Evaluation and Testing of Students - Placements Tests
Placement tests are designed to put students in their appropriate ESL level band. What are the levels and how do the tests do this?
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One type of test we commonly use for our ESL students is called the placement test. They're also called level tests and as the name implies what we're trying to do is to place students in a particular level of class. Typically there are five levels, these being, Starter (Level 1), Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate and Upper- Intermediate (Level 5)
Some of the more common features of these tests are that; 1. All four skills are commonly tested that means, reading, writing, speaking and listening and 2. They tend to be what's called progressive. By progressive what we mean is that the questions tend to start easy and gradually become harder and harder. That means that not all students will get to the end of the test and how far they actually get will determine the level of the students.
If we take a speaking test for example, we might start off with some very simple things like, does the student know the vocabulary for the days of the week. If they do, can they put today's day into a sentence, so they may say something like, “Today is Wednesday”. If they cannot do this, we could say they are at the Starter level. Rather than just finishing the test at this point, we can then try and find out if they know the alphabet or any vocabulary, perhaps using flashcards.
If they can, then they may be at the elementary level, but we need to check. We can then raise the level of the question and say, “All right if today is Wednesday can you give me a sentence for yesterday and a sentence for tomorrow?” They will hopefully be using the past form of ‘is’ and the future form. If successful they are at least at Elementary level.
Now, to find out whether they are at a higher level still, we could perhaps check a further grammar point. We could say something like; “I am eating rice” could you tell me what tense this is? If they are able to identify that tense as the present continuous, then can they actually identify each of the parts of speech within that sentence? If they can do all that, they are probably at least, Pre-Intermediate.
To continue, we could then give them another sentence of a different tense, for example present perfect and see if they can indicate the tense and parts of speech for that one. Then perhaps looking particularly at new part of speech, such as an adverb of frequency and see if they are able to use that and suggest sentences with that and others.That will suggest they are at the higher levels and we can then ask them some more general questions to find out whether we think they should be in the intermediate or the upper intermediate levels.
So by starting easy and getting more complex with each question, then the further the students go the higher the level of group they will be.
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