Реферат: Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper

University ofLatvia

Faculty ofModern Languages


Types of Tests Used inEnglish Language.

Bachelor Paper




Declarationof academic Integrity

I hereby declare that this study is my own and does notcontain any unacknowledged material from any source.


12 May, 2004


The present paper attempts toinvestigate various types of tests and their application in the languageclassroom. The theoretical part deals with the basic data about testing, thecomparison of such issues as assessment and valuation, reasons for testing,types of tests, such as diagnostic, progress, achievement, placement andproficiency tests; test formats and ways of testing.

Itrelates theory to practice by analyzing two proficiency tests: TOEFL and CFCtests. They are carefully discussed and compared to find any similarities ordifferences in their structure and design. The conclusions drawn are based onthe theory and analyses of the tests. The data obtained indicate that the bothtests though being sometimes different in their purpose, design and structure,are constructed according to the universally accepted pattern. 

Table of Contents

Introduction …………………………………………………........................1

Chapter 1

What is test?……………………………………………………………………3

Chapter 2

2.1 Inaccuratetests……………...…………………………………………….7

2.2 Validity……………………..……………………………………………..8

2.3 Reliability…………………………………………………………………11

Chapter 3

3.1 Diagnostic tests……………………………….………………………….13

3.2 Placementtests…………………………...……………………………….15

3.3 Progresstests……………………………………………...........................17

3.4 Achievementtests………………………..……………………………….18

3.5 Proficiencytests…………………………………………………………..20

Chapter 4

 4.1 Direct and Indirecttesting…..…………………………………………....22

4.2 Discrete point and integrativetesting……………………………………..24

4.3 Criterion-refernced andNorm-referenced testing…………………………25

4.4 Objective and Subjectivetesting...………………………………………..26

4.5 Communicative languagetesting…………………………………………26

Chapter 5

5.1 Multiple choice tests………………………………………………………29

5.2 Short answer tests…………………………………………………………32

5.3 The Cloze tests and Gap-filling tests……………………………………..33

5.4 C-Test……………………………………………………………………..35

5.5 True/false items……………………………………………………………36

5.6 Dictation…………………………………………………………………...36

5.7 Listening Recall……………………………………………………………38

5.8 Testing Grammar through Error-recognition Items……………………….38

5.9 Controlled Writing…………………………………………………………39

5.10 Free Writing………………………………………………………………40

5.11 Test Formats Used in Testing Speaking Skills…………………………..41

Chapter 6

Analysis of theTest of English as a Foreign Language and <st1:City w:st=«on»><st1:place w:st=«on»>Cambridge</st1:place></st1:City>First

Certificate testaccording to test design criteria………………………………..43


 Theses. ………………………………………………………..........................57




Among all words used ina classroom there is the only word that usually makes the students shudder:“test”. There is hardly a person who would claim that s/he favours tests andfinds them very motivating. However, tests cannot be avoided completely, forthey are inevitable elements of learning process. They are included intocurriculum at schools and are to check the students’ level of knowledge andwhat they are able to do; they could be accomplished at the beginning of thestudy year and at the end of it; the students could be tested after working onnew topics and acquiring new vocabulary. Moreover, the students are to face thetests in order to enter any foreign university or reveal the level of theirEnglish language skills for themselves. For that purpose they take speciallydesigned tests that are Test of English as a ForeignLanguage, or TOEFL test (further in the text) and CFC (further in the text), orCambridge First Certificate. Although, these tests can sometimes serve fordifferent purposes and are unrelated, they are sometimes quite common in theirdesign and structure. Therefore, the author of the paper is particularlyinterested in the present research, for she assumes it to be of a greatsignificance not only for herself, but also for the individuals who are eitherinvolved in the field or just want to learn more about TOEFL and CFC tests,their structure, design and application. Therefore, the present research willdisplay various aspects of the theory discussed, accompanied with the practicalpart vastly analyzed.

Thus, the goalof the present research is toinvestigate various types of test formats and ways of testing, focusingparticularly on TOEFL and CFC tests, in order to see how the theory is used andcould be applied in practice.

The hypothesis is as follows: Serving for almost similar purpose, however beingsometimes different in their design and structure, the TOEFL and CFC tests areusually constructed according to the accepted universal pattern.

The enabling objectives are as follows:

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To review literature on the nature of tests in order to maketheoretically well-motivated discussions on the choice of testing types;

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To analyse the selected types of tests, such as TOEFL and CFCtests;

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To draw relevant conclusions.

Methods of Research:


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Analytical and selective study of the theory available;

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Juxtaposition of the ideas selected from theory and testedagainst practical evidences;

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Drawing conclusions.


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Selecting and adapting appropriate tests types, such as TOEFLand CFC, to exemplify the theory.

Thepaper consists of six chapters each including sub-chapters. Chapter 1 discussesthe general data about tests. Chapter 2 describes reliability and validity.Chapter 3 focuses on various types of tests. Chapter 4 deals with ways oftesting. Chapter 5 speaks on four language skills. Chapter 6 offers thepractical part of the paper.

Chapter 1

What is test?

