Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper

Types of tests used in English Language Teaching Bachelor Paper

University of Latvia

Faculty of Modern Languages

English Department

Types of Tests Used in English Language.

Bachelor Paper

An?elika Ozerova



Declaration of academic Integrity

I hereby declare that this study is my own and does not contain any

unacknowledged material from any source.


12 May, 2004


The present paper attempts to investigate various types of tests and

their application in the language classroom. The theoretical part deals

with the basic data about testing, the comparison of such issues as

assessment and valuation, reasons for testing, types of tests, such as

diagnostic, progress, achievement, placement and proficiency tests; test

formats and ways of testing.

It relates theory to practice by analyzing two proficiency tests:

TOEFL and CFC tests. They are carefully discussed and compared to find

any similarities or differences in their structure and design. The

conclusions drawn are based on the theory and analyses of the tests. The

data obtained indicate that the both tests though being sometimes

different in their purpose, design and structure, are constructed

according to the universally accepted pattern.

Table of Contents

Introduction ........................1

Chapter 1

What is test?3

Chapter 2

2.1 Inaccurate tests....7

2.2 Validity....8

2.3 Reliability.. 11

Chapter 3

3.1 Diagnostic tests. .13

3.2 Placement tests....15

3.3 Progress tests...........................17

3.4 Achievement tests...18

3.5 Proficiency tests..20

Chapter 4

4.1 Direct and Indirect testing......22

4.2 Discrete point and integrative testing..24

4.3 Criterion-refernced and Norm-referenced testing25

4.4 Objective and Subjective testing.....26

4.5 Communicative language testing26

Chapter 5

5.1 Multiple choice tests29

5.2 Short answer tests32

5.3 The Cloze tests and Gap-filling tests..33

5.4 C-Test..35

5.5 True/false items36

5.6 Dictation...36

5.7 Listening Recall38

5.8 Testing Grammar through Error-recognition Items.38

5.9 Controlled Writing39

5.10 Free Writing40

5.11 Test Formats Used in Testing Speaking Skills..41

Chapter 6

Analysis of the Test of English as a Foreign Language and Cambridge


Certificate test according to test design criteria..43


Theses. ..........................57




Among all words used in a classroom there is the only word that

usually makes the students shudder: test. There is hardly a person who

would claim that s/he favours tests and finds them very motivating.

However, tests cannot be avoided completely, for they are inevitable

elements of learning process. They are included into curriculum at schools

and are to check the students level of knowledge and what they are able to

do; they could be accomplished at the beginning of the study year and at

the end of it; the students could be tested after working on new topics and

acquiring new vocabulary. Moreover, the students are to face the tests in

order to enter any foreign university or reveal the level of their English

language skills for themselves. For that purpose they take specially

designed tests that are Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL

test (further in the text) and CFC (further in the text), or Cambridge

First Certificate. Although, these tests can sometimes serve for different

purposes and are unrelated, they are sometimes quite common in their design

and structure. Therefore, the author of the paper is particularly

interested in the present research, for she assumes it to be of a great

significance not only for herself, but also for the individuals who are

either involved in the field or just want to learn more about TOEFL and CFC

tests, their structure, design and application. Therefore, the present

research will display various aspects of the theory discussed, accompanied

with the practical part vastly analyzed.

Thus, the goal of the present research is to investigate various types

of test formats and ways of testing, focusing particularly on TOEFL and CFC

tests, in order to see how the theory is used and could be applied in


The hypothesis is as follows: Serving for almost similar purpose, however

being sometimes different in their design and structure, the TOEFL and CFC

tests are usually constructed according to the accepted universal pattern.

The enabling objectives are as follows:

. To review literature on the nature of tests in order to make

theoretically well-motivated discussions on the choice of testing types;

. To analyse the selected types of tests, such as TOEFL and CFC tests;

. To draw relevant conclusions.

Methods of Research:


1) Analytical and selective study of the theory available;

2) Juxtaposition of the ideas selected from theory and tested against

practical evidences;

3) Drawing conclusions.


. Selecting and adapting appropriate tests types, such as TOEFL and CFC, to

exemplify the theory.

The paper consists of six chapters each including sub-chapters.

Chapter 1 discusses the general data about tests. Chapter 2 describes

reliability and validity. Chapter 3 focuses on various types of tests.

Chapter 4 deals with ways of testing. Chapter 5 speaks on four language

skills. Chapter 6 offers the practical part of the paper.

Chapter 1

What is test?

Hicks (2000:155) considers that the role of tests is very useful and

important, especially in language learning. It is a means to show both the

students and the teacher how much the learners have learnt during a course.

