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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. The whole class or individual students may experience so that additional practice and corrective exercises should be given.

A good language test should also measure students’ performance without setting “traps” for them. The teacher should develop it 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 a test composer should take into account when constructing and using a language test. He/she should address these qualities with high consideration in order for a language test to have a 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 remain stable, consistent, not be different when the test is used on different days).  A reliable test yield similar results with a similar group of students who 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, 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 by 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 by 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 that affect the validity of test scores.

Factors in the test:

  • Unclear directions to students to respond to the test.
  • The difficulty of 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.
  • The 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:

A 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. A 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 the 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 at different points in time. The extent of the need for 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:

The 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 train on designing, developing, and conducting the language tests that include the above characteristics and the feature of being valuable learning tools.

Writing Effective Test Items: The Definitive Guide

For over 20 years, I’ve developed, contributed to creating and administered school tests. And at that time, I’ve noticed one thing popping up again and again: As a teacher and a test builder, it’s really hard to write effective test items.

With this challenge in mind, I’ve created “Writing Effective Test Questions: The Definitive Guide”

What is This Guide?

Designed with how to create effective test items in mind, this definitive guide gives the teachers step-by-step instructions they need to go deeper, further and faster toward making a success in preparing effective classroom exams with ease and comfort.

With the help of valuable guidelines included in this guide, teachers will be able to avoid any pitfalls in the testing of their students.

This guide is a valuable resource for teachers who care about constructing test items that can capture effectively what a student knows.

It is the comprehensive guide that I personally wish someone would have shared with me when I first started to make classroom tests for my students.

If you want to establish the technical quality of your test, write effective test items and avoid any pitfalls in making tests, why not head down to get “Writing Effective Test Questions: The Definitive Guide” and find out how the most benefit you will get.

You can also join my email list not only to be notified of the latest updates on elttguide.com but also to get TWO of my products: Quick-Start Guide To Teaching Listening In The Classroom & Quick-Start Guide To Teaching Grammar In The Classroom For FREE!

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10 thoughts on “Top 5 Characteristics Of A Good Language Test

  1. MARIA INOI 021945927 says:

    i agree 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.

  2. Simapanga says:

    I totally agree with you… Thanks job well done

  3. Ali Akaf says:

    Thanks for this good explanation about English language Testing, which is very beneficial for English language teachers.

  4. Ali Akaf says:

    A very beneficial article for English language teachers. Thanks

  5. Billy mgaya says:

    Thanks for good eraboration

  6. Abdourahman Bojang says:

    Thank you good work

  7. Mohamed Abdulkadir Touryare says:

    Thank you for you Best Article.

  8. Babar says:

    Good choice of words and authentic material is being used .Good Job

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