inadequate time provided to take the test.
  • Length of the test is too short.
  • Test items not arranged in order of difficulty.

Factors in test administration and scoring:

  • Unfair aid to individual students, who ask for help,
  • Cheating by students during testing.
  • Unreliable scoring of essay type answers.
  • Insufficient time to complete the test.
  • Adverse physical and psychological condition at the time of testing.

Factors related to students:

  • Test anxiety of the students.
  • Physical and Psychological state of the student,

3. Practical:

Practical test is the test that is developed and administered within the available time and with available resources. Based on this definition, practicality can be measured by the availability of the resources required to develop and conduct the test.

Practicality refers to the economy of time, effort and money in testing. Practical test should be easy to design, easy to administer, easy to mark and easy to interpret its results.

Traditionally, test practicality has referred to whether we have the resources to deliver the test that we design.

A test is practical when it:

  • is not too expensive,
  • stays with appropriate time constraints,
  • is relatively easy to administer, and
  • has a scoring/evaluation procedure that is specific and time efficient.

4. Discriminate:

All assessment is based on comparison, either between one student and another, or between students as they are now and as they were earlier. An important feature of a good test is its capacity to discriminate among the performance of different students or the same student in different points in time. The extent of the need to Discrimination varies according to the purpose of the test.

5. Authentic:

Authenticity means that the language response that students give in the test is appropriate to the language of communication.  The test items should be related to the usage of the target language.

Other definitions of authenticity are rather similar. The Dictionary of language testing, for instance, states that “a language test is said to be authentic when it mirrors as exactly as possible the content and skills under test”.  It defines authenticity as “the degree to which test materials and test conditions succeed in replicating those in the target situation”.

Authentic tests are an attempt to duplicate as closely as possible the circumstances of real-life situations. A growing commitment to a proficiency-based view of language learning and teaching makes authenticity in language assessment necessary.

In conclusion:

There is criticism toward most classroom language tests showed that they don’t assess students’ language competence or proficiency because most language teachers don’t have the ability to construct tests with the features mentioned above. This lack of ability deserves more attention from both teachers and supervisors.

A teacher should be trained on designing, developing and conducting the language tests that include the above characteristics and the feature of being valuable learning tools.

P.S. If you liked this article, please share it with others using sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in receiving more materials about creative, non-boring ways to teach English, please Follow our Blog via Email.

Assessment Literacy – Information for Teachers Interested in Issues of Language Assessment

Assessment procedures should be used to achieve three main purposes:

  1. Providing end-of-term grading or certification (summative evaluation)
  2. Providing information on the learner’s strengths and weaknesses (formative evaluation)
  3. Helping the teacher and/or learner to plan further work (integrative evaluation)

When assessing learning outcomes, the teacher should be concerned with four main decisions. These decisions relate to the following broad four questions:

  1. What to assess,
  2. When to assess,
  3. How to assess and
  4. How to use the information provided by the assessment process to support learning and to improve one’s own teaching.

Teachers can use tests and examinations to be aware of:

  • The learner’s competence or performance,
  • The student’s knowledge of culture of the native speaker of the language,
  • The ability to use language in realistic contexts.

When designing tests, teachers need to consider:

  • How valid the test is in terms of the aims and objectives of language learning,
  • How reliable the test is in terms of the grading procedures,
  • How practical the test is in terms of designing and administering it.

Ongoing assessment in the classroom is a must to provide a continuous picture of the learner’s ongoing progress and should be used both by the teacher and the learner. There are some important points the teacher should take into account when designing assessment tasks in the classroom. They are as follows:

  • Assessment procedures should be valid and appropriate to learning aims and objectives.
  • In-class activities should be used to monitor and assess learners’ participation and performance.
  • Assessment tasks should aim mainly at identifying strengths and areas for improvement in the learner’s performance.
  • There should be some assessment procedures to assess the learner’s ability to work independently and collaboratively.
  • The process and results of assessment should give helpful information for planning teaching and learning for individuals and groups.
  • Assessment of the learner’s performance and learning progress should be in the form of descriptive evaluation, which should be transparent and comprehensible to the learner, parents and others.
  • Reports, checklists, grades etc. can be used to chart and monitor the learner’s progress.
  • Assessment scales and a valid institutional/national/international grading system should be used in assessing the learner’s performance. Grades assigned for tests and examinations should use reliable and transparent procedures.