The author of the paper agrees with the statement, for she believes that in

order to see whether the students have acquired the material and are making

constant progress, the teacher will inevitably have to test his/her

learners. It does not mean that a usual test format with a set of

activities will be used all the time. To check the students knowledge the

teacher can apply a great range of assessment techniques, including even

the self-evaluation technique that is so beloved and favoured by the

students. Moreover, according to Heaton (1990:6), tests could be used to

display the strength and weaknesses of the teaching process and help the

teacher improve it. They can demonstrate what should be paid more attention

to, should be worked on and practised. Furthermore, the tests results will

display the students their weak points, and if carefully guided by the

teacher, the students will be even able to take any remedial actions.

Thompson (Forum, 2001) believes that students learn more when they

have tests. Here we can both agree and disagree. Certainly, preparing for a

test, the student has to study the material that is supposed to be tested,

but often it does not mean that such type of learning will obligatory lead

to acquisition and full understanding of it. On the opposite, it could

often lead to the pure cramming. That, consequently, will result in a

stressful situation the student will find her/himself before or during the

test, and the final outcome will be a complete deletion of the studied

material. We can base that previous statement on our own experience: when

working at school, the author of the present research had encountered such

examples for many times.

However, very often the tests can facilitate the students acquisition

process, i.e.: the students are to be checked the knowledge of the

irregular verbs forms. Being constantly tested by means of a small test,

they can learn them successfully and transfer them to their long-term

memory, as well. Although, according to Thompson tests decrease practice

and instruction time. What he means is that the students are as if limited;

they are exposed to practice of a new material, however, very often the

time implied for it is strictly recommended and observed by a syllabus.

That denotes that there will be certain requirements when to use a test.

Thus, the students find themselves in definite frames that the teacher will

employ. Nevertheless, there could be advantages that tests can offer: they

increase learning, for the students are supposed to study harder during the

preparation time before a test.

Thompson (ibid.) quotes Eggan, who emphasises the idea that the

learners study hard for the classes they are tested thoroughly. Further, he

cites Hilles, who considers that the students want and expect to be tested.

Nonetheless, this statement has been rather generalized. Speaking about the

students at school, we can declare that there is hardly a student who will

truly enjoy tests and their procedure. Usually, what we will see just sore

faces when a test is being mentioned. According to Thompson, the above-

mentioned idea could be applied to the students who want to pass their

final exams or to get a certificate in Test of English as a Foreign

Language (TOEFL) or First Certificate (FCE). Mostly this concerns adults or

the students who have their own special needs, such as going abroad to

study or work. This again supports the idea that motivation factor plays a

significant role in the learning process.

Moreover, too much of testing could be disastrous. It can entirely

change the students attitude towards learning the language, especially if

the results are usually dissatisfying and decrease their motivation towards

learning and the subject in general.

Furthermore, as Alderson (1996:212) assumes, we should not forget that

the tests when administered receive less support from the teacher as it is

usually during the exercises in a usual language classroom. The students

have to cope themselves; they cannot rely on the help of the teacher if

they are in doubt. During a usual procedure when doing various activities

the students know they can encounter the teachers help if they require it.

They know the teacher is always near and ready to assist, therefore, no one

is afraid to make a mistake and try to take a chance to do the exercises.

However, when writing a test and being left alone to deal with the test

activities, the students panic and forget everything they knew before. The

author of the paper believes that first what the teacher should do is to

teach the students to overcome their fear of tests and secondly, help them

acquire the ability to work independently believing in their own knowledge.

That ability according to Alderson is the main point, the core meaning of

the test. The students should be given confidence. Here we can refer to

Heaton (1990:7) who conceives, supported by Hicks, that students

encouragement is a vital element in language learning. Another question

that may emerge here is how to reach the goal described above, how to

encourage the students. Thus, at this point we can speak about positive

results. In fact, our success motivates us to study further, encourages us

to proceed even if it is rather difficult and we are about to lose

confidence in ourselves. Therefore, we can speak about the tests as a tool

to increase motivation. However, having failed for considerable number of

times, the student would definitely oppose the previous statement. Hence,

we can speak about assessment and evaluation as means for increasing the

students motivation.

Concerning Hicks (2000:162), we often perceive these two terms

evaluating and assessment as two similar notions, though they are

entirely different. She states that when we assess our students we commonly

are interested in how and how much our students have learnt, but when we

evaluate them we are concerned with how the learning process is

developing. These both aspects are of great importance for the teacher and

the students and should be correlated in order to make evaluation and

assessment go hand in hand. However, very frequently, the teachers assess

the students without taking the aspect of evaluation into account.

According to Hicks, this assessment is typically applied when dealing with

examinations that take place either at the end of the course or school

year. Such assessment is known as achievement test. With the help of these

tests the teacher receives a clear picture of what his/her students have

learnt and which level they are comparing with the rest of the class. The

author of the paper agrees that achievement tests are very essential for

comparing how the students knowledge has changed during the course. This

could be of a great interest not only for the teacher, but also for the

authorities of the educational establishment the teacher is employed by.

