2 TESTING ORAL ABILITY The objective of teaching spoken language is the development of the ability to interact successfully in that language. This involves comprehension as well as production. If we want to encourage students to speak, we should give oral tests from time to time; otherwise, students will always regard speaking as less “serious” than the other skills. Obviously, it is very difficult to test speaking, especially with large classes. Whereas with listening, reading and writing students can all be tested at the same time, with speaking each student ( or pair of students) must be tested in turn.
3 TWO MAIN WAYS OF TESTING SPEAKING ABILITY 1.CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT The teacher can either give a mark for general willingness and ability to speak in all the lessons, or else note down marks for certain oral activities done in class ( e.g. role play ). This system will only be successful if the teacher tells the students that they are being given marks for speaking.
4 2. SHORT ORAL TESTS The student is expected to give a short talk on a topic which he has either been asked to prepare beforehand or has been informed of shortly before the test. To organize for a large class: a. give the whole class a set of general topics to prepare a few weeks before (e.g. talk about your family, a sport you enjoy). b. over 2-3 lessons, the teacher calls each students out in turn and quietly tests them on one of the topics. Each test lasts 30- 60 seconds. The students do not know which topic they will be asked to speak about. c. teachers can give a mark immediately. To help them do this, they can use a “marking grid”.
5 OTHER GENERAL FORMATS of testing ORAL ABILITY 1.Interview 2.Information transfer: description of a picture sequence 3.Information transfer: questions on a single picture 4.Interaction tasks: - information gap student – student - information gap student - examiner 5.Role play 6.Response to tape recordings
6 ELICITATION TECHNIQUES The appropriateness of each technique will depend upon the specification of the oral test. Most of them can be fitted easily within an interview framework. (1). Questions and requests for information: yes/no questions should generally be avoided. Various functions can be elicited through requests of the kind : “Can you explain to me how/why…….”and “Can you tell me what you think of ……” (2). Pictures : single pictures are particularly useful for eliciting descriptions. Series of pictures (or video sequences) form a natural basis for narration. (3). Role play : candidates can be asked to assume a role in a particular situation. This allows the ready elicitation of other language functions. e.g.: you want your mother (played by the tester) to increase your pocket money. She is resistant to the idea. Try to make her change her mind.
7 (4). Interpreting : simple interpreting tasks can test both production and comprehension in a controlled way. (5). Discussion : can be a discussion of a topic or in order to come to a decision, such as : “there is too much sport on television”. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages. (6). Tape recorded stimuli (7). Imitation: candidates hear a series of sentences, each of which they have to repeat in turn.
8 ADVICE ON PLANNING AND CONDUCTING ORAL TESTS 1. Make the oral test as long as is feasible. 2. Include as wide a sample of specified content as is possible in the time available. 3. Plan the test carefully. 4. Give the student as many “fresh starts” as possible. If possible, more than 1 format should be used. 5. Select interviewers carefully and train them. 6. Use a second tester for interviews. 7. Set only tasks and topics that would be expected to cause student no difficulty in their own language. 8. Carry out the interview in a quiet room with good acoustics. 9. Put students at their ease. 10. Collect enough relevant information. 11. Do not talk too much.