When assessing the learner’s language performance, the teacher should assess the learner’s ability to:

  • produce a spoken text according to criteria such as content, range, accuracy, fluency, appropriateness of usage, etc.
  • produce a written text according to criteria such as content, range, accuracy, cohesion and coherence, etc.
  • understand and interpret a spoken text such as listening for gist, specific or detailed information, implication, etc.
  • understand and interpret a written text such as reading for gist, specific or detailed information, implication, etc.
  • engage in spoken interaction according to criteria such as content, range, accuracy, fluency and conversational strategies.
  • engage in written interaction according to criteria such as content, range, accuracy and appropriateness of response, etc.

When assessing the learner’s awareness of language culture, the teacher should assess the learner’s:

  • knowledge of cultural facts, events etc. of the target language communities.
  • ability to make comparisons between their own and the culture of target language communities.
  • ability to respond and act appropriately in encounters with the target language culture.

When learners make common errors during assessment tasks, the teacher should:

  • analyze these errors and identify the processes that may cause them.
  • provide constructive feedback to learners concerning their errors.
  • deal with errors that occur in class in a way which supports learning processes and communication.
  • deal with errors that occur in spoken and written language in ways which support learning processes and do not undermine confidence and communication.

How to Teach Functional Langauge

Most students struggle to communicate effectively in some social situations because most teachers focus overly on grammar and often neglect teaching students functional language.

The heart of functional language is understanding the implied social meaning of certain expressions. We use language mainly to perform some kind of communicative behavior like make a request, offer help, offer advice, give apology, … etc. The expressions that we use to achieve these functions are called functional exponents.

There are two basic ways of presenting a language function:

1. Inductive way:  

* Give the learners different examples of the function and ask students to identify it: E.g. “Any chance of a coffee?” What is the speaker’s intention here? What language or expressions did he use to express his intention?

2. Deductive way: 

Present a situation in which the function is needed and ask students to respond to it. E.g. you dropped the vase and it broke down. What would you say?

The best way to teach language functions is in context, that’s in dialogues 

When focusing on dialogues that contain functional language, there are three things should be clear for students to help them think about and analyze the target language:

  1. The place where the dialogue is taking place.
  2. The relationship between the two speakers.
  3. What the speaker A / B wants to do or say.

Practical steps to teach a dialogue with some language functions:

1. Introduce the dialogue telling students the names of the speakers and present the difficult words if it is necessary.

2. Play the dialogue or read it as a whole then ask students about:

  • where the dialogue is taking place (to check understanding of the context)
  • the relationship between the two speakers (to check language appropriateness)

3. Divide the dialogue into mini dialogues; a stimulus and its response (functional expressions) and write them on the board.

4. Talk about the speakers’ intentions and give students the functional meaning.

5. Underline the key words in the expressions and highlight the form.

6. Draw students’ attention to the choice of particular words or structures to express certain meanings.

7. Ask students to say the expressions focusing on stress and intonation (pronunciation practice).

8. Ask students to practice the dialogue in public pairs (controlled oral practice)

9. Write a scrambled dialogue containing the functional language on the board asking students to rewrite it in the correct order (controlled written practice).

10. Create a real-life situation asking students to perform a dialogue using the target functional exponents (freer oral practice).

After that, you need to tell students that there are common functions in English. Write a list of them and ask students to match each function with its exponent (the way of expressing it).

E.g. 

1. Making suggestion. d a. I can’t make it tonight – sorry.
2. Inviting. h b. I’m afraid I was disappointed by the service.
3. Giving advice. e c. I should have left earlier.
4. Requesting. i d. We could order in a pizza.
5. Making apologies. g e. It’d pay to talk to the boss.
6. Refusing. a f. I’d go along with that.
7. Agreeing. f g. I’m really sorry about the vase.
8. Regretting. c h. Why don’t you come over tonight?
9. Offering. j i. Any chance of a coffee?
10. Complaining. b j. I’ll pay.