Thus, evaluation of the learning process is not of the major importance

here. We can speak about evaluation when we deal with small tests the

teachers use during the course or studying year. It is a well-known fact

that these tests are employed in order to check how the learning process is

going on, where the students are, what difficulties they encounter and what

they are good at. These tests are also called diagnostic tests; they

could be of a great help for the teacher: judging from the results of the

test, analysing them the teacher will be able to improve or alter the

course and even introduce various innovations. These tests will define

whether the teacher can proceed with the new material or has to stop and

return to what has not been learnt sufficiently in order to implement

additional practice.

With respect to Hicks, we can display some of her useful and practical

ideas she proposes for the teachers to use in the classroom. In order to

incorporate evaluation together with assessment she suggests involving the

students directly into the process of testing. Before testing vocabulary

the teacher can ask the students to guess what kind of activities could be

applied in the test. The author of the paper believes that it will give

them an opportunity to visage how they are going to be tested, to be aware

of and wait for, and the most important, it will reduce fear the students

might face. Moreover, at the end of each test the students could be asked

their reflections: if there was a multiple choice, what helped them guess

correctly, what they used for that their schemata or just pure guessing;

if there was a cloze test - did they use guessing from the context or some

other skills, etc. Furthermore, Hicks emphasises that such analysis will

display the students the way they are tested and establish an appropriate

test for each student. Likewise, evaluation will benefit the teacher as

well. S/he not only will be able to discover the students preferences, but

also find out why the students have failed a particular type of activity or

even the whole test. The evaluation will determine what is really wrong

with the structure or design of the test itself. Finally, the students

should be taught to evaluate the results of the test. They should be asked

to spot the places they have failed and together with the teacher attempt

to find out what has particularly caused the difficulties. This will lead

to consolidation of the material and may be even to comprehension of it.

And again the teachers role is very essential, for the students alone are

not able to cope with their mistakes. Thus, evaluation is inevitable

element of assessment if the teachers aim is to design a test that will

not make the students fail, but on the contrary, anticipate the tests


To conclude we can add alluding to Alderson (1996:212) that the usual

classroom test should not be too complicated and should not discriminate

between the levels of the students. The test should test what was taught.

The author of the paper has the same opinion, for the students are very

different and the level of their knowledge is different either. It is

inappropriate to design a test of advanced level if among your learners

there are those whose level hardly exceeds lower intermediate.

Above all, the tests should take the learners ability to work and

think into account, for each student has his/her own pace, and some

students may fail just because they have not managed to accomplish the

required tasks in time.

Furthermore, Alderson assumes (ibid.) that the instructions of the

test should be unambiguous. The students should clearly see what they are

supposed and asked to do and not to be frustrated during the test.

Otherwise, they will spend more time on asking the teacher to explain what

they are supposed to do, but not on the completing of the tasks themselves.

Finally, according to Heaton (1990:10) and Alderson (1996:214), the teacher

should not give the tasks studied in the classroom for the test. They

explain it by the fact, that when testing we need to learn about the

students progress, but not to check what they remember. The author of the

paper concurs the idea and assumes that the one of the aims of the test is

to check whether the students are able to apply their knowledge in various

contexts. If this happens, that means they have acquired the new material.

Chapter 2

Reliability and validity

1. Inaccurate tests

Hughes (1989:2) conceives that one of the reasons why the tests are not

favoured is that they measure not exactly what they have to measure. The

author of the paper supports the idea that it is impossible to evaluate

someones true abilities by tests. An individual might be a bright student

possessing a good knowledge of English, but, unfortunately, due to his/her

nervousness may fail the test, or vice versa, the student might have

crammed the tested material without a full comprehension of it. As a

result, during the test s/he is just capable of producing what has been

learnt by tremendous efforts, but not elaboration of the exact actual

knowledge of the student (that, unfortunately, does not exist at all).

Moreover, there could be even more disastrous case when the student has

cheated and used his/her neighbours work. Apart from the above-mentioned

there could be other factors that could influence an inadequate completion

of the test (sleepless night, various personal and health problems, etc.)

However, very often the test itself can provoke the failure of the

students to complete it. With the respect to the linguists, such as Hughes

(1989) and Alderson (1996), we are able to state that there are two main

causes of the test being inaccurate:

. Test content and techniques;

. Lack of reliability.

The first one means that the tests design should response to what is

being tested. First, the test must content the exact material that is to be

tested. Second, the activities, or techniques, used in the test should be

adequate and relevant to what is being tested. This denotes they should not

frustrate the learners, but, on the contrary, facilitate and help the

students write the test successfully.

