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Testing techniques.

Whatever purpose a test or exam has a major factor in its success or failure as a good measuring instrument will be determined by the item types that it contains.

A test item is direct if it asks candidates to perform the communicative skill which is being tested. Indirect test items, on the other hand, try to measure a student's knowledge and ability by getting at what lies beneath their receptive and productive skills. Whereas direct test items try to be as much like real-life language use as possible, indirect items try to find out about a student's language knowledge through more controlled items, such as multiple choice questions or grammar transformation items. These are often quicker to design and easier to mark, and produce greater scorer reliability.

Another distinction needs to be made between discrete-point testing and integrative testing. Whereas discrete-point testing only tests one thing at a time (such as asking students to choose the correct tense of a verb), integrative test items expect students to use a variety of language at any one given time - as they will have to do when writing a composition or doing a conversational oral test.

In many proficiency tests where students sit a number of different papers, there is a mixture of direct and indirect, discrete-point and integrative testing. Test designers find that this combination gives a good overall picture of student ability.

Indirect test item types Although there is a wide range of indirect test possibilities, certain types are in common use:

Multiple choice questions (MCQs): a traditional vocabulary multiple choice question looks like this:

The journalist was_____ by enemy fire as he tried to send a story by radio.

a wronged b wounded c injured d damaged

For many years MCQs were considered to be ideal test instruments for measuring students' knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Above all this was because they were easy to mark, and since the advent of computers the answer books for these tests can be read by machines, not people, thereby cutting out the possibility of scorer error.

Advantages of Multiple Choice Questions

1. It is impossible for students to avoid the grammar point being evaluated.

2. Scoring is easy and reliable.

Limitations of Multiple-Choice Questions

1. Preparing good items is not easy.

2. It is easy for students to cheat. (It is possible to create a second form of the test by rearranging the items, but this is time consuming for the teacher).

3. It doesnt appear to measure students ability to reproduce language structures (although in actual fact this kind of test is a good measure of the grammar sub skill).

4. This can have a negative influence on class work if used exclusively. (Students may see no need to practice writing if tests are objective).

Cloze procedures: Cloze, is when every nth word in a text (somewhere between every fifth or tenth word) is omitted. It produces test items like this:

They sat on a bench attached 1_____a picnic table. Below them they 2_______see the river gurgling between overgrown 3 ._______. The sky was diamond blue, with 4_______white clouds dancing in the freshening 5____. They could hear the call of 6_______and the buzzing of countless insects. 7_______ were completely alone.

Advantages: Cloze testing seems to be like a perfect test instrument, since, because of the randomness of the deleted words, anything maybe tested (e.g. grammar, collocation, fixed phrases, reading comprehension). However, it turns out that the actual score a student gets depends on the particular words that are deleted, rather than on any general English knowledge. Some are more difficult to supply than others, and in some cases there are several possible answers. Even in the short sample text above it is clear that whilst there is no doubt about items such as 1 and 8, for example, item 4 is less predictable. Different passages produce different results.

Modified cloze is useful for placement tests since students can be given texts that they would be expected to cope with at certain levels - thus allowing us to judge their suitability for those levels. They are useful, too, as part of a test battery in either achievement or proficiency tests.

Transformation and paraphrase: a common test item asks candidates to rewrite sentences in a slightly different form, retaining the exact meaning of the original.

I'm sorry that I didn't get her an anniversary present. I wish_______________________________________

In order to complete the item successfully the student has to understand the first sentence, and then know how to construct an equivalent which is grammatically possible. As such those tests tell us something about the candidates knowledge of the language system.

Advantages of Multiple Choice Transformation and Paraphrase

  1. Context preparation is rather easy.
  2. Scoring is easy and consistent.

Limitations of Multiple Choice Transformation and Paraphrase

  1. It is difficult to find synonyms
  2. It is easy for students to cheat.

Sentence re-ordering: getting students to put words in the right order to make appropriate sentences tells us quite a lot about their underlying knowledge of syntax and lexica-grammatical elements. The following example is typical:

Put the words in order to make correct sentences.

called / I /I'm / in / sorry / wasn't / when /you

Re-ordering exercises are fairly easy to write, though it is not always possible to ensure only one correct order.

There are many other indirect techniques too, including sentence fill-ins (an _ to the gym every Tuesday morning), choosing the correct tense of verbs in sentences and passages (I have arrived/arrived yesterday), finding errors in sentences (She noticed about his new jacket), and choosing the correct form of a word (He didn't enjoy being on the (lose) _ side). All of these offer items which are quick and efficient to score and which aim to tell us something about a student's underlying knowledge.