At last, you should tell students the following principles associated with functional language:

  • There are many functions in English, and there is also a wide variety of exponents that can be used to express each function.
  • One structure can have more than one functional meaning so it’s difficult to understand the meaning of an utterance out of context.
  • The kind of functional exponent that you use changes depending on how well you know the relationship between the two speakers.
  • Pronunciation, in particular sentence stress and intonation, has a key role to play in learning functional language so you should always practice it orally.
  • Functional exponents can often vary greatly depending on the structure so we should focus on grammatical form too.
  • Some functions can be indirect and subtle so you should know their meanings.

P.S. If you liked this article, please share it with others using sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in receiving more materials about creative, non-boring ways to teach English, please Follow our Blog via Email.

Test Your English – Vocabulary & Grammar

I invite you to join my group “Test Your English” on Edmodo to be aware of your level in English, vocabulary, grammar, functions and the four skills. It’s free to join the group and it takes under a minute to create an account on Edmodo.

Instructions to join this group:

  1. Visit www.edmodo.com from your mobile or computer.
    2. Click on the “Join a group” button and enter the code, z3jgwd.
  2. Follow the instructions to create a new account or login to your account to join “Test Your English” group on Edmodo.

Twelve Steps to Introduce the Present Perfect Tense for the First Time

Most students who have learned English as a foreign language often use only three tenses: present, past and future. They rarely use the present perfect tense as it is one the tenses that is soon forgotten or replaced easily with simple past tense.

Students don’t realize the importance of present perfect tense. If they know this importance, they will try to master it. To ensure that your students will use this tense, you must teach it right. This article provides some clear steps that will help you teach the present perfect tense effectively.

* Introduce the present perfect tense with regular verbs:

1. Give examples in the simple past tense: e.g. yesterday, I received two emails. I visited my grandmother once… etc. then give the examples in the present perfect: e.g. I have received two emails today. I have visited my grandmother once this month.

2. Show students how the present perfect is formed: e.g. have/has + pp (= past participle) telling them that pp of regular verbs ends in “ed” just as in the simple past.

3. Explain when the present perfect is used by contrasting finished and unfinished time. Ask students: Is yesterday finished? (they should say: Yes, it’s finished). Then ask them: Is today finished? (they should say: No, it isn’t)

4. On the board, draw two columns. On the top of the left write: Yesterday, Last .. , 2000, etc. and write examples (only with regular verbs) that go with finished time. On the top of the right write: Today, This day, This week, This month, … etc. and write examples (only with regular verbs) that go with unfinished time.

5. Tell students the difference between the two tenses. E.g. Last month, I received two emails and “Last month is finished”. This month, I have received only two emails. But this month is not finished so I may receive more emails before the month is over.

6. Give more examples with regular verbs, in all persons and ask students to tell the difference.

* introduce the present perfect with irregular verbs:

7. Divide the board into three columns and write some irregular verbs in the first column, their simple past form in the second column, and finally the irregular past participle in the third one.

8. Give examples as you go over each verb: e.g. I’ve had two cups of tea today. I’ve read one book this week. I’ve met Ahmed once this month … etc. Make sure that students have a list of irregular verbs and then they can provide more examples with other irregular verbs from this list.

* introduce the negative form of the present perfect.

9. Say, “I saw my grandmother last week. I haven’t seen her this week.” And give more examples alternating between affirmative in simple past and negative form of present perfect. E.g. I went to Cairo last year, but I haven’t been there this year.

10. Write some affirmative statements in present perfect on the board and ask students to give their negative forms, and you can introduce the use of “yet” here.

* introduce the interrogative form of the present perfect:

11. Model questions with “have” and elicit from students: Yes, I have or No, I haven’t and then change the person using “has” eliciting from students: Yes, she has or No, she hasn’t.

12. continue with questions using question words and model these questions writing them on the board and making sure that you write questions in all persons both singular and plural. Make sure that students understand that if they answer questions with “when, where and why” referring to a specific time in the past, they need to use the simple past tense.

