Testing in TESOL Part 2: A Taxonomy of Tests Continued

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The second part of the Testing in TESOL Series aims to highlight a few approaches to designing TESOL tests that teachers should consider for their learners.

Formative & Summative Tests

We will begin with a broad category, and one that you’ve used before but probably didn’t know the lingo. As you might guess, formative tests are used to design TESOL courses while summative tests are used to collect feedback on a course. However, if you’re using summative tests to plan future courses, the line between the two becomes blurry.

Direct & Indirect Tests

If the skill being assessed were whether or not the student could write a newspaper article, a direct test would ask the student to actually write an article. An indirect test, however, would ask questions to assess enabling skills, such as asking the learner to fill in a blank with a transitional word or sequence pre-written paragraphs. Direct tests are very similar to task-based learning and are sometimes referred to as an authentic assessment (see part three of this series).

Consider the following when designing a TESOL test: a student who can answer multiple choice answers about writing an article may not actually be able to write an article.

Discreet Point & Integrative Items

A discreet point item assesses the student’s knowledge of one specific language point, for example, which word goes in which blank. An integrated item would assess several language items at once, say by writing an essay in which the vocabulary and grammar used is being assessed together. As you can imagine, many indirect tests end up containing discreet point items, whereas direct tests are integrative.

Integrative tests may also refer to the number of skills being assessed.  In some tests, students are asked to first read a text, then listen to a dialogue, and finally write a summary of both, as opposed to diagnostic tests which have separate sections for reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

To learn more about using tests in TESOL, view Testing in TESOL Part 1 here.

October 11, 2012