It's all about that TEST

Student assessment - for teachers; Taking tests - for students; Personal experience - Nelly Halmukhamedova 

STUDENT ASSESSMENT

Once you hear the word “test” some inherent dread arises inside making it hard to breathe and keep calm. Sit quietly, don’t look in your neighbour’s paper, you have 5 minutes left. The majority of us are a product of the same schooling system and we bear similar scars whether we understand it or not. Thus, a teacher may detest tests as your average student. However, is this all there is to assessment? And can’t tests be efficient and fun at the same time? Let’s find out. 


Why do we need assessment?

Testing students’ knowledge is an important part of their education and growth. We need to keep track of their skills development and make sure that all skills are balanced. Another way to use assessment is to single out areas they need working on in the future. These two types are called formative and summative assessments. 

When do we need assessment?

Believe it or not, but you assess your student’s knowledge all the time - when they answer questions or act out role-plays, when they do grammar exercises or read texts, - a teacher is always aware of how the students are performing and takes notes on their mistakes. However, formal assessment should be integrated in their education process, because it gives them a sense of achievement and accomplishment, indicates transition from topic to topic, from level to level. Here are some tips on when to give a more formal assessment:
1. Placement test - this helps the teacher understand what level the new student is on and what things need working on.
2. Progress test - when you finish a particular topic and need to analyse how well the students understood it and how much they remember.
3. Mid-course test - this tests retainment and marks an important milestone, that you are half-way through your course. It also shows the teacher what things need revision or clarification.
4. Diagnostic test - you can give this test any time throughout the course, it will help you plan for future lessons and see what areas still need to be covered.
5. End-of-course test - this test will show how well they have covered this level and whether the students are ready to move on to the next level.

Forms of assessment 

There are different ways you can test your students knowledge, particularly in an online classroom. Here are some ideas:
1. Oral test - give your students a list of questions that cover the scope of topics you have been working on. They may include both grammar and vocabulary and will show you how well they can use that language with and without prompting.

2. Written test - you can use unit tests in course-books or use your own, but that may be a bit too boring or stressful to your students. To spice things up, use google forms - there you can create different types of tasks and even appoint correct answers, which will make checking the test much faster and easier for you. Don’t forget to ask your students to write their name and collect their emails, so that you know who exactly took that test.

3. Game - this is by far my most favourite format. Create a jeopardy game, divide students in teams or pairs and play it together in class. There can be different types of questions and even difficulty may vary with an increasing number of points for more challenging tasks. Students will love it and will definitely look forward to future tests!

Evaluation and feedback

Providing proper feedback is as important as the test itself. Giving marks like in school may be demotivating to your students so I usually simply use the “pass” or “fail” system where everybody who scored more than 60% gets a pass. But it is also important to write what things the student got right along with what things need to be revised. Writing an encouraging message which will highlight their progress and achievements will boost your student’s confidence and provide further motivation to study. It may also be good to discuss that making mistakes is ok and that scoring 100% on the test is not the ultimate goal. 


TAKING TESTS AND NOT LOSING YOUR MIND


You want to study or work abroad in an English-speaking country, but English isn’t your first language: what do you need to do? You normally need to take an English language exam, which is required by universities, immigration departments, professional bodies and employers.

But, aside from formal requirements, there are lots of other reasons why taking English language tests can be good for you!

1. Increase your motivation levels

Before a test, you tend to study harder than ever. Research has shown that this can lead to improved language ability. Whether you love them or hate them, tests clearly motivate us to get learning. Research has found that students who are given regular tests study the longest and the most regularly. Students who have less frequent tests tend to study just before their test.

2. Learn the right kind of language skills

By taking a focused academic English language exam, you will learn the right kind of skills to succeed in your studies.Academic English language exams use real-life language, tasks and topics. This means that, in addition to developing real-life English language communication skills, you develop a range of practical academic skills. For example, you will develop the skills to: 

  • Write essays with a good organizational structure and supporting conclusions

  • Follow lectures and ask detailed questions

  • Read quickly enough to cope with the demands of an academic course

  • Read textbooks and grasp the main topics and ideas

  • Give clear presentations.

3. Succeed in your academic studies

Research shows that students who do well in academic English language exams, such as Cambridge English: Advanced, are most likely to perform well academically. One recent research study about who achieves the best academic grades at a UK business school, found that 36% of the difference in grades is due to students’ reading and writing test scores.

4. Improve the way you study

Tests and quizzes are really useful study techniques, which can improve how quickly you learn.When you do an exam, you have to recall and apply what you have learnt. This process greatly improves your chances of remembering information. It also makes future study sessions more productive, by showing what you need to work on next.

In addition, by taking exams, you can improve your ability to apply what you’ve learned in new contexts. In particular, open-ended assessments (such as essay writing) help our brains to organize information, which produces ‘deeper learning’ – so you can retrieve that knowledge flexibly and transfer it to other situations.

5. Get ahead of your peers

Despite clear evidence about the benefits, most students still avoid doing tests wherever possible. This means that the students who do take tests are at an advantage.One research project asked university students to choose between self-testing or just doing more study. Only 18% of the students chose to self-test. These students were able to find out how much they knew and used their results to guide further study. Guess which students did better…?

Read full article here


PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Taking exams and tests is part of our life, from school to university, and even in our jobs. It is often seen just as something negative or stressful, but today I would like to elaborate on how tests helped me to grow, improve and even enjoy taking tests.

Learning a language is not always easy and takes time and energy but when you have a clear goal, like passing a test or obtaining a certain number of points in an exam it can be a big motivation for a learner. Also, it helps to see your weak points or where you have room for improvement. You no longer have to wonder how good your level is. Once you have taken an official language exam, you can see how your level measures up to certain academic or professional standards.

During my teaching experience, I can see how students who are preparing for exams improve their level faster. They have clear goals, study more consistently because we take regular tests and they improve a broad variety of skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening. Exams make you leave your comfort zone and, in my opinion, that is the point where you start to grow and really improve. It helps to revise and organise your knowledge.

Every student learns in a different way or phase and that is totally fine. That's why I like to use different study techniques like quizzes, games, audio books and many more to make preparing for tests even fun and an enjoyable experience.

An English certificate is an investment in yourself and your future, just like any other type of diploma. Passing an official language exam and getting a certification makes you stand out in a crowd. For example, when creating an online professional profile, such as the one on LinkedIn, having the English certification on your CV will make your name pop up in employers’ searches which include keywords like “English” or “Cambridge”.

As a professional English teacher, continuous improvement and taking exams is a part of my everyday life and I can connect with my passion for languages with my professional development. If you plan to travel, work or study abroad in an English-speaking country, taking an exam and getting a certificate is a huge benefit. You will grow both personally and professionally and you can walk through life more confidently.

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That’s all for now,

Stay amazing <3