Test items can be designed in various formats. A test whose items are designed in different formats tends to have more validity and reliability than a test that is designed in a single format, for example, multiple-choice format. Here are the most frequently used test formats.
Students are asked to answer questions according to information provided in reading texts or recorded materials. These questions can either be WH- questions or Yes/No questions . It is better to have both types. It is very important that these questions themselves be clear and concise; otherwise, the students will spend a lot of time reading and understanding the questions, which means they will have less time for reading the original texts or listening to the tape.
Students are provided with a set of statements related to the read or heard texts. Then, they are required to decide whether the statements are true or false according to the texts or recorded material. If students perceive a statement as false , they need to provide evidence from the material to support their claim. This provides an analytical feature to the format, and reduces the probability of guessing. Some of the variants of this format include don’t know and not mentioned .
PROS CONS <ul><li>Can ask more questions for greater coverage of material </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Does not allow test takers to demonstrate broad range of knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Can cover a wide range of difficulty levels </li></ul><ul><li>Is difficult to construct effective true-false items that test higher levels of learning </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Usually requires less time for test takers to answer </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages guessing due to 50/50 chance of being correct </li></ul><ul><li>Usually easily graded and scored </li></ul><ul><li>Is easily faked, difficult to test attitudes toward learning </li></ul>
This format can be used virtually for all language areas. Usually, there are 3-5 choices (cues), one of which is the correct answer (key), while the rest are distracters. Great care is needed when designing this type of questions. If ill-designed, very often either the correct answer is too obvious, there is more than one possible answer, or it is very easy for students to eliminate one or two distracters. Again, these choices should not bee too long, especially for reading and listening tests.
PROS CONS Can be used to test many different areas and levels of learning Test takers may perceive questions to be tricky or too picky Can be used to test a persons ability to integrate information Difficult to test attitudes towards learning because correct responses can be easily faked Can ask more questions, greater coverage of material Does not allow test takers to demonstrate knowledge beyond the options provided Usually requires less time for test takers to answer Requires a great deal of time to construct well, especially when it tests higher levels of learning Usually easily scored and graded Encourages guessing because one option is always right
Students are asked to complete paragraphs or sentences by either filling in words that they think are appropriate or choosing the best from the given choices. The test goals can be related to different language areas. The best-known example of this test type is the cloze test. In a gap-filling format, specifically chosen words are deleted. In this way, the test can be steered more towards content words, and hence become a more valid test of vocabulary.
A cloze test is a variant of a gap-filling format. In a cloze test, the gaps are regularly spaced - e.g. every seventh, eighth, or ninth word. In this way, knowledge of a wide range of word types is tested. Moreover, the ability to complete the gaps depends on understanding the context. A variety of this approach is called the C-test , where the second half of every second word is deleted - e.g. In the Sahara desert, a prob_____ the trav_____ may enco_____ is ha_____ weather.
Traditionally, matching is only used for vocabulary tests, i.e. students are asked to match words with their definitions or their synonyms or antonyms. Now matching is used in a great variety of ways. For example, in listening tests, students are asked to match pictures with the descriptions in the recording; in reading tests, students are required to match subtitles or headlines with sections of a text.
Students write down exactly what is read to them. The dictated materials can be sentences or short paragraphs. Dictation reveals many aspects of language knowledge and skills that the students have acquired, such as listening skills, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. It is believed all these contribute to a good piece of dictation..
Usually, students are asked to transfer sentences from one pattern to another but keep the original meaning. A similar term for this form is rewriting. But rewriting can be rewriting a longer text in another genre.
Students are asked to translate sentences or paragraphs from or into the target language. Again good translation requires many aspects of language knowledge and skills, but it also requires good command of one’s native language. So translation is not often used for young learners of foreign languages.
Students are asked to write an essay on a certain given topic. Usually, a set of instructions are given regarding the length, format and topic of the expected essay. Evaluation is based on both the language and the contents of the essay.
PROS CONS Can test complex learning objectives Usually takes more time to answer Can test processes used to answer the question (ability to integrate ideas and synthesize information) Can be unreliable in assessing the entire content of a course or topic area Requires use of writing skills, correct spelling, and grammar Test takers may not have time to organize and proofread answers Can provide a more realistic and generalizable task for test Is typically graded or scored more subjectively. Is more difficult for test takers to guess correct answer Non-test related information may influence scoring process Usually takes less time to construct Requires more time to grade or score
Interviews are often used to evaluate oral skills. The testers ask the students questions or ask them to perform some tasks. An alternative to the one-by-one interview is that students are asked to work in pairs or groups, performing a task or debating on a controversial topic.