Hicks (2000:155)considers that the role of tests is very useful and important, especially inlanguage learning. It is a means to show both the students and the teacher howmuch the learners have learnt during a course. The author of the paper agreeswith the statement, for she believes that in order to see whether the studentshave acquired the material and are making constant progress, the teacher willinevitably have to test his/her learners. It does not mean that a usual testformat with a set of activities will be used all the time. To check thestudents’ knowledge the teacher can apply a great range of assessmenttechniques, including even the self-evaluation technique that is so beloved andfavoured by the students. Moreover, according to Heaton (1990:6), tests couldbe used to display the strength and weaknesses of the teaching process and helpthe teacher improve it. They can demonstrate what should be paid more attentionto, should be worked on and practised. Furthermore, the tests results willdisplay the students their weak points, and if carefully guided by the teacher,the students will be even able to take any remedial actions.

Thompson (Forum, 2001)believes that students learn more when they have tests. Here we can both agreeand disagree. Certainly, preparing for a test, the student has to study thematerial that is supposed to be tested, but often it does not mean that suchtype of learning will obligatory lead to acquisition and full understanding ofit. On the opposite, it could often lead to the pure cramming. That,consequently, will result in a stressful situation the student will findher/himself before or during the test, and the final outcome will be a completedeletion of the studied material. We can base that previous statement on ourown experience: when working at school, the author of the present research hadencountered such examples for many times.

However, very often thetests can facilitate the students’ acquisition process, i.e.: the students areto be checked the knowledge of the irregular verbs forms. Being constantlytested by means of a small test, they can learn them successfully and transferthem to their long-term memory, as well. Although, according to Thompson testsdecrease practice and instruction time. What he means is that the students areas if limited; they are exposed to practice of a new material, however, veryoften the time implied for it is strictly recommended and observed by a syllabus.That denotes that there will be certain requirements when to use a test. Thus,the students find themselves in definite frames that the teacher will employ.Nevertheless, there could be advantages that tests can offer: they increaselearning, for the students are supposed to study harder during the preparationtime before a test.

Thompson (ibid.) quotesEggan, who emphasises the idea that the learners study hard for the classesthey are tested thoroughly. Further, he cites Hilles, who considers that thestudents want and expect to be tested. Nonetheless, this statement has beenrather generalized. Speaking about the students at school, we can declare thatthere is hardly a student who will truly enjoy tests and their procedure.Usually, what we will see just sore faces when a test is being mentioned.According to Thompson, the above-mentioned idea could be applied to thestudents who want to pass their final exams or to get a certificate in Test ofEnglish as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or First Certificate (FCE). Mostly thisconcerns adults or the students who have their own special needs, such as goingabroad to study or work. This again supports the idea that motivation factorplays a significant role in the learning process.

Moreover, too much of testingcould be disastrous. It can entirely change the students’ attitude towardslearning the language, especially if the results are usually dissatisfying anddecrease their motivation towards learning and the subject in general.

Furthermore, as Alderson(1996:212) assumes, we should not forget that the tests when administeredreceive less support from the teacher as it is usually during the exercises ina usual language classroom. The students have to cope themselves; they cannotrely on the help of the teacher if they are in doubt.  During a usual procedure when doing variousactivities the students know they can encounter the teacher’s help if theyrequire it. They know the teacher is always near and ready to assist,therefore, no one is afraid to make a mistake and try to take a chance to dothe exercises. However, when writing a test and being left alone to deal withthe test activities, the students panic and forget everything they knew before.The author of the paper believes that first what the teacher should do is toteach the students to overcome their fear of tests and secondly, help themacquire the ability to work independently believing in their own knowledge.That ability according to Alderson is the main point, “the core meaning” of thetest. The students should be given confidence. Here we can refer to Heaton(1990:7) who conceives, supported by Hicks, that students’ encouragement is avital element in language learning. Another question that may emerge here ishow to reach the goal described above, how to encourage the students. Thus, atthis point we can speak about positive results. In fact, our success motivatesus to study further, encourages us to proceed even if it is rather difficultand we are about to lose confidence in ourselves. Therefore, we can speak aboutthe tests as a tool to increase motivation. However, having failed forconsiderable number of times, the student would definitely oppose the previousstatement. Hence, we can speak about assessment and evaluation as means for increasingthe students’ motivation.

Concerning Hicks(2000:162), we often perceive these two terms – evaluating and assessment – astwo similar notions, though they are entirely different. She states that whenwe assess our students we commonly are interested in “how and how much ourstudents have learnt”, but when we evaluate them we are concerned with “howthe learning process is developing”. These both aspects are of greatimportance for the teacher and the students and should be correlated in orderto make evaluation and assessment “go hand in hand”. However, veryfrequently, the teachers assess the students without taking the aspect ofevaluation into account. According to Hicks, this assessment is typicallyapplied when dealing with examinations that take place either at the end of thecourse or school year. Such assessment is known as achievement test.With the help of these tests the teacher receives a clear picture of whathis/her students have learnt and which level they are comparing with the restof the class. The author of the paper agrees that achievement tests are veryessential for comparing how the students’ knowledge has changed during thecourse. This could be of a great interest not only for the teacher, but alsofor the authorities of the educational establishment the teacher is employedby. Thus, evaluation of the learning process is not of the major importancehere. We can speak about evaluation when we deal with “small” tests theteachers use during the course or studying year. It is a well-known fact thatthese tests are employed in order to check how the learning process is goingon, where the students are, what difficulties they encounter and what they aregood at. These tests are also called “diagnostic” tests; they could be of a greathelp for the teacher: judging from the results of the test, analysing them theteacher will be able to improve or alter the course and even introduce variousinnovations. These tests will define whether the teacher can proceed with thenew material or has to stop and return to what has not been learnt sufficientlyin order to implement additional practice.