The next one denotes that one and the same test given at a different time

must score the same points. The results should not be different because of

the shift in time. For example, the test cannot be called reliable if the

score gathered during the first time the test was completed by the students

differs from that administered for the second time, though knowledge of the

learners has not changed at all. Furthermore, reliability can fail due to

the improper design of a test (unclear instructions and questions, etc.)

and due to the ways it is scored. The teacher may evaluate various students

differently taking different aspects into consideration (level of the

students, participation, effort, and even personal preferences.) If there

are two markers, then definitely there will be two different evaluations,

for each marker will possess his/her own criteria of marking and evaluating

one and the same work. For example, let us mention testing speaking skills.

Here one of the makers will probably treat grammar as the most significant

point to be evaluated, whereas the other will emphasise the fluency more.

Sometimes this could lead to the arguments between the makers;

nevertheless, we should never forget that still the main figure we have to

deal with is the student.

2.2. Validity

Now we can come to one of the important aspects of testing validity.

Concerning Hughes, every test should be reliable as well as valid. Both

notions are very crucial elements of testing. However, according to Moss

(1994) there can be validity without reliability, or sometimes the border

between these two notions can just blur. Although, apart from those

elements, a good test should be efficient as well.

According to Bynom (Forum, 2001), validity deals with what is tested and

degree to which a test measures what is supposed to measure (Longman

Dictionary, LTAL). For example, if we test the students writing skills

giving them a composition test on Ways of Cooking, we cannot denote such

test as valid, for it can be argued that it tests not our abilities to

write, but the knowledge of cooking as a skill. Definitely, it is very

difficult to design a proper test with a good validity, therefore, the

author of the paper believes that it is very essential for the teacher to

know and understand what validity really is.

Regarding Weir (1990:22), there are five types of validity:

. Construct validity;

. Content validity

. Face validity

. Wash back validity;

. Criterion-related validity.

Weir (ibid.) states that construct validity is a theoretical concept that

involves other types of validity. Further, quoting Cronbach (1971), Weird

writes that to construct or plan a test you should research into testees

behaviour and mental organisation. It is the ground on which the test is

based; it is the starting point for a constructing of test tasks. In

addition, Weird displays the Kellys idea (1978) that test design requires

some theory, even if it is indirect exposure to it. Moreover, being able to

define the theoretical construct at the beginning of the test design, we

will be able to use it when dealing with the results of the test. The

author of the paper assumes that appropriately constructed at the

beginning, the test will not provoke any difficulties in its administration

and scoring later.

Another type of validity is content validity. Weir (ibid.) implies the

idea that content validity and construct one are closely bound and

sometimes even overlap with each other. Speaking about content validity, we

should emphasise that it is inevitable element of a good test. What is

meant is that usually duration of the classes or test time is rather

limited, and if we teach a rather broad topic such as computers, we

cannot design a test that would cover all the aspects of the following

topic. Therefore, to check the students knowledge we have to choose what

was taught: whether it was a specific vocabulary or various texts connected

with the topic, for it is impossible to test the whole material. The

teacher should not pick up tricky pieces that either were only mentioned

once or were not discussed in the classroom at all, though belonging to the

topic. S/he should not forget that the test is not a punishment or an

opportunity for the teacher to show the students that they are less clever.

Hence, we can state that content validity is closely connected with a

definite item that was taught and is supposed to be tested.

Face validity, according to Weir (ibid.), is not theory or samples

design. It is how the examinees and administration staff see the test:

whether it is construct and content valid or not. This will definitely

include debates and discussions about a test; it will involve the teachers

cooperation and exchange of their ideas and experience.

Another type of validity to be discussed is wash back validity or

backwash. According to Hughes (1989:1) backwash is the effect of testing on

teaching and learning process. It could be both negative and positive.

Hughes believes that if the test is considered to be a significant element,

then preparation to it will occupy the most of the time and other teaching

and learning activities will be ignored. As the author of the paper is

concerned this is already a habitual situation in the schools of our

country, for our teachers are faced with the centralised exams and

everything they have to do is to prepare their students to them. Thus, the

teacher starts concentrating purely on the material that could be

encountered in the exam papers alluding to the examples taken from the past

exams. Therefore, numerous interesting activities are left behind; the

teachers are concerned just with the result and forget about different

techniques that could be introduced and later used by their students to

make the process of dealing with the exam tasks easier, such as guessing

form the context, applying schemata, etc.

The problem arises here when the objectives of the course done during the

study year differ from the objectives of the test. As a result we will have

a negative backwash, e.g. the students were taught to write a review of a

film, but during the test they are asked to write a letter of complaint.

However, unfortunately, the teacher has not planned and taught that.

