TESTING SPEAKING AND LISTENING. LG 629 . PROFICIENCY TESTS.
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Proficiency tests are designed to ensure people’s ability in a language regardless of any training they may have received or any course they may have taken. The content of a proficiency test is not based on the syllabus or content of a language course which people taking the test may have followed. It is based rather, on the specification of what candidates have to be able to do in the language in order to be considered proficient.
Proficient may mean having sufficient command of the language for a particular purpose, for example the Cambridge Proficiency Test, or the IELTS academic Test, would be measuring people’s language level to see if they are of the right level to undertake university level study in the UK.
Most teachers are unlikely to be responsible for designing proficiency tests, but they may be involved in the design of achievement tests.IN contrast to proficiency tests, achievement tests are directly linked to specific language courses, their purpose being to establish to establish how successful individual students, groups of students, or the courses themselves have been successful in achieving the objectives of the course. They are of two kinds, progress achievement tests and final achievement tests., Final achievement tests are those administered at the end of a course, they may be written by individual schools, by boards of examiners, or ministries of education.
Diagnostic tests are used to identify students strengths and weaknesses, they are used in order to ascertain what further teaching is necessary. So it is possible, from a writing task in a test, to define the students ability in such respects as ‘grammatical accuracy’ or ‘vocabulary appropriacy’, or form a spoken test to decide their level of fluency and what kind of pronunciation problems they may have, that need further attention in the classroom. It may not be simple to obtain a detailed analysis of a students command of grammatical structures
Placement tests maybe very familiar to people who have worked as teachers in private language schools, where a placement test is often the first thing a learner has to do when he/she enrols at the school. Placement tests are to provide information which will help to place the learners at the correct stage of the teaching/learning programme to match their abilities. So in a, private language school this corresponds with deciding which level class the new student will join
An aptitude test is designed to discover how well someone may perform in the future, what their aptitude for a language or topic may be, They may be sued at the beginning of a state school year to determine the general aptitude of pupils, i.e, which ‘stream# they should go in, either for ability or for area of study,. Not used much in actual language learning.
Testing is said to b e direct when it requires the candidate to perform precisely the skill which we wish to measure. If we want to know how well they can write essays for example, we get them to write an academic essay, as does the IELTS Academic exam. If we want to know about their pronunciation, we get hem to speak,. For a direct test, the tasks and the texts should be as authentic as possible so that the test result reflects their ability to function in the language in that specific skill
This refers to testing communicative ability and using communicative events as test items. Thus items usually relate directly to language use; tasks in the test are as authentic as possible, knowledge of language function and appropriateness of expression and language to the social situation are tested as well as knowledge of structure and word meaning. The examinee may have some choice of what to communicate and how. Texts and materials used tend to be up to date and representative of the testees intended use of the language
Testing speaking is assessing whether a candidate can interact successfully in th language, so this involves both comprehension and production. The problem with testing speaking is that we need to set tasks that form a representative sample the range of oral tasks that we would expect the candidates to be able to perform. The tasks should elicit behaviour which truly represent the candidates ability, and which can be scored with validity and reliability.
*Make the oral test as long as possible, it is unlikely that much reliable information can be obtained in much less than 15 minutes, while 30 minutes will probably provide all the information necessary for most purposes. A placement test could be shorter, maybe 10 minutes should be sufficient to prevent major errors in assigning one student to a suitable class.
*include as wide a sample as possible of the contents or functions that are thought appropriate. Select this content and then plan how the necessary behaviour will be elicited.
Again as with testing speaking, one has to define the operations, what one is able to do, what functions the candidate is able to perform in the L2 listening. Functions may include: *Listening for specific information,.*Listening for the gist of what is being said, *following directions, * following instructions, * recognising stress and intonation patterns , recognising the function of structures, such as “could you pass the salt?” is a request, not a question. At the lowest levels the abilities may being able to distinguishing between individual phonemes, foe example between /w/ and /y/.
Passages must be chosen with the test specifications in mind, if we are interested in how the candidates can cope with ;language intended for native speakers, used in the target country, then ideally we should use samples of authentic speech. In fact, these usually be readily found . Possible sources, apart from the internet, are : radio broadcasts, teaching materials, and any recordings made by the testers/teachers of native speakers