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English Testing Systems

English Testing Systems | ITTT | TEFL Blog

There are 2 main test categories: internal and external. The main difference is that internal tests are always conducted in the language school. On the other hand, external tests are (usually) held by third party organizations in which school itself has no participation. Only the latter ones provide internationally recognized language certificates.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Nemanja K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Internal Tests

As it is often appropriate to give tests at different stages of the course, there is a particular test done at every stage. These are:

  1. placements/diagnostic test
  2. progress test
  3. practice test
  4. achievement test
  5. proficiency test

1. placements/diagnostic test

At the beginning of the course, placement test usually takes place. These tests are conducted to form groups by the student's level of English. Most of the time, multiple-choice questions suit the purpose of accessing their grammar and vocabulary, whereas spoken interview is the best tool to determine whether a student can communicate and participate at the required level. The latter ones start with basic questions such as: ''What's your name?'', ''How old are you'', ''What is your favorite color?'' etc. In case a student seems comfortable with this kind of question, the teacher would ask more complex questions using a variety of different tenses until a student is not so capable. In the written part, it is advised to ask a few general questions so that a student can give an extensive answer and thus provide more information about the written fluency level. These together are used to find out an entry-level of a student. It is a good idea to use course books as a guide toward associating the test results with corresponding fluency level.

Diagnostic tests are the same as placement tests, they may have even more activities. They too are given at the start of the course to determine what students already know. Moreover, they help the teacher to compose a teaching plan that will cover the weak points identified by this test.

notebook and office objects

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2. progress test

Progress tests are done frequently over certain periods. They are used to determine what extent of language has been learned and what has been forgotten along the way. These are particularly useful to let both teachers and students know what language lessons need additional work to be done. Logically, they motivate students to do more of unit reviews which is always a good thing. This test covers four main language skills are listening, reading, writing and speaking. Additionally, grammar and vocabulary are language items that should be also evaluated at the same time. A common practice is for schools to have progress tests to match the units from the coursebook. Alternatively, these tests could be taken from the coursebook itself. In case neither is available, the teacher has to create a test of his own. Its composition of the test can be comprised of undone activities in the workbook and/or other resource books. Whether a teacher thinks that formal testing is more of a memory test rather than actual knowledge, formal tests are required nonetheless.

3. practice test

Practice tests are conducted with students that are preparing themselves for an external examination. It is of the utmost importance that they use the same format of the test the students are going to take. They are going to be covered at the end of the essay.

students at the desk

Also Read: Can I learn a foreign language while teaching English abroad?

4. achievement test

Unlike practice test, a student that is not preparing for an external examination can take a test an internal test at the end of the school year. These are achievement tests, and they should cover the whole material. Consequently, there should be activities from all the units to get a summary of the student's achievements and language acquired.

5. proficiency test

Like the last type, proficiency tests may also be viable. These are not course-related, however, these stipulate that they gauge the proficiency in English at the same levels as the

European Common Framework Levels

Nowadays, the number of general external examinations available is great. However, there is a portion that is distinctly more popular and thus recognized worldwide. Such are:

TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEFL is an American exam of English and it is required by most US universities for non-native speakers to pass with a certain score. This test is conducted on paper or a PC, and has a format of multiple-choice questions, covering all the elements possible. These range from grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, and listening. Recently, a speaking part has been added to the test. TOEFL does not have a passing grade, rather a student gets a final score which corresponds to his level of English.

teacher writing on the whiteboard

Also Read: The Potential of English as a Global Language from China Perspective

IELTS - International English Language Testing System

This test is suitable for everyone who wishes to work or study in a place where English is the language of communication. It consists of four parts: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The listening part is conducted with a recording that plays only once. Reading and writing are time-limited, therefore it is important to perform under pressure. Alongside TOEFL, IELTS scores are also recognized by universities and colleges, as well as employers, immigration bodies and professional entities.

TOEIC - The Test of English for International Communication

TOEIC is specifically used as a way to determine a work-place English proficiency. Traditionally, it has been most widely accepted in Japan and Korea, recently gaining popularity in Europe. It measures the English potential of non-native speakers to operate in a work-place environment. Originally, it was based on TOEFL, containing two parts: listening and reading (100 questions each). Lately, writing and speaking constituents have been included.

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Lastly, there are two most popular exams in the UK: Cambridge Assessment and ESOL Skills for Life.

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