Direct test item types

For direct test items to achieve 'validity' and to be 'reliable', test designers need to do the following:

Replicate real-life interaction: in real life when people speak or write they generally do so with some real purpose. Yet traditional writing tests have often been based exclusively on general essay questions, and speaking tests often included hypothetical questions about what candidates might say if they happened to be in a certain situation. More modern test writers now include tasks which attempt to replicate features of real life. Tests of reading and listening should also, as far as possible, reflect real life. This means that texts should be as realistic as possible, even where they are not authentic. Although there are ways of assessing student understanding (using matching tasks or multiple choice questions) which do not necessarily satisfy these criteria, test items should be as much like real reading and listening as possible.

The following direct test item types are a few of the many which attempt to meet the criteria we have mentioned above:



an interviewer questioning a candidate about themselves

information gap' activities where a candidate has to find out information either from an interlocutor or a fellow candidate 'decision-making' activities, such as showing paired candidates ten photos of people and asking them to put them in order of the best and worst dressed

using pictures for candidates to compare and contrast, whether they can both see them or whether (as in many communication games) they have found similarities and differences without being able to look at each other's material

role-play activities where candidates perform tasks such as introducing themselves, or ringing a theatre to book tickets


writing compositions and stories

'transactional letters' where candidates reply to a job advertisement, or pen a complaint to a hotel based on information given in the exam paper

information leaflets about their school or a place in their town

a set of instructions for some common task

newspaper articles about a recent event


multiple choice questions to test comprehension of a text

matching written descriptions with pictures of the items, or procedure, they describe

transferring written information to charts, graphs, maps, etc. (though special care has to be taken not to disadvantage non-mathematically minded candidates)

choosing the best summary of a paragraph or a whole text

matching jumbled headings with paragraphs

inserting sentences provided by the examiner in the correct place in the text


completing charts with facts and figures from a listening text

identifying which of a number of objects (pictures on the test paper) is being described

identifying which (out of two or three speakers) says what

identifying whether speakers are enthusiastic, encouraging, in disagreement, or amused

following directions on a map and identifying the correct house or place

In the interests of 'reliability', listening tests are most often supplied on tape to ensure that all candidates have the same opportunities, irrespective of the speakers' voices, speeds, or expressions. Sometimes, as in the computerized TOEFL test candidates work with headphones from an individual computer. Where a group of students listen to the same tape or disk, however, we need to be sure that the material is clearly and easily audible.

17.Teaching Grammar at school. Grammar is the technique of English. If you cant speak well and write well your windows of opportunity are closed.

In order to understand a language and to express oneself correctly a learner must understand the grammar mechanism of the language studied. One may know all the words in a sentence but fail to understand it if he does not see the relationship between the words in the given sentence. But if you know grammar, you can easily understand the sentence even if a sentence contains one, two and more unknown words. E.g. We saw him book a ticket.

It made me return home.

T: Translate it. If you dont know such grammar structure as Complex Object it will be difficult to do it. Book in the 1st sentence is not a noun , because him book is a Complex Object and book is an infinitive and a student should look into the dictionary for the meaning of the verb book.

In the second sentence the verb made is used in the meaning and make smb do smth is the infinitive construction.

Grammar is central to the teaching and learning of languages. Learners need grammar to be able to listen, speak, read and write in the target language.

It is also one of the more difficult aspects of language to teach well.

Traditional language teachers, when hear the word "grammar", think of grammar rules and their usage. They teach grammar by explaining the forms and rules and then drilling students on them. As a result students can produce correct forms on exercises and tests, but consistently make errors when they try to use the language in context.

Other language teachers, influenced by recent theoretical work on the difference between language learning and language acquisition, try not to teach grammar at all. Believing that children acquire their first language without learning grammar instruction, they expect students to learn their second language the same way. They say that students will absorb grammar rules when they hear, read, and use the language in communication activities. But this approach does not allow students to use one of the major tools they have as learners: their active understanding of what grammar is and how it works in the language they already know.

The communicative competence model balances these two extremes. In the communicative competence model, the purpose of learning grammar is to learn the language of which the grammar is a part.

Teachers using this model teach students to transfer the knowledge of grammar rules into a living ability to communicate.

