Testing The Grammatical Structure

by risko

1. GENERAL NATURE OF THE ESL STRUCTURE TEST

              There is and essential different between the traditional “grammar” test for the native speaker of English and the kind structure test appropriate for the foreign learner. Inasmuch as it generally be assumed that the native speaker of the language has mastered a grammatical system largely or wholly acceptable for informal discourse, ”grammar” test al least on the high school and collage levels have usually concentrated on matter of style and diction appropriate for rather formal written English. On the other hand, structure test for foreign students will have as their purpose the testing of control of the basic grammatical patterns of the spoken language, such tests would constitute no challenge for native speaker of standard English, who except for carelessness, would be expected to make perfect score.

2. DETERMINATION OF TEST CONTENT

             The preparation of structure test should always begin with the setting up of the detailed outline of the proposed test content. The outline should specify not only which structures are to be tested, but the percentage of items to be written around each problem. This outline may have to be modified somewhat on the basis of results of pretesting, but great care must be taken to ensure that the final form of the test includes a broad range of relevant grammatical problems in proportions which reflect their relative importance.

Selection of the structure to be included in an achievement test is relatively easy, inasmuch as the class text can and should be used as the basis for our test. As a rule, the test should include the full range of structures that were thought in the course, and each structural type should receive about the same emphasis in the test that it receives in the classroom.

3. ITEM TYPES

  1. Completion (multiple-choice). The most common type of multiple-choice structure item presents a context  in which one or more words are missing, followed by several alternative completions. The following example, illustrate three version of this basic type.
    1. Mary (lives) (is living) (has lived) in New York since 1960
    2. Mary _____________in New York since 1960.

A. Lives                       C. Has lived                             B. Is living

3. “Is Mary Baker still in Chicago?” “No;_______in New York since 1960”.

A. He lives                                                                     C. She’s living

B. She’d lived                                                                D. She’d lived

All three style have been used many times, and apparently with about equal success, and preference for one over another seems to be largely a matter of personal choice. In terms of space, version 1 is certainly the most economical. Version 2 is felt by some to be less confusing to the examinees, because it does not interrupt the context with the alternatives, thought there appears to be no real evidence that examinees perform more effectively when the items have this form. Version 3 is favored by many language teachers and specialists because the dialogue form provides more context and therefore may make the problem somewhat clearer.

  1. Sentence alternative (multiple-choice). Another item type does away with the item stem altogether and simple presents several sentence from which the examinees the acceptable version.
  1. Mary is living in New York since 1960
  2. Mary lives in New York since 1960
  3. Mary has lived in New York since 1960
  1. Sentence interpretation (multiple-choice). A third type of structure item presents a stimulus and than asks for an interpretation. This becomes a kind of reading comprehension task in which the crucial clues are structural.

“An old friend John’s family brought him news of his uncle last night.”

A. An old friend                       B. John                         C. The uncle

  1. Scrambled sentence (multiple-choice). For testing of word order, test writers sometimes use the device of the scrambled sentence in which examinees rearranges a jumbled series of element so as to form an acceptable sentence.

“The friend of the doctor that Charles met when he visited  his daughter and her husband come to the library today.”

A. The friend

B. The daughter

C. The doctor

D. The daughter’s husband

E. Charles

  1. Completion (supply type). Returning to type 1, we may use the completion item type as a fill-in exercise.

ü      Direction—complete the sentences by writing a form of the verb given in parentheses.

Mary _____________(live) in New York since 1960

ü      Direction—complete the sentence by using preposition before, during, since.

Mary has been living in New York __________ 1960

This item type is extremely  useful in formal classroom-testing situation. Such items are much easier to prepare than the multiple-choice types, and they require a certain amount of composition on the part of the students. Their disadvantages for large-scale testing are the same as with all supply types. They are much more time-consuming to score than multiple-choice items, and there may be several possible correct answers to some of the item so that different score might be judge the same response differently

  1. Conversion (supply type). Another popular type of short-answer structure test requires the examinees to convert or transform a series of sentences in a specified manner by changing them from present to past tense, from active to passive voice, from singular to plural, and so forth. The components given above for item type 5 may be applied to the conversion as well.

4. ADVICE ON ITEM WRITING

  1. The language of the dialogues should read like spoken English. Common contractions should be employed wherever they would normally occur in speech. Avoid constructions usually found only in formal writing.
  2. The second part of the dialogues should sound like a natural response to the first part. Avoid responses that sound like classroom drills. English as “wrong” answers to help ensure that his distracters do not contain forms acceptable in another English dialect, the test writer should ask other native speakers of English to review its items
  3. No distracters should include “error” which would appear in writing but not in speech.

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TESTING GRAMATICAL STRUCTURE

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