Naturally, students should be taught the other uses of the present perfect with already, just, ever, never, for, since, etc. In this article we covered only the best steps to follow to introduce the present perfect for the first time and contrast it with the simple past, i.e. the distinction between finished and unfinished time. Once students understand this distinction, they will be ready to understand everything else.

P.S. If you liked this article, please share it with others using sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in receiving more materials about creative, non-boring ways to teach English, please Follow our Blog via Email.

Five Effective Strategies to Make Vocabulary Stick

Many experiments demonstrated that vocabulary forgetting starts as soon as learning happens. So what can be done? Research shows that there are some effective strategies teachers can use to help make vocabulary learning stick. The following are the main five of them:

1. Use peer explanation:

Ask students to explain what they’ve learned to their classmates. They can pronounce the words and explain their meanings. This strategy can not only increase retention but make vocabulary learning permanent in the long-term memory. In addition, it encourages active learning and students’ engagement.

2. Recycle the key vocabulary:

Review important vocabulary throughout the school year. Re-expose students to the previous vocabulary and give them multiple opportunities to use them in new contexts. Research shows that students perform better in their exam when they are given a brief review of what was covered several weeks before.

3. Give frequent practice tests:

In addition to regular review of the previous vocabulary, frequent practice tests on vocabulary can boost their long-term retention. Frequent practice tests protect against stress that often impairs memory performance. You can use a quick quiz at the start of each lesson to test your students’ knowledge of the vocabulary taught in the previous lessons. It is an effective remedial plan for low achievers who often forget vocabulary quickly.

4. Use word mapping:

Write a key word on the board or on a wall sheet and ask students to write related words or phrases to it. When similar words are grouped together, students will remember them more often. In addition, their stock of vocabulary will increase. This approach is helpful for students when writing a paragraph on certain topic.

5. Combine text with images:

It’s often easier to remember words that have been presented with visual aids. Visual aids can not only attract students’ attention, but also they can facilitate and reinforce learning. It’s easier to remember what’s been read and seen.

P.S. If you liked this article, please share it with others using sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in receiving more materials about creative, non-boring ways to teach English, please Follow our Blog via Email.

Question Types to Test Your Students’ English Skills

As a teacher of English, you need to test your students’ English periodically to know to what extent they learned the language. Learning English should include mainly learning vocabulary and grammar. In addition, you should test their reading comprehension and writing skill. If you want your test to be complete and comprehensive, your test should include a listening activity and a speaking task. Here are some suggestions for the questions you may include in your test:

Vocabulary

To test knowledge of vocabulary, you can ask students to:

  1. Write words which relate to common topics such as family, work , school, jobs, …etc.
  2. Use the appropriate word from a list to fill in the space in a context.
  3. Match the words with their meanings.
  4. Choose the right word from certain options to complete a context.

Grammar

To test knowledge of grammar, you can ask students to:

  1. Choose the right word or phrase from certain options to complete a structure.
  2. Change a sentence from tense to another using a clue.
  3. Rearrange words to make a grammatically correct sentence.

Reading

To test reading skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Read for skimming to answer questions on the main points of a reading passage.
  2. Read carefully to answer some questions on details.
  3. Summarize a long reading passage in two or three sentences.
  4. Extract some information from a short text to fill in a table.
  5. Read a story and then put the main events in the right order.

Writing

To test writing skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Write accurately certain amount of words about certain topic using correct sentence structure, word order and connectors.
  2. Write different kinds of written texts like essay, letter, email, story, short paragraph, etc. following the rules of writing each kind.
  3. Use some given guided words to write about a certain topic.

Listening

To test listening skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Listen for specific information in listening texts.
  2. Listen to short dialogues and tell the meanings of some words in context.
  3. Follow a listening short text and show understanding by doing the instructions included in the text.

Speaking

To test speaking skills, you can ask students to:

  1. Speak clearly using appropriate stress and intonation.
  2. Pronounce words so that they can be understood.
  3. Describe pictures or other visual material connecting ideas together accurately and with a range of language.