With respect to Hicks,we can display some of her useful and practical ideas she proposes for theteachers to use in the classroom. In order to incorporate evaluation togetherwith assessment she suggests involving the students directly into the processof testing. Before testing vocabulary the teacher can ask the students to guesswhat kind of activities could be applied in the test. The author of the paperbelieves that it will give them an opportunity to visage how they are going tobe tested, to be aware of and wait for, and the most important, it will reducefear the students might face. Moreover, at the end of each test the studentscould be asked their reflections: if there was a multiple choice, what helpedthem guess correctly, what they used for that – their schemata or just pureguessing; if there was a cloze test — did they use guessing from the context orsome other skills, etc. Furthermore, Hicks emphasises that such analysis willdisplay the students the way they are tested and establish an appropriate testfor each student. Likewise, evaluation will benefit the teacher as well. S/henot only will be able to discover the students’ preferences, but also find outwhy the students have failed a particular type of activity or even the wholetest. The evaluation will determine what is really wrong with the structure ordesign of the test itself. Finally, the students should be taught to evaluate theresults of the test. They should be asked to spot the places they have failedand together with the teacher attempt to find out what has particularly causedthe difficulties. This will lead to consolidation of the material and may beeven to comprehension of it. And again the teacher’s role is very essential,for the students alone are not able to cope with their mistakes. Thus,evaluation is inevitable element of assessment if the teacher’s aim is todesign a test that will not make the students fail, but on the contrary,anticipate the test’s results.

 To conclude we can add alluding to Alderson(1996:212) that the usual classroom test should not be too complicated andshould not discriminate between the levels of the students. The test shouldtest what was taught. The author of the paper has the same opinion, for thestudents are very different and the level of their knowledge is differenteither. It is inappropriate to design a test of advanced level if among yourlearners there are those whose level hardly exceeds lower intermediate.

Above all, the testsshould take the learners’ ability to work and think into account, for eachstudent has his/her own pace, and some students may fail just because they havenot managed to accomplish the required tasks in time.

Furthermore, Alderson assumes (ibid.) that theinstructions of the test should be unambiguous. The students should clearly seewhat they are supposed and asked to do and not to be frustrated during thetest. Otherwise, they will spend more time on asking the teacher to explainwhat they are supposed to do, but not on the completing of the tasksthemselves. Finally, according to Heaton (1990:10) and Alderson (1996:214), theteacher should not give the tasks studied in the classroom for the test. Theyexplain it by the fact, that when testing we need to learn about the students’progress, but not to check what they remember. The author of the paper concursthe idea and assumes that the one of the aims of the test is to check whetherthe students are able to apply their knowledge in various contexts. If thishappens, that means they have acquired the new material.

Chapter 2

Reliability and validity

2.1<span Times New Roman""> 

Inaccurate tests

Hughes (1989:2)conceives that one of the reasons why the tests are not favoured is that theymeasure not exactly what they have to measure. The author of the paper supportsthe idea that it is impossible to evaluate someone’s true abilities by tests.An individual might be a bright student possessing a good knowledge of English,but, unfortunately, due to his/her nervousness may fail the test, or viceversa, the student might have crammed the tested material without a fullcomprehension of it. As a result, during the test s/he is just capable ofproducing what has been learnt by tremendous efforts, but not elaboration ofthe exact actual knowledge of the student (that, unfortunately, does not existat all). Moreover, there could be even more disastrous case when the studenthas cheated and used his/her neighbour’s work. Apart from the above-mentionedthere could be other factors that could influence an inadequate completion ofthe test (sleepless night, various personal and health problems, etc.)

However, very often thetest itself can provoke the failure of the students to complete it. With therespect to the linguists, such as Hughes (1989) and Alderson (1996), we areable to state that there are twomain causes of the test being inaccurate:

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Testcontent and techniques;

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Lackof reliability.

The first one means thatthe test’s design should response to what is being tested. First, the test mustcontent the exact material that is to be tested. Second, the activities, ortechniques, used in the test should be adequate and relevant to what is beingtested. This denotes they should not frustrate the learners, but, on thecontrary, facilitate and help the students write the test successfully.