Often a negative backwash may be caused by inappropriate test design.

Hughes further in his book speaks about multiple-choice activities that are

designed to check writing skills of the students. The author of the paper

is very confused by that, for it is unimaginable how writing an essay could

be tested with the help of multiple choices. Testing essay the teacher

first of all is interested in the students ability to apply their ideas in

writing, how it has been done, what language has been used, whether the

ideas are supported and discussed, etc. At this point multiple-choice

technique is highly inappropriate.

Notwithstanding, according to Hughes apart form negative side of the

backwash there is the positive backwash as well. It could be the creation

of an entirely new course designed especially for the students to make them

pass their final exams. The test given in a form of final exams imposes the

teacher to re-organise the course, choose appropriate books and activities

to achieve the set goal: pass the exam. Further, he emphasises the

importance of partnership between teaching and testing. Teaching should

meet the needs of testing. It could be understand in the following way that

teaching should correspond the demands of the test. However, it is a rather

complicated work, for according to the knowledge of the author of the paper

the teachers in our schools are not supplied with specially designed

materials that could assist them in their preparation the students to the

exams. The teachers are just given vague instructions and are free to act

on their own.

The last type that could be discussed is criterion-related validity. Weir

(1990:22.) assumes that it is connected with test scores link between two

different performances of the same test: either older established test or

future criterion performance. The author of the paper considers that this

type of validity is closely connected with criterion and evaluation the

teacher uses to assess the test. It could mean that the teacher has to work

out definite evaluation system and, moreover, should explain what she finds

important and worth evaluating and why. Usually the teachers design their

own system; often these are points that the students can obtain fulfilling

a certain task. Later the points are gathered and counted for the mark to

be put. Furthermore, the teacher can have a special table with points and

relevant marks. According to our knowledge, the language teachers decide on

the criteria together during a special meeting devoted to that topic, and

later they keep to it for the whole study year. Moreover, the teachers are

supposed to make his/her students acquainted with their evaluation system

for the students to be aware what they are expected to do.

3. Reliability

According to Bynom (Forum, 2001) reliability shows that the tests

results will be similar and will not change if one and the same test will

be given on various days. The author of the paper is of the same mind with

Bynom and presumes the reliability to be the one of the key elements of a

good test in general. For, as it has been already discussed before, the

essence of reliability is that when the students scores for one and the

same test, though given at different periods of time and with a rather

extended interval, will be approximately the same. It will not only display

the idea that the test is well organized, but will denote that the students

have acquired the new material well.

A reliable test, according to Bynom, will contain well-formulated tasks

and not indefinite questions; the student will know what exactly should be

done. The test will always present ready examples at the beginning of each

task to clarify what should be done. The students will not be frustrated

and will know exactly what they are asked to perform. However, judging form

the personal experience, the author of the paper has to admit, that even

such hints may confuse the students; they may fail to understand the

requirements and, consequently, fail to complete the task correctly. This

could be explained by the fact that the students are very often

inattentive, lack patience and try to accomplish the test quickly without

bothering to double check it.

Further, regarding to Heaton (1990:13), who states that the test could be

unreliable if the two different markers mark it, we can add that this

factor should be accepted, as well. For example, one representative of

marking team could be rather lenient and have different demands and

requirements, but the other one could appear to be too strict and would pay

attention to any detail. Thus, we can come to another important factor

influencing the reliability that is markers comparison of examinees

answers. Moreover, we have to admit a rather sad fact but not the

exceptional one that the makers personal attitude towards the testee could

impact his/her evaluation. No one has to exclude various home or health

problems the marker can encounter at that moment, as well.

To summarize, we can say that for a good test possessing validity and

reliability is not enough. The test should be practical, or in other words,

efficient. It should be easily understood by the examinee, ease scored and

administered, and, certainly, rather cheap. It should not last for

eternity, for both examiner and examinee could become tired during five

hours non-stop testing process. Moreover, testing the students the teachers

should be aware of the fact that together with checking their knowledge the

test can influence the students negatively. Therefore, the teachers ought

to design such a test that it could encourage the students, but not to make

them reassure in their own abilities. The test should be a friend, not an

enemy. Thus, the issue of validity and reliability is very essential in

creating a good test. The test should measure what it is supposed to

measure, but not the knowledge beyond the students abilities. Moreover,

the test will be a true indicator whether the learning process and the

teachers work is effective.

