Kind Of Test And Testing

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 3:59 PM

We use tests to obtain information. The information that we hope to obtain will of course vary from situation to situation. It is possible, nevertheless, to categorize tests according to a small number of kinds of information being sought. This categorization will prove useful both in deciding whether an existing test suitable for a particular purpose and in writing appropriate new tests where these are necessary. There are four kinds of tests:

1. Proficiency Tests

Proficiency tests are designed to measure people’s ability in a language regardless of any training they may have had in that language. The content of a proficiency test is based on a specification of what candidates have to be able to do in the language in order to be considered proficient. Proficient means having sufficient command of the language for a particular purpose. There are other proficiency tests which do not have an occupation or course of study in mind. For instance, Cambridge examinations and the Oxford EFL examinations, the function of these tests is to show whether candidates have reached a certain standard with respect to certain specified abilities. Though there is no particular purpose in mind for the language, these general proficiency tests should have detailed specifications saying just what it is that successful candidates will have demonstrated that they can do. All users of a test can then judge whether the test is suitable for them, and can interpret test results.

2. Achievement Tests

Achievement tests are directly related to language courses, their purpose being to establish how successful individual students, groups of students, or the courses themselves have been in achieving objectives. There are two kinds of achievement tests: final achievement test and progress achievement test.

Final achievement tests are those administered at the end of a course of study. They may be written and administered by ministries of education, official examining boards, or by members of teaching institutions. The content of these tests must be related to the courses with which they are concerned, and should be based directly on a detailed course syllabus or on the books and other materials used. This has been referred to as the ‘syllabus-content approach’. The disadvantage of this approach is that if the syllabus is badly designed, or the books and other materials are badly chosen, then the results of a test can be very misleading. The alternative approach is to base the test content directly on the objectives of the course. The advantages of this approach are it compels course designers to be explicit about objectives; it makes it possible for performance on the test to show just how far students have achieved those objectives; it will provide more accurate information about individual and group achievement, and it is likely to promote a more beneficial backwash effect on teaching.

Progress achievement tests are intended to measure the progress that students are making. Since progress is towards the achievement of course objectives, these tests too should relate to objectives. One way of measuring progress would be repeatedly to administer final achievement tests, the increasing scores indicating the progress made.

3. Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests are used to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses. They are intended primarily to ascertain what further teaching is necessary. By this, teachers can be fairly confident of their ability to create tests that will tell them that a student is particularly weak in a certain subject.

4. Placement Tests

Placement tests are intended to provide information which will help to place students at the stage of the teaching program most appropriate to their abilities. Typically they are used to assign students to classes at different levels. The placement tests which are most successful are those constructed for particular situations. They depend on the identification of the key features at different levels of teaching in the institution.

In addition, there are four test constructions: direct versus indirect testing; discrete point versus integrative testing; norm-referenced versus criterion-referenced testing; and objective versus subjective testing.

1. Direct Versus Indirect Testing

Testing is said to be direct when it requires the candidate to perform precisely the skill which we wish to measure. For example, if we want to know how well candidates can write compositions, we get them to write compositions. Direct testing is easier to carry out when it is intended to measure the productive skills. Direct testing has a number of attractions: provided that we are clear about just what abilities we want to assess; at least in the case of productive skills, the assessment and interpretation of students’ performance is also quite straightforward; since practice for the test involves practice of the skills that we wish to foster, there is likely to be a helpful backwash effect.

Indirect testing attempts to measure the abilities which underlie the skills in which we are interested. The main appeal of indirect testing is that it seems to offer the possibility of testing a representative sample of a finite number of abilities which underlie a potentially indefinitely large number of manifestations of them. The main problem with indirect tests is that the relationship between performance on them and performance of the skills in which we are usually more interested tends to be rather weak in strength and uncertain in nature.

2. Discrete Point Versus Integrative Testing

Discrete point testing refers to the testing of one element at a time, item by item. This might involve, for example, a series of items each testing a particular grammatical structure. Integrative testing requires the candidate to combine many language elements in the completion of a task. This might involve writing a composition, making notes while listening to a lecture, taking a dictation, or completing a cloze passage. Discrete point tests will almost always be indirect, while integrative tests will tend to be direct. However, some integrative methods, such as the cloze procedure, are indirect.

3. Norm-referenced Versus Criterion-referenced Testing

Norm-referenced test is a test which is designed to give information about how the student performed on the test. It relates one candidate’s performance to that of other candidates. We are not told directly what the student is capable of doing in the language. Criterion-referenced test is a test which is designed to provide information about what the candidate can actually do in the language directly. The purpose of criterion-referenced tests is to classify people according to whether or not they are able to perform some task or set of tasks satisfactorily. Criterion-referenced tests have two positive virtues: they set standards meaningful in terms of what people can do, which do not change with different groups of candidates; and they motivate students to attain those standards.

4. Objective Versus Subjective Testing

The distinction here is between methods of scoring, and nothing else. If no judgment is required on the part of the scorer, then the scoring is objective. For example is a multiple choice test, with the correct responses unambiguously identified, would be a case in point. If judgment is called for, the scoring is said to be subjective. For example, the scoring of a composition. In general, the less subjective the scoring, the greater agreement there will be between two different scorers.

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