The next one denotesthat one and the same test given at a different time must score the samepoints. The results should not be different because of the shift in time. Forexample, the test cannot be called reliable if the score gathered during thefirst time the test was completed by the students differs from thatadministered for the second time, though knowledge of the learners has notchanged at all. Furthermore, reliability can fail due to the improper design ofa test (unclear instructions and questions, etc.) and due to the ways it isscored. The teacher may evaluate various students differently taking differentaspects into consideration (level of the students, participation, effort, andeven personal preferences.) If there are two markers, then definitely therewill be two different evaluations, for each marker will possess his/her owncriteria of marking and evaluating one and the same work. For example, let usmention testing speaking skills. Here one of the makers will probably treatgrammar as the most significant point to be evaluated, whereas the other willemphasise the fluency more. Sometimes this could lead to the arguments betweenthe makers; nevertheless, we should never forget that still the main figure wehave to deal with is the student.

2.2. Validity

Now we can come to oneof the important aspects of testing – validity. Concerning Hughes, every testshould be reliable as well as valid. Both notions are very crucial elements oftesting. However, according to Moss (1994) there can be validity withoutreliability, or sometimes the border between these two notions can just blur.Although, apart from those elements, a good test should be efficient as well.

According to Bynom(Forum, 2001), validity deals with what is tested and degree to which a testmeasures what is supposed to measure (Longman Dictionary, LTAL). For example,if we test the students writing skills giving them a composition test on Waysof Cooking, we cannot denote such test as valid, for it can be argued that ittests not our abilities to write, but the knowledge of cooking as a skill.Definitely, it is very difficult to design a proper test with a good validity,therefore, the author of the paper believes that it is very essential for theteacher to know and understand what validity really is.

Regarding Weir(1990:22), there are five types of validity:

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Washback validity;

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Weir (ibid.) states thatconstruct validity is a theoretical concept that involves other types ofvalidity. Further, quoting Cronbach (1971), Weird writes that to construct orplan a test you should research into testee’s behaviour and mentalorganisation. It is the ground on which the test is based; it is the startingpoint for a constructing of test tasks. In addition, Weird displays the Kelly’sidea (1978) that test design requires some theory, even if it is indirectexposure to it. Moreover, being able to define the theoretical construct at thebeginning of the test design, we will be able to use it when dealing with theresults of the test. The author of the paper assumes that appropriatelyconstructed at the beginning, the test will not provoke any difficulties in itsadministration and scoring later.

Another type of validityis content validity. Weir (ibid.) implies the idea that content validity andconstruct one are closely bound and sometimes even overlap with each other. Speakingabout content validity, we should emphasise that it is inevitable element of agood test. What is meant is that usually duration of the classes or test timeis rather limited, and if we teach a rather broad topic such as “computers”, wecannot design a test that would cover all the aspects of the following topic.Therefore, to check the students’ knowledge we have to choose what was taught:whether it was a specific vocabulary or various texts connected with the topic,for it is impossible to test the whole material. The teacher should not pick uptricky pieces that either were only mentioned once or were not discussed in theclassroom at all, though belonging to the topic. S/he should not forget thatthe test is not a punishment or an opportunity for the teacher to show thestudents that they are less clever. Hence, we can state that content validityis closely connected with a definite item that was taught and is supposed to betested.

Face validity, accordingto Weir (ibid.), is not theory or samples design. It is how the examinees andadministration staff see the test: whether it is construct and content valid ornot. This will definitely include debates and discussions about a test; it willinvolve the teachers’ cooperation and exchange of their ideas and experience.

Another type of validityto be discussed is wash back validity or backwash. According to Hughes (1989:1)backwash is the effect of testing on teaching and learning process. It could beboth negative and positive. Hughes believes that if the test is considered tobe a significant element, then preparation to it will occupy the most of thetime and other teaching and learning activities will be ignored. As the authorof the paper is concerned this is already a habitual situation in the schoolsof our country, for our teachers are faced with the centralised exams andeverything they have to do is to prepare their students to them. Thus, theteacher starts concentrating purely on the material that could be encounteredin the exam papers alluding to the examples taken from the past exams.Therefore, numerous interesting activities are left behind; the teachers areconcerned just with the result and forget about different techniques that couldbe introduced and later used by their students to make the process of dealingwith the exam tasks easier, such as guessing form the context, applyingschemata, etc. 

The problem arises herewhen the objectives of the course done during the study year differ from theobjectives of the test. As a result we will have a negative backwash, e.g. thestudents were taught to write a review of a film, but during the test they areasked to write a letter of complaint. However, unfortunately, the teacher hasnot planned and taught that.

Often a negativebackwash may be caused by inappropriate test design. Hughes further in his bookspeaks about multiple-choice activities that are designed to check writingskills of the students. The author of the paper is very confused by that, forit is unimaginable how writing an essay could be tested with the help ofmultiple choices. Testing essay the teacher first of all is interested in thestudents’ ability to apply their ideas in writing, how it has been done, whatlanguage has been used, whether the ideas are supported and discussed, etc. Atthis point multiple-choice technique is highly inappropriate.