Chapter 3

Types of tests

Different scholars (Alderson, 1996; Heaton, 1990; Underhill, 1991) in

their researches ask the similar question why test, do the teachers

really need them and for what purpose. Further, they all agree that test is

not the teachers desire to catch the students unprepared with what they

are not acquainted; it is also not the motivating factor for the students

to study. In fact, the test is a request for information and possibility to

learn what the teachers did not know about their students before. We can

add here that the test is important for the students, too, though they are

unaware of that. The test is supposed to display not only the students

weak points, but also their strong sides. It could act as an indicator of

progress the student is gradually making learning the language. Moreover,

we can cite the idea of Hughes (1989:5) who emphasises that we can check

the progress, general or specific knowledge of the students, etc. This

claim will directly lead us to the statement that for each of these

purposes there is a special type of testing. According to some scholars

(Thompson, 2001; Hughes, 1989; Alderson, 1996; Heaton, 1990; Underhill,

1991), there are four traditional categories or types of tests: proficiency

tests, achievement tests, diagnostic tests, and placement tests. The author

of the paper, once being a teacher, can claim that she is acquainted with

three of them and has frequently used them in her teaching practice.

In the following sub-chapters we are determined to discuss different

types of tests and if possible to apply our own experience in using them.

3.1. Diagnostic tests

It is wise to start our discussion with that type of testing, for it

is typically the first step each teacher, even non-language teacher, takes

at the beginning of a new school year. In the establishment the author of

the paper was working it was one of the main rules to start a new study

year giving the students a diagnostic test. Every year the administration

of the school had stemmed a special plan where every teacher was supposed

to write when and how they were going to test their students. Moreover, the

teachers were supposed to analyse the diagnostic tests, complete special

documents and provide diagrams with the results of each class or group if a

class was divided. Then, at the end of the study year the teachers were

demanded to compare the results of them with the final, achievement test

(see in Appendix 1). The author of the paper has used this type of test for

several times, but had never gone deep into details how it is constructed,

why and what for. Therefore, the facts listed below were of great value for


Referring to Longman Dictionary of LTAL (106) diagnostic tests is a

test that is meant to display what the student knows and what s/he does not

know. The dictionary gives an example of testing the learners

pronunciation of English sounds. Moreover, the test can check the students

knowledge before starting a particular course. Hughes (1989:6) adds that

diagnostic tests are supposed to spot the students weak and strong points.

Heaton (1990:13) compares such type of test with a diagnosis of a patient,

and the teacher with a doctor who states the diagnosis. Underhill

(1991:14.) adds that a diagnostic test provides the student with a variety

of language elements, which will help the teacher to determine what the

student knows or does not know. We believe that the teacher will

intentionally include the material that either is presumed to be taught by

a syllabus or could be a starting point for a course without the knowledge

of which the further work is not possible. Thus, we fully agree with the

Heatons comparison where he contrasts the test with a patients diagnosis.

The diagnostic test displays the teacher a situation of the students

current knowledge. This is very essential especially when the students

return from their summer holidays (that produces a rather substantial gap

in their knowledge) or if the students start a new course and the teacher

is completely unfamiliar with the level of the group. Hence, the teacher

has to consider carefully about the items s/he is interested in to teach.

This consideration reflects Heatons proposal (ibid.), which stipulates

that the teachers should be systematic to design the tasks that are

supposed to illustrate the students abilities, and they should know what

exactly they are testing. Moreover, Underhill (ibid.) points out that apart

from the above-mentioned the most essential element of the diagnostic test

is that the students should not feel depressed when the test is completed.

Therefore, very often the teachers do not put any marks for the diagnostic

test and sometimes even do not show the test to the learners if the

students do not ask the teacher to return it. Nevertheless, regarding our

own experience, the learners, especially the young ones, are eager to know

their results and even demand marks for their work. Notwithstanding, it is

up to the teacher whether to inform his/her students with the results or

not; however, the test represents a valuable information mostly for the

teacher and his/her plans for designing a syllabus.

Returning to Hughes (ibid.) we can emphasise his belief that this

type of test is very useful for individual check. It means that this test

could be applicable for checking a definite item; it is not necessary that

it will cover broader topics of the language. However, further Hughes

assumes that this test is rather difficult to design and the size of the

test can be even impractical. It means that if the teacher wants to check

the students knowledge of Present simple, s/he will require a great deal

of examples for the students to choose from. It will demand a tiresome work

from the teacher to compose such type of the test, and may even confuse the


At that point we can allude to our experience in giving a diagnostic

test in Form 5. It was the class the teacher had worked before and knew the

students and their level rather good. However, new learners had joined the

class, and the teacher had not a slightest idea about their abilities. It

was obvious that the students worried about how they would accomplish the

test and what marks would they receive. The teacher had ensured them that

the test would not be evaluated by marks. It was necessary for the teacher

to plan her future work. That was done to release the tension in the class

and make the students get rid of the stress that might be crucial for the

results. The students immediately felt free and set to work. Later when

analysing and summarizing the results the teacher realized that the

students knowledge was purely good. Certainly, there were the place the

students required more practice; therefore during the next class the

students were offered remedial activities on the points they had

encountered any difficulties. Moreover, that was the case when the students

were particularly interested in their marks.

