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The Oral Interview Test

Writer(s): 
Joyce Roth, Seian Girls' High School, Kyoto

QUICK GUIDE

Key Words: Speaking, Evaluation
Learner English Level: False beginner to Advanced
Learner Maturity Level: Jr. High school to Adult
Preparation Time: one hour
Activity Time: 2-3 minutes each student

Students taught oral English should be tested orally. Right? While we teachers may agree that is true, time and place constraints as well as school testing policies make oral testing difficult. After trying a variety of oral tests, I eventually came up with a timed test that can be administered individually, can be graded instantaneously, is flexible and interactive, and tests both fluency and accuracy. Additionally, it can be used with any text that needs testing, and at any level.

How to Do It

1. First, determine the vocabulary words, expressions, grammar points, conversation strategies, etc., that you want to test. Write down on an items-to-test list exactly what you want the students to use in the test.

2. Next, write questions that will elicit what you want to test. Write similar questions that elicit similar responses so that you can test all your students without using the same questions over and over. Try using the same information to ask questions in different ways: "Where is the cat?"; "Is the cat on the sofa?"; "Is the cat on the bed or under the chair?" Advanced students could be challenged with more general questions: "Have you ever seen an accident? Tell me about it."

3. Next, find or draw pictures to show the students as you question them; pictures that will help them tune into your thinking as quickly as possible. Pictures copied from the textbook, taken from magazines, or drawn help students grasp what's being asked for. These pictures work best if they are simple and easily recognized rather than complicated ones having too much information in them.

4. Determine how much time you can allow per student. You probably can ask ten questions, more or less, in two minutes. Two minutes will confirm your impressions of the students; a three or four minute test will give a better overall picture of the student's oral ability.

5. Now, write the test. Beneath each question or statement, draw a row of circles. In each circle write a finite point to be tested. As your student answers, tick off with a colored marking pen the bits used correctly. You can have circles for using the correct article, for the correct choice of verb, a separate one for the correct form of the verb such as past tense or the third persons, another for adverb or adjective usage, particular vocabulary words whatever you want to test. Your testing points can be extremely specific or more general. Students will give unanticipated responses, so draw extra circles. Below are a few examples:

Q. Is the cat on the sofa?

 

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


Y/N pro be not

 

 

This question requires the student to answer yes or no, substitute the pronoun, use the "be" verb correctly, and use the negative, if required.

Q. How did she hurt her back?

 

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

-ed prep while S be V -ing where when  

 

Teacher's answers for different pictures: (She slipped on the ice while she was walking to school yesterday.) (She fell down while she was running in the park last Saturday.)

 

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

 


O

   

 

This question, from East-West Book 2, Unit 11, tests the past tense-while-past continuous sequence.

6. Prepare a pretest handout. Set the boundaries for your test and give some examples. Demonstrate how the test and the grading work so that the students will reach for maximum output.

7. Administer the test. At the high school where I now teach, there are two teachers for first year conversation, with fourteen girls in each class. Prior to the term final exam, the girls gather in the language lab. Each teacher sets up a desk in another room. The first girl comes in, the second waits in the hall outside the room, the third is primed to go stand in the hall when the first girl returns, and so on. We each use a count-down timer and end the 2 minute test even if it's the middle of a sentence. They take two tests on two days. In the lab, they can study for the next oral test or final exams. Unless your students are well-behaved and self-disciplined, it's a good idea to schedule tests so that a teacher is in the lab at least part of the time.

As your students respond to your questions and statements, color the circle for each language part the student uses correctly. Be sure to give credit for language used that you didn't think of beforehand.

8. Finally, when the test is over, count up the colored ticks you've made, decide your point range and assign grades to your students.

Why It Works

  1. Flexibility. The time and place for testing can be arranged to suit any number of students, teachers, or constraints.
  2. Interactivity. The teacher can adjust speaking speed to the students level, repeat questions if asked, skip questions that are beyond a student's ability, or change the order of the test questions for different students. The students lose point-earning time whenever the teacher talks, so be wary of interrupting. No answers, short answers and long answers all suggest to the teacher what to ask next.
  3. Tests accuracy and fluency. More fluent students earn credit for longer, more complicated answers. Slower, careful students can earn points for accuracy. Fluency, with or without accuracy, and accuracy, with or without fluency, both have merit. Students with both fluency and accuracy obviously earn the most points.

Variations

My original test was administered at lunch time and after school. The fifty boys I taught in two classes came at appointed times over a two week period. In a junior high first year class, I tested 35 girls in a fifty minute period by setting a desk in the hall outside their classroom. While one girl was being tested -- a five question test with no timer -- the next waited just inside the door. The class had a writing assignment due at the end of the period so they worked fairly quietly.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you do oral testing, you'll notice that your students take more responsibility for learning the material because of the one-on-one

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