The Upside Of Testing

1992320widec1.jpgAs the end of the year draws near, many EFL teachers will find themselves giving tests.

Few do it for their own administering pleasure: tests are usually required by the school and often students want some paper that claims to measure their progress. While teachers often see first-hand the havoc wreaked by testing, it’s just a part of the job.

The good news is, once you’ve handed out the test, the majority of your work for that particular class period is done. Lots of people don’t like grading tests, and I certainly wouldn’t want to do it every week, but I don’t find it substantially more work than planning a new lesson, and it can often be done nearly by rote.

Giving tests is not fun though. Plenty of language schools talk about their communicative, modern methods that will teach students how to speak or use English in the real world…and at the end of the term give out written tests on grammar and vocabulary. In my experience, it’s not uncommon for students to avoid doing homework all term, and then want a written test and want to do well on it. Yikes.

One way to avoid students’ frustration over this is to press your school to include some spoken component in the overall assessment, and also if possible other skills on the test, like reading, writing and listening…not just grammar and vocab. I certainly realize that speaking a language is more than numbers and grades, but try explaining that to a student who has attended nearly every class and then scraped by with 60% on the test.

And then there’s cheating.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a personal integrity thing; in many places with a community spirit, turning down someone who asks for help is unthinkable. Good students are just as likely to cheat as bad students, if not more so. It may be easy to say “Just walk around the class and monitor”, but if people actually start cheating, it’s quite difficult to deal with. If you are a new teacher, ask your more experienced colleagues how to deal with this – spacing desks, how to react to people “asking their neighbors for erasers” and such. I’m not a strict teacher (really)…but it’s not cool to be leading what’s supposed to be a serious test and have your adult students chatting.

If you have a bad experience giving a test though, perhaps the best advice is: deal with it and then forget about it. Your students probably will too.

Still waiting for the upside? 🙂 There isn’t one.