To conclude, we can conceive that interpreting the results of

diagnostic tests the teachers apart from predicting why the student has

done the exercises the way s/he has, but not the other, will receive a

significant information about his/her group s/he is going to work with and

later use the information as a basis for the forming syllabus.

3.2 Placement tests

Another type of test we are intended to discuss is a placement test.

Concerning Longman Dictionary of LTAL again (279-280) we can see that a

placement test is a test that places the students at an appropriate level

in a programme or a course. This term does not refer to the system and

construction of the test, but to its usage purpose. According to Hughes

(1989:7), this type of test is also used to decide which group or class the

learner could be joined to. This statement is entirely supported by another

scholar, such as Alderson (1996:216), who declares that this type of test

is meant for showing the teacher the students level of the language

ability. It will assist to put the student exactly in that group that

responds his/her true abilities.

Heaton (ibid.) adheres that the following type of testing should be

general and should purely focus on a vast range of topics of the language

not on just specific one. Therefore, the placement test typically could be

represented in the form of dictations, interviews, grammar tests, etc.

Moreover, according to Heaton (ibid.), the placement test should deal

exactly with the language skills relevant to those that will be taught

during a particular course. If our course includes development of writing

skills required for politics, it is not appropriate to study writing

required for medical purposes. Thus, Heaton (ibid.) presumes that is fairly

important to analyse and study the syllabus beforehand. For the placement

test is completely attributed to the future course programme. Furthermore,

Hughes (ibid.) stresses that each institution will have its own placement

tests meeting its needs. The test suitable for one institution will not

suit the needs of another. Likewise, the matter of scoring is particularly

significant in the case of placement tests, for the scores gathered serve

as a basis for putting the students into different groups appropriate to

their level.

At this point we can attempt to compare a placement test and

diagnostic one. From the first sight these both types of tests could look

similar. They both are given at the beginning of the study year and both

are meant for distinguishing the students level of the current knowledge.

However, if we consider the facts described in sub-chapter 2.1 we will see

how they are different. A diagnostic test is meant for displaying a picture

of the students general knowledge at the beginning of the study year for

the teacher to plan further work and design an appropriate syllabus for

his/her students. Whereas, a placement test is designed and given in order

to use the information of the students knowledge for putting the students

into groups according to their level of the language. Indeed, they are both

used for teachers planning of the course their functions differ. A

colleague of mine, who works at school, has informed me that they have used

a placement test at the beginning of the year and it appeared to be

relevant and efficient for her and her colleagues future teaching. The

students were divided according to their English language abilities: the

students with better knowledge were put together, whereas the weaker

students formed their own group. It does not mean discrimination between

the students. The teachers have explained the students the reason for such

actions, why it was necessary they wanted to produce an appropriate

teaching for each student taking his/her abilities into account. The

teachers have altered their syllabus to meet the demands of the students.

The result proved to be satisfying. The students with better knowledge

progressed; no one halted them. The weaker students have gradually improved

their knowledge, for they received due attention than it would be in a

mixed group.

3.3 Progress test

Having discussed two types of tests that are usually used at the

beginning, we can approach the test typically employed during the study

year to check the students development. We will speak about a progress

test. According to Alderson (1996:217), progress test will show the teacher

whether the students have learnt the recently taught material successfully.

Basically, the teacher intends to check certain items, not general topics

covered during the school or study year. Commonly, it is not very long and

is determined to check the recent material. Therefore, the teacher might

expect his/her learners to get rather high scores. The following type is

supposed to be used after the students have learnt either a set of units on

a theme or have covered a definite topic of the language. It will display

the teacher whether the material has been successfully acquired or the

students need additional practice instead of starting a new material.

A progress test will basically display the activities based on the

material the teacher is determined to check. To evaluate it the teacher can

work out a certain system of points that later will compose a mark.

Typically, such tests do not influence the students final mark at the end

of the year.

The authorities of school demand the teachers to conduct progress

tests, as well. However, the teachers themselves decide on the necessity of

applying them. Nevertheless, we can claim that progress test is inevitable

part of the learning process. We can even take a responsibility to declare

that progress test facilitate the material acquisition in a way. The

students preparing for the test look through the material again and there

is a chance it can be transferred to their long-term memory.

Further, we can come to Alderson (ibid.) who presumes that such type

of testing could function as a motivating fact for the learners, for

success will develop the students confidence in their own knowledge and

motivate them study further more vigorously. In case, there will be two or

three students whose scores are rather low, the teacher should encourage

them by providing support in future and imply the idea that studying hard

will allow them to catch up with the rest of the students sooner or later.