Five Things You Must Do Well If You Want to Be Effective Teacher of English

There are some important characteristics and skills which are a must for any teacher of English to do his job effectively. Without these things, it’s preferable for the person to try another job or for the teacher of English to teach any subject other than English language. These things are as follows:

1.Talk well:

As a teacher of a language, you will not be able to teach it if you prefer to be silent most of the time especially during the class. You should be a model for your students in talking well using the language. Talk and encourage your students to talk to learn the language.

2. React well:

Good reactions are the main element in the learning process. You should have the ability to react to your students’ talk, questions and responses. Your reactions should not only be in a verbal way. Non-verbal reactions are often more effective. In your reactions you should use all means you have to give the suitable and effective feedback.

3. Explain well:

The core of teaching is explanation. You need to learn how to clarify language items to your students. Explanation includes many skills; e.g. giving examples, presentation, clarification, wrapping up, … etc. it’s a joke if you are a teacher and not having the skills of explanation. But it is not too late. You still have the opportunity to learn to teach, I mean to explain.

4. Enjoy:

Learning a new language is and must be usually an enjoyable experience. Suppose that you don’t feel excited when you learn or teach the language, how come to make your students enjoy learning this language. Enjoyment and excitement make learning permanent and guarantee achieving all learning objectives.

5. Create:

Teaching a language does not only mean presenting some certain individual words or teaching grammatical rules directly using very controlled activities but it should include creating real-life situations to use the new language. If the teacher of a language is not creative, students will not have the opportunity to live with the language. Language will be something stable for them. Teacher of English should go beyond controlled and guided tasks to free production stage. This kind of transfer will not be possible unless the teacher has the sense of creativity and encourages the students to be creative, too in their use of the language.

Six General Tips to Manage a Class

99

What does “Classroom Management” actually mean?

Classroom management is the most important factor affecting student learning.

It is the effective discipline in the classroom that provides a safe, comfortable learning environment, motivates your students, build their self-esteem and encourage them to be imaginative and creative in daily lessons.

It is having control of the class by organizing students and resources so that teaching and learning can occur effectively.

Reasons for disruptive behavior in the classroom:

Students misbehave for several reasons:

  • They are bored.
  • They don’t know the purpose of your presentation.
  • They are not aware of the importance of the information that you are delivering.
  • Activities are not interesting.
  • The pace of the teaching is too fast, or too slow.

Principles of classroom management:

  1. Dealing with disruptive behaviors.
  2. Minimizing off-task behaviors.
  3. Engaging as many students as possible in learning activities.

Six General Tips to Manage a Class:

1. Over plan your lessons:

If you don’t plan, the student will plan for you.

The more you plan, the more effective the lesson and delivery will be and the less problems with discipline will occur.

  • Ensure that you fill each minute of the period with learning activities.
  • Be prepared and organized well.
  • Minimize transition time among tasks.

2. Arrange the seating:

  • Rearrange the desks — both for your language lessons and sometimes even for a particular activity so that it is both easier and more natural for students to see and talk to each other.

3. Look at the students:

  • If you are standing, and your eyes are constantly moving over the class, everyone feels involved.
  • Your eyes help your students’ concentration.
  • The easiest way to check whether your students understand what you have said or what they have read or heard, is for your eyes to look at theirs.
  • Any incomprehension or confusion will show in their eyes long before they tell you that there is a problem.

4. Use your hands to encourage and direct students:

  • A simple gesture can indicate who is going to answer a question or which pair of students should now read a dialogue.
  • Simple gestures can also indicate that something is wrong.
  • Use a collection of gestures to avoid unnecessary language which can distract students.
  • Gestures can indicate what is required from individual students, or even from the whole class, with a minimum of fuss.

5. Vary your voice:

  • Pauses, stress and changes of voice when you change from comment to instruction and from statement to question will mean that it is much easier for students to follow and pay attention to what you say.

6. Gain attention:

  • Gain student’s full attention before giving instructions.
  • Provide instruction with simple and clear language.
  • Provide one instruction at a time – do not provide too many different instructions.
  • Make your lessons relevant and interesting to your students.
  • Use examples that interest students.
1 2 3 10