Notwithstanding,according to Hughes apart form negative side of the backwash there is thepositive backwash as well. It could be the creation of an entirely new coursedesigned especially for the students to make them pass their final exams. Thetest given in a form of final exams imposes the teacher to re-organise thecourse, choose appropriate books and activities to achieve the set goal: passthe exam. Further, he emphasises the importance of partnership between teachingand testing. Teaching should meet the needs of testing. It could be understandin the following way that teaching should correspond the demands of the test.However, it is a rather complicated work, for according to the knowledge of theauthor of the paper the teachers in our schools are not supplied with speciallydesigned materials that could assist them in their preparation the students tothe exams. The teachers are just given vague instructions and are free to acton their own.

The last type that couldbe discussed is criterion-related validity. Weir (1990:22.) assumes that it isconnected with test scores link between two different performances of the sametest: either older established test or future criterion performance. The authorof the paper considers that this type of validity is closely connected withcriterion and evaluation the teacher uses to assess the test. It could meanthat the teacher has to work out definite evaluation system and, moreover,should explain what she finds important and worth evaluating and why. Usuallythe teachers design their own system; often these are points that the studentscan obtain fulfilling a certain task. Later the points are gathered and countedfor the mark to be put. Furthermore, the teacher can have a special table withpoints and relevant marks. According to our knowledge, the language teachersdecide on the criteria together during a special meeting devoted to that topic,and later they keep to it for the whole study year. Moreover, the teachers aresupposed to make his/her students acquainted with their evaluation system forthe students to be aware what they are expected to do.

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According to Bynom(Forum, 2001) reliability shows that the test’s results will be similar andwill not change if one and the same test will be given on various days. Theauthor of the paper is of the same mind with Bynom and presumes the reliabilityto be the one of the key elements of a good test in general. For, as it hasbeen already discussed before, the essence of reliability is that when thestudents’ scores for one and the same test, though given at different periodsof time and with a rather extended interval, will be approximately the same. Itwill not only display the idea that the test is well organized, but will denotethat the students have acquired the new material well.

A reliable test,according to Bynom, will contain well-formulated tasks and not indefinitequestions; the student will know what exactly should be done. The test willalways present ready examples at the beginning of each task to clarify whatshould be done. The students will not be frustrated and will know exactly whatthey are asked to perform. However, judging form the personal experience, theauthor of the paper has to admit, that even such hints may confuse thestudents; they may fail to understand the requirements and, consequently, failto complete the task correctly. This could be explained by the fact that thestudents are very often inattentive, lack patience and try to accomplish thetest quickly without bothering to double check it.

Further, regarding toHeaton (1990:13), who states that the test could be unreliable if the twodifferent markers mark it, we can add that this factor should be accepted, aswell. For example, one representative of marking team could be rather lenientand have different demands and requirements, but the other one could appear tobe too strict and would pay attention to any detail. Thus, we can come to anotherimportant factor influencing the reliability that is marker’s comparison ofexaminees’ answers. Moreover, we have to admit a rather sad fact but not theexceptional one that the maker’s personal attitude towards the testee couldimpact his/her evaluation. No one has to exclude various home or healthproblems the marker can encounter at that moment, as well.

To summarize, we can saythat for a good test possessing validity and reliability is not enough. Thetest should be practical, or in other words, efficient. It should be easilyunderstood by the examinee, ease scored and administered, and, certainly,rather cheap. It should not last for eternity, for both examiner and examineecould become tired during five hours non-stop testing process. Moreover, testing thestudents the teachers should be aware of the fact that together with checkingtheir knowledge the test can influence the students negatively. Therefore, theteachers ought to design such a test that it could encourage the students, butnot to make them reassure in their own abilities. The test should be a friend,not an enemy. Thus, the issue of validity and reliability is very essential increating a good test. The test should measure what it is supposed to measure,but not the knowledge beyond the students’ abilities. Moreover, the test willbe a true indicator whether the learning process and the teacher’s work iseffective.

Chapter 3

Types of tests

Different scholars(Alderson, 1996; Heaton, 1990; Underhill, 1991) in their researches ask thesimilar question – why test, do the teachers really need them and for whatpurpose. Further, they all agree that test is not the teacher’s desire to catchthe students unprepared with what they are not acquainted; it is also not the motivatingfactor for the students to study. In fact, the test is a request forinformation and possibility to learn what the teachers did not know about theirstudents before. We can add here that the test is important for the students,too, though they are unaware of that. The test is supposed to display not onlythe students’ weak points, but also their strong sides. It could act as anindicator of progress the student is gradually making learning the language.Moreover, we can cite the idea of Hughes (1989:5) who emphasises that we cancheck the progress, general or specific knowledge of the students, etc. Thisclaim will directly lead us to the statement that for each of these purposesthere is a special type of testing. According to some scholars (Thompson, 2001;Hughes, 1989; Alderson, 1996; Heaton, 1990; Underhill, 1991), there are fourtraditional categories or types of tests: proficiency tests, achievement tests,diagnostic tests, and placement tests. The author of the paper, once being ateacher, can claim that she is acquainted with three of them and has frequentlyused them in her teaching practice.

In the followingsub-chapters we are determined to discuss different types of tests and ifpossible to apply our own experience in using them.

