How a good Language Test can support Effective Learning

How a good Language Test can support Effective Learning 

-Dr Ghazala Siddiqi

For some teachers, test is a four-letter word, both literally and figuratively. Since times immemorial, man has been communicative by nature and a learner by choice or compulsion. That is why he has been blessed with a critical thinking faculty. Language, when it shed its garb of silence and ambiguity, became his biggest and most effective tool for communication intra-personally as well as inter-personally, supported by his immense power of fantasy and imagination. Well, Language shapes our reality.

Now let us envisage a learner in the present scenario. He struggles. He toils. He absorbs. He radiates. He disseminates. He communicates. How is it possible? Through the use of Language. G.B Shaw states- The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. It’s a thought provoking statement. No Language can be effectively learnt unless a good language test adds elements of validity and reliability to it. A young learner needs to pass through the gates of critical intellect and high order thinking in order to prove his mettle as an acquirer of a Language. So a good language test comes to rescue!

A good language test motivates a learner to study English as a language and not as a subject. It lifts the palls of pressure from his mind and allows free-flow of information. A good test should have a constructive or productive effect on learning. In other words it should lead to a change in behaviour. On the other side assessment strategies that a teacher employs should result in improved learning habits. Such a test endeavours to identify the specific and precise areas of difficulties experienced by the class or the individual student so that assistance in the form of additional practice and corrective exercises may be planned. A teacher is able to analyse the different language skills and plan his or her strategies accordingly. In this way, the teacher can evaluate the effectiveness of the syllabus as well as the methods and materials he or she is using. A well-developed test should provide an opportunity for students to show their ability to perform certain language tasks. A test should be constructed with the goal of having students learn from their weaknesses. In this way a good test can be used as a valuable teaching tool. Such a test invariably entails effective assessment in class.

However one major issue that teachers face is testing student performance on a fixed pattern while keeping the multiple intelligences in mind. Generally classes have students with varying Multiple Intelligences. Some are kinaesthetic learners while some are linguistic. Some prefer learning through collaborative action researches while some do well in individual tasks. As an assessor of their progress, is a language teacher right in assigning a common pattern of testing for all learner-types? A student who may not have performed well in a written test does fairly well when taking a practical one. How does a teacher bring the multiple intelligences on a common pattern of assessment? These are complex issues which teachers face and have been trying to devise ways to deal with them. A good language test is designed in such a way that it caters to the various multiple intelligences with questions ranging from analytical ones to those testing creativity and critical thinking skills. This helps in identifying the convergent and divergent thinking patterns.

A good test assesses students on their Language skills through activities that cater to different intelligences and involves them in autonomous collaborative tasks. Besides being reliable, valid and authentic, it should measure the basic skills-Oral skills, Listening skills, Reading and Writing. A communicative approach to Language testing is pertinent and a good Language test ensures that it fulfils this criterion. All skills can be integrated and the assessor can assess the performance of a student holistically as well as on varied criteria on a well-defined rubric. Another benefit is that each student’s performance can be evaluated individually rather than in relation to the performance of other students.

Thus a good Language test acts as a catalyst in the process of learning. It supports effective learning by being impartial, valid, reliable and authentic. A student can lean on it for support as a traveller does on an oak tree during the course of his journey through meandering ways. A test does not intimidate. It motivates and gets the best out of the learner. Gone are the days when teachers would act as Mama Robins for Polly Parrots.

However, with the administrative structure changing every five years or so, many of the academic institutions are at a loss as implementing a change requires intensive training of teachers, a thorough improvisation in the existing assessment structure before introducing new ones and the realization that continuity in efforts is to be maintained by building more bridges to lessen the gap between the teaching faculty and management. There has to be a more constructive approach towards assessment planning and strategies.

A good test must create  critical thinkers.

Encouraging Educator

Written by Ghaz@

I have done my Ph. D in Education and have contributed to Materials Development, content writing, and reviewing at various organizations like NCERT, Cambridge University Press and Jamia Millia Islamia University. I am currently teaching English at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.  I have worked as an ELT expert in the Access Micro Scholarship Teaching Program (American Centre). I also work as a Trainer and Program Coordinator for International Projects by World Learning, USA. I am passionate about reading and writing. Besides getting my poetry book published by Writers Workshop, I have also authored course books for Cambridge University Press.


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  1. A well designed language test of course motivates the learner for better performance, yet the test pattern must cater to the diverse requirements of the classroom which is always heterogeneous experience in many aspects. Also, the test design must be dynamic instead of being fixed and routinely patterned, unexperimented and unimproved.

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