Presentation Practice Production



Teacher presents/introduces/ oral / written practice using the grammar items

explains/clarifies/inputs activities for free communication



Compare the traditional model and the communicative competence model for teaching the English past tense:

Traditional: grammar for grammar's sake

  • Teach the regular -ed form with its two pronunciation variants
  • Teach the doubling rule for verbs that end in d (for example, wed-wedded)
  • Hand out a list of irregular verbs that students must memorize
  • Do pattern practice drills for -ed
  • Do substitution drills for irregular verbs

Communicative competence: grammar for communication's sake

  • Distribute two short narratives about recent experiences or events, each one to half of the class
  • Teach the regular -ed form, using verbs that occur in the texts as examples. Teach the pronunciation and doubling rules if those forms occur in the texts.
  • Teach the irregular verbs that occur in the texts.
  • Students read the narratives, ask questions about points they don't understand.
  • Students work in pairs in which one member has read Story A and the other Story B. Students interview one another; using the information from the interview, they then write up or orally repeat the story they have not read.

18.Stages of teaching grammar. Language teachers and language learners are often frustrated by the disconnect between knowing the rules of grammar and being able to apply those rules automatically in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This disconnect reflects a separation between declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge.

  • Declarative knowledge is knowledge about something. Declarative knowledge enables a student to describe a rule of grammar and apply it in pattern practice drills.
  • Procedural knowledge is knowledge of how to do something. Procedural knowledge enables a student to apply a rule of grammar in communication.

For example, declarative knowledge is what you have when you read and understand the instructions for programming the DVD player. Procedural knowledge is what you demonstrate when you program the DVD player.

Procedural knowledge does not translate automatically into declarative knowledge; many native speakers can use their language clearly and correctly without knowing the rules of its grammar. Declarative knowledge does not pass automatically into procedural knowledge; students may be able to state a grammar rule, but fail to apply the rule when speaking or writing.

Thus, the aim of a FL teacher to teach learners to use grammar correctly in the act of communication.

a) Here some tips for teaching grammar:

  • Teach the grammar point in the target language or the students' first language or both. The goal is to facilitate understanding.
  • Limit the time you devote to grammar explanations to 10 minutes, especially for lower level students whose ability to sustain attention can be limited.
  • Present grammar points in written and oral ways to address the needs of students with different learning styles.

An important part of grammar instruction is providing examples. Teachers need to plan their examples carefully around two basic principles:

  • Be sure the examples are accurate and appropriate for the setting in which they are used, and be to the point of the lesson.
  • Use the examples as teaching tools. Focus examples on a particular theme or topic so that students have more contact with specific information and vocabulary.

b) Error Correction

At all proficiency levels, learners produce language that is not exactly the language used by native speakers. Some of the differences are grammatical, while others involve vocabulary selection and mistakes in the selection of language appropriate for different contexts.

In responding to student communication, teachers need to be careful not to focus on error correction. Teachers need to let students know when they are making errors so that they can work on improving. Teachers also need to build students' confidence in their ability to use the language by focusing on the content of their communication rather than the grammatical form.

Teachers can use error correction to support language acquisition, and avoid using it in ways that prevents students' desire to communicate in the language.

  • When students are doing activities that focus on development of new language skills, use error correction to guide them.

Student (in class): I buy a new car yesterday.
Teacher: You bought a new car yesterday. Remember, the past tense of buy is bought.

  • When students are engaged in communicative activities, correct errors only if they interfere with comprehensibility. Respond using correct forms, but without stressing them.

Student (greeting teacher): I buy a new car yesterday!
Teacher: You bought a new car? That's exciting! What kind?

19.Teaching Writing at school. The role of writing in our life has changed over recent years. It is the result of the popularity of e-mail, Internet, mobile phones, Skype services. This new kind of communication has its own peculiarities, its own abbreviations and lexis. There are also new ways of expressing oneself. I can now communicate with people all over the world and use a little picture of a cartoon face to express my reaction to something written by my friend: J K L

Is this writing? We do very little writing in our everyday life. May be brief notes to friends or colleagues, answers on question forms, some reminders or postcards.

The need for longer, formal written work seems to become lower over years and this finds its reflection in the classrooms where writing activities also become less in comparison with other skills.

Another reason is that most SS struggle with writing. It is the most difficult skill to acquire among other language skills. How do feel yourself when you must write smth in a language you dont know well? So it is difficult to do in our own language and what we can expect from writing in a foreign language!!!

Despite all these things, still writing as a skill is very important in teaching and learning a FL. How could we do it?

For many teachers, the answer is short: Set a writing task, leave the SS to do it, perhaps as homework, then collecting it in and evaluating it or putting marks.


Set writing task


Collect in





But there are many possible steps that could go into the middle area of the diagram. It depends on the type of writing. So we came to the second question of the lecture.

Date: 2015-01-02; view: 972

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