Making a mini test

Published on 16th December, 2010 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Your term is probably drawing to a close and you may be considering designing a language test if you do not have a ready-made one, or prefer to have one tailored to your learners. This could be (in part) a discrete item test which tests specific linguistic items such as grammar, lexis, phonology rather than whole skills.
For those of you who have already experimented with test design, you’ll probably agree that it is rather a minefield! The following checklist may help make your test more water-tight:
•  Before the exam, ensure that students are familiar with each test type.
•  Be systematic. Use the same font, presentation and task set-up throughout.
•  Indicate clearly where the marks are allocated, writing the total amount next to each stage. Include the overall mark too. Highlight the mark allocation before students start to help them with timing.
•  Give a clear and simple rubric for each task, using a different font.
•  Give an example for each stage of the test, even when you think it is obvious.
•  If you expect students to write on the test paper itself, ensure that there is enough room for them to do this.
•  Try to vary the test type, partly for interest but also to ensure fairness: some students prefer certain activity types.
•  Weight the exam so that it represents the weighting of your actual course, eg it would be unfair to test mainly grammar if your course has concentrated mainly on lexis.
•  Ensure that the answers are not ambiguous. This creates potential difficulties for your students and also yourself, when marking. Be prepared at the marking stage to accept answers that you may not have expected. I strongly recommend trialling your test, asking a colleague to complete one beforehand and to give brief feedback.

1 Comment

  • Thanks for your work!

    ale on 17 December, 2010