3.1. Diagnostic tests

It is wise to start ourdiscussion with that type of testing, for it is typically the first step eachteacher, even non-language teacher, takes at the beginning of a new schoolyear. In the establishment the author of the paper was working it was one ofthe main rules to start a new study year giving the students a diagnostic test.Every year the administration of the school had stemmed a special plan whereevery teacher was supposed to write when and how they were going to test theirstudents. Moreover, the teachers were supposed to analyse the diagnostic tests,complete special documents and provide diagrams with the results of each classor group if a class was divided. Then, at the end of the study year theteachers were demanded to compare the results of them with the final,achievement test (see in Appendix 1). The author of the paper has used thistype of test for several times, but had never gone deep into details how it isconstructed, why and what for. Therefore, the facts listed below were of greatvalue for her.

 Referring to Longman Dictionary of LTAL (106)diagnostic tests is a test that is meant to display what the student knows andwhat s/he does not know. The dictionary gives an example of testing thelearners’ pronunciation of English sounds. Moreover, the test can check thestudents’ knowledge before starting a particular course.Hughes (1989:6) adds that diagnostictests are supposed to spot the students’ weak and strong points. Heaton(1990:13) compares such type of test with a diagnosis of a patient, and theteacher with a doctor who states the diagnosis. Underhill (1991:14.) adds thata diagnostic test provides the student with a variety of language elements,which will help the teacher to determine what the student knows or does notknow. We believe that the teacher will intentionally include the material thateither is presumed to be taught by a syllabus or could be a starting point fora course without the knowledge of which the further work is not possible. Thus,we fully agree with the Heaton’s comparison where he contrasts the test with apatient’s diagnosis. The diagnostic test displays the teacher a situation ofthe students’ current knowledge. This is very essential especially when thestudents return from their summer holidays (that produces a rather substantialgap in their knowledge) or if the students start a new course and the teacheris completely unfamiliar with the level of the group. Hence, the teacher has toconsider carefully about the items s/he is interested in to teach. Thisconsideration reflects Heaton’s proposal (ibid.), which stipulates that theteachers should be systematic to design the tasks that are supposed toillustrate the students’ abilities, and they should know what exactly they aretesting. Moreover, Underhill (ibid.) points out that apart from theabove-mentioned the most essential element of the diagnostic test is that thestudents should not feel depressed when the test is completed. Therefore, veryoften the teachers do not put any marks for the diagnostic test and sometimeseven do not show the test to the learners if the students do not ask theteacher to return it. Nevertheless, regarding our own experience, the learners,especially the young ones, are eager to know their results and even demandmarks for their work. Notwithstanding, it is up to the teacher whether toinform his/her students with the results or not; however, the test represents avaluable information mostly for the teacher and his/her plans for designing asyllabus.

 Returning to Hughes (ibid.) we can emphasisehis belief that this type of test is very useful for individual check. It meansthat this test could be applicable for checking a definite item; it is notnecessary that it will cover broader topics of the language. However, furtherHughes assumes that this test is rather difficult to design and the size of thetest can be even impractical. It means that if the teacher wants to check thestudents’ knowledge of Present simple, s/he will require a great deal of examplesfor the students to choose from. It will demand a tiresome work from theteacher to compose such type of the test, and may even confuse the learners.

At that point we canallude to our experience in giving a diagnostic test in Form 5. It was theclass the teacher had worked before and knew the students and their levelrather good. However, new learners had joined the class, and the teacher hadnot a slightest idea about their abilities. It was obvious that the studentsworried about how they would accomplish the test and what marks would theyreceive. The teacher had ensured them that the test would not be evaluated bymarks. It was necessary for the teacher to plan her future work. That was doneto release the tension in the class and make the students get rid of the stressthat might be crucial for the results. The students immediately felt free andset to work. Later when analysing and summarizing the results the teacherrealized that the students’ knowledge was purely good. Certainly, there were theplace the students required more practice; therefore during the next class thestudents were offered remedial activities on the points they had encounteredany difficulties. Moreover, that was the case when the students wereparticularly interested in their marks.

To conclude, we canconceive that interpreting the results of diagnostic tests the teachers apartfrom predicting why the student has done the exercises the way s/he has, butnot the other, will receive a significant information about his/her group s/heis going to work with and later use the information as a basis for the formingsyllabus.

3.2 Placement tests

Another type of test weare intended to discuss is a placement test. Concerning Longman Dictionary ofLTAL again (279-280) we can see that a placement test is a test that places thestudents at an appropriate level in a programme or a course. This term does notrefer to the system and construction of the test, but to its usage purpose.According to Hughes (1989:7), this type of test is also used to decide whichgroup or class the learner could be joined to. This statement is entirelysupported by another scholar, such as Alderson (1996:216), who declares thatthis type of test is meant for showing the teacher the students’ level of thelanguage ability. It will assist to put the student exactly in that group thatresponds his/her true abilities.

Heaton (ibid.) adheresthat the following type of testing should be general and should purely focus ona vast range of topics of the language not on just specific one. Therefore, theplacement test typically could be represented in the form of dictations,interviews, grammar tests, etc.