The author of the paper basing on her experience agrees with the statement,

for she had noticed that weaker students when they had managed to write

their test successfully became proud of their achievement and started

working better.

However, if the majority of the class scores a rather low grade, the

teacher should be cautious. This could be a signal that there is either

something wrong with the teaching or the students are low motivated or


3.4 Achievement tests

Apart from a progress test the teachers employ another type

achievement test. According to Longman Dictionary of LTAL (3), an

achievement test is a test, which measures a language someone has learned

during a specific course, study or program. Here the progress is

significant and, therefore, is the main point tested.

Alderson (1996:219) posits that achievement tests are more formal,

whereas Hughes (1989:8) assumes that this type of tests will fully involve

teachers, for they will be responsible for the preparation of such tests

and giving them to the learners. He repeats the dictionary defining the

notion of achievement tests, adding just that success of the students,

groups of students, or the courses.

Furthermore, Alderson (ibid.) conceives that achievement tests are

mainly given at definite times of the school year. Moreover, they could be

extremely crucial for the students, for they are intended either to make

the students pass or fail the test.

At this instant the author of the paper is determined to compare a

progress and achievement test. Again if we look at these two types they

might seem similar, however, it is not so. Drawing on the facts listed

above (see sub-chapter 2.3) we can report that a progress test is typically

used during the course to check the acquisition of an excerpted material.

An achievement test checks the acquisition of the material, as well.

Although, it is far different in its application time. We basically use an

achievement test at the end of the course to check the acquisition of the

material covered during the study year, not bits of it as it is with a

progress test.

Quoting Hughes (ibid.) we can differentiate between two kinds of

achievement tests: final and progress tests. Final tests are the tests that

are usually given at the end of the course in order to check the students

achieved results and whether the objectives set at the beginning have been

successfully reached. Further Hughes highlights that ministries of

education, official examining boards, school administration and even the

teachers themselves design these tests. The tests are based on the

curriculum and the course that has been studied. We assume, that is a well-

known fact that teachers usually are responsible for composing such tests,

and it requires a careful work.

Alternatively, Alderson (ibid.) mentions two usage types of

achievement tests: formative and summative. The notion of a formative test

denotes the idea that the teacher will be able after evaluating the results

of the test reconsider his/her teaching, syllabus design and even slow down

the pace of studying to consolidate the material if it is necessary in

future. Notwithstanding, these reconsiderations will not affect the present

students who have taken the test. They will be applied to the future

syllabus design.

Summative usage will deal precisely with the students success or

failure. The teacher will immediately can take up remedial activities to

improve a situation.

Further, Alderson (ibid.) and Heaton (1990:14) stipulate that

designing an achievement test is rather time-consuming, for the achievement

test is basically devised to cover a broad topic of the material covered

during the course. In addition, one and the same achievement test could be

given to more than one class at school to check both the students progress

and the teachers work. At that point it is very essential to consider the

material covered by different classes or groups. You cannot ask the

students what they have not been taught. Heaton (ibid.) emphasises the

close cooperative work of the teachers as a crucial element in test design.

However, in the school the author of the paper used to work the teachers

did not cooperate in designing achievement tests. Each teacher was free to

write the test that best suits his/her children.

Developing the topic, we can focus on Hughes idea that there is an

approach how to design a test; it is called syllabus-content approach. The

test is based on a syllabus studied or a book taken during the course. This

test could be described as a fair test, for it focuses mainly on the

detailed material that the students are supposed to have studied. Hughes

(ibid.) points out that if the test is inappropriately designed, it could

result in unsuccessful accomplishment of it. Sometimes the demands of the

test may differ from the objectives of the course. Therefore, the test

should be based directly on the objectives of the course. Consequently, it

will influence the choice of books appropriate to the syllable and syllable

itself. The backwash will be positive not only for the test, but also for

the teaching. Furthermore, we should mention that the students have to know

the criteria according to which they are going to be evaluated.

To conclude we shall state again that achievement tests are meant to

check the mastery of the material covered by the learners. They will be

great helpers for the teachers future work and will contribute a lot to

the students progress.

3.5 Proficiency tests

The last type of test to be discussed is a proficiency test. Regarding

Longman Dictionary of LTAL (292) proficiency test is a test, which measures

how much of a language a person knows or has learnt. It is not bound to any

curriculum or syllabus, but is intended to check the learners language

competence. Although, some preparation and administration was done before

taking the test, the tests results are what being focused on. The examples

of such tests could be the American Testing of English as Foreign Language

test (further in the text TOEFL) that is used to measures the learners

general knowledge of English in order to allow them to enter any high

educational establishments or to take up a job in the USA. Another

proficiency test is Cambridge First Certificate test that has almost the

same aim as TOEFL.

Hughes (1