Moreover, according toHeaton (ibid.), the placement test should deal exactly with the language skillsrelevant to those that will be taught during a particular course. If our courseincludes development of writing skills required for politics, it is notappropriate to study writing required for medical purposes. Thus, Heaton(ibid.) presumes that is fairly important to analyse and study the syllabusbeforehand. For the placement test is completely attributed to the futurecourse programme. Furthermore, Hughes (ibid.) stresses that each institution will have its ownplacement tests meeting its needs. The test suitable for one institution willnot suit the needs of another. Likewise, the matter of scoring is particularlysignificant in the case of placement tests, for the scores gathered serve as abasis for putting the students into different groups appropriate to their level.

At this point we canattempt to compare a placement test and diagnostic one. From the first sightthese both types of tests could look similar. They both are given at thebeginning of the study year and both are meant for distinguishing the students’level of the current knowledge. However, if we consider the facts described insub-chapter 2.1 we will see how they are different. A diagnostic test is meantfor displaying a picture of the students’ general knowledge at the beginning ofthe study year for the teacher to plan further work and design an appropriatesyllabus for his/her students. Whereas, a placement test is designed and givenin order to use the information of the students’ knowledge for putting thestudents into groups according to their level of the language. Indeed, they areboth used for teacher’s planning of the course their functions differ. Acolleague of mine, who works at school, has informed me that they have used aplacement test at the beginning of the year and it appeared to be relevant andefficient for her and her colleague’s future teaching. The students weredivided according to their English language abilities: the students with betterknowledge were put together, whereas the weaker students formed their owngroup. It does not mean discrimination between the students. The teachers haveexplained the students the reason for such actions, why it was necessary – theywanted to produce an appropriate teaching for each student taking his/herabilities into account. The teachers have altered their syllabus to meet thedemands of the students. The result proved to be satisfying. The students withbetter knowledge progressed; no one halted them. The weaker students havegradually improved their knowledge, for they received due attention than itwould be in a mixed group.

3.3 Progresstest

Having discussed two types of tests that are usually used at the beginning,we can approach the test typically employed during the study year to check thestudents’ development. We will speak about a progress test. According toAlderson (1996:217), progresstest will show the teacher whether the students have learnt the recently taughtmaterial successfully. Basically, the teacher intends to check certain items,not general topics covered during the school or study year. Commonly, it is notvery long and is determined to check the recent material. Therefore, theteacher might expect his/her learners to get rather high scores. The followingtype is supposed to be used after the students have learnt either a set ofunits on a theme or have covered a definite topic of the language. It willdisplay the teacher whether the material has been successfully acquired or thestudents need additional practice instead of starting a new material.

A progress test will basically display the activities based on the materialthe teacher is determined to check. To evaluate it the teacher can work out acertain system of points that later will compose a mark. Typically, such testsdo not influence the students’ final mark at the end of the year.

The authorities of school demand the teachers to conduct progress tests, aswell. However, the teachers themselves decide on the necessity of applyingthem. Nevertheless, we can claim that progress test is inevitable part of the learningprocess. We can even take a responsibility to declare that progress testfacilitate the material acquisition in a way. The students preparing for thetest look through the material again and there is a chance it can betransferred to their long-term memory. 

Further, we can come to Alderson (ibid.) who presumes that such type oftesting could function as a motivating fact for the learners, for success willdevelop the students’ confidence in their own knowledge and motivate them studyfurther more vigorously. In case, there will be two or three students whosescores are rather low, the teacher should encourage them by providing supportin future and imply the idea that studying hard will allow them to catch upwith the rest of the students sooner or later. The author of the paper basingon her experience agrees with the statement, for she had noticed that weakerstudents when they had managed to write their test successfully became proud oftheir achievement and started working better.

However, if the majority of the class scores a rather low grade, theteacher should be cautious. This could be a signal that there is eithersomething wrong with the teaching or the students are low motivated or lazy.


3.4 Achievement tests

Apart from a progress testthe teachers employ another type – achievement test. According to LongmanDictionary of LTAL (3), an achievement test is a test, which measures alanguage someone has learned during a specific course, study or program. Herethe progress is significant and, therefore, is the main point tested.

Alderson (1996:219)posits that achievement tests are “more formal”, whereas Hughes (1989:8)assumes that this type of tests will fully involve teachers, for they will beresponsible for the preparation of such tests and giving them to the learners.He repeats the dictionary defining the notion of achievement tests, adding justthat success of the students, groups of students, or the courses.

Furthermore, Alderson(ibid.) conceives that achievement tests are mainly given at definite times ofthe school year. Moreover, they could be extremely crucial for the students,for they are intended either to make the students pass or fail the test.

At this instant theauthor of the paper is determined to compare a progress and achievement test.Again if we look at these two types they might seem similar, however, it is notso. Drawing on the facts listed above (see sub-chapter 2.3) we can report thata progress test is typically used during the course to check the acquisition ofan excerpted material. An achievement test checks the acquisition of thematerial, as well. Although, it is far different in its application time. Webasically use an achievement test at the end of the course to check theacquisition of the material covered during the study year, not bits of it as itis with a progress test.

Quoting Hughes (ibid.)we can differentiate between two kinds of achievement tests: final and progresstests. Final tests are the tests that are usually given at the end of the coursein order to check the students’ achieved results and whether the objectives setat the beginning have been successfully reached. Further Hughes highlights thatministries of education, official examining boards, school administration andeven the teachers themselves design these tests. The tests are based on thecurriculum and the course that has been studied. We assume, that is awell-known fact that teachers usually are responsible for composing such tests,and it requires a careful work.

Alternatively, Alderson(ibid.) mentions two usage types of achievement tests: formative and summative.The notion of a formative test denotes the idea that the teacher will beable after evaluating the results of the test reconsider his/her teaching,syllabus design and even slow down the pace of studying to consolidate thematerial if it is necessary in future. Notwithstanding, these reconsiderationswill not affect the present students who have taken the test. They will beapplied to the future syllabus design.

Summative usage willdeal precisely with the students’ success or failure. The teacher willimmediately can take up remedial activities to improve a situation.

Further, Alderson(ibid.) and Heaton (1990:14) stipulate that designing an achievement test israther time-consuming, for the achievement test is basically devised to cover abroad topic of the material covered during the course. In addition, one and thesame achievement test could be given to more than one class at school to checkboth the students’ progress and the teachers’ work. At that point it is veryessential to consider the material covered by different classes or groups. Youcannot ask the students what they have not been taught. Heaton (ibid.)emphasises the close cooperative work of the teachers as a crucial element intest design. However, in the school the author of the paper used to work theteachers did not cooperate in designing achievement tests. Each teacher wasfree to write the test that best suits his/her children.

Developing the topic, wecan focus on Hughes’ idea that there is an approach how to design a test; it iscalled syllabus-content approach. Thetest is based on a syllabus studied or a book taken during the course. Thistest could be described as a fair test, for it focuses mainly on the detailedmaterial that the students are supposed to have studied. Hughes (ibid.) pointsout that if the test is inappropriately designed, it could result inunsuccessful accomplishment of it. Sometimes the demands of the test may differfrom the objectives of the course. Therefore, the test should be based directlyon the objectives of the course. Consequently, it will influence the choice ofbooks appropriate to the syllable and syllable itself. The backwash will bepositive not only for the test, but also for the teaching.Furthermore, we should mention that the students have to know the criteriaaccording to which they are going to be evaluated.  

To conclude we shallstate again that achievement tests are meant to check the mastery of the materialcovered by the learners. They will be great helpers for the teacher’s futurework and will contribute a lot to the students’ progress.

3.5 Proficiency tests

The last type of test tobe discussed is a proficiency test. Regarding Longman Dictionary of LTAL (292)proficiency test is a test, which measures how much of a language a personknows or has learnt. It is not bound to any curriculum or syllabus, but isintended to check the learners’ language competence. Although, some preparationand administration was done before taking the test, the test’s results are whatbeing focused on. The examples of such tests could be the American Testing ofEnglish as Foreign Language test (further in the text TOEFL) that is used tomeasures the learners’ general knowledge of English in order to allow them toenter any high educational establishments or to take up a job in the <st1:country-region w:st=«on»><st1:place w:st=«on»>USA</st1:place></st1:country-region>. Anotherproficiency test is Cambridge First Certificate test that has almost the sameaim as TOEFL.

            Hughes(1989:10) gives the similar definition of proficiency tests stressing thattraining is not the thing that is emphasised, but the language. He adds that‘proficient’ in the case of proficiency tests means possessing a certainability of using the language according to an appropriate purpose. It denotesthat the learner’s language ability could be tested in various fields orsubjects (art, science, medicine, etc.) in order to check whether the learnercould suit the demands of a specific field or not. This could refer to TOEFLtests. Apart from TOEFL we can speak about Cambridge First Certificate test,which is general and does not concern any specific field. The aim of this testis to reveal whether the learners’ language abilities have reached a certainstandard set. The test could be taken by anyone who is interested in testingthe level of language knowledge. There are special tests levels, which can bechosen by a candidate. If a candidate has passed the exam s/he can take anotherone of a different level. However, these entire tests are not free of charge,and in order to take it an individual has to pay for them.

Regarding Hughes (ibid.)who supposes that the only similar factor about such tests that they are notbased on any courses, but are intended to measure the candidates’ suitabilityfor a certain post or course at the university, we can add that in order topass these tests a candidate has to attend special preparatory courses.

 Moreover, Hughes (ibid.) believes that theproficiency tests affect learners’ more in negative way, than in positive one.

The author of the paperboth agrees and does not agree with the Hughes’ proposed statement. Definitely,this test could make the testee depressed and exhausted by taking a rather longtest. Moreover, the proficiency tests are rather impartial; they are nottestee-friendly.

However, there is auseful factor amongst the negative ones. It is preparation to proficiencytests, for it involves all language material starting from grammar finishingwith listening comprehension. All four skills are being practised during thepreparation course; various reading task and activities have been incorporated;writing has been stressed focusing on all possible types of essays, letters,reviews, etc. Speaking has been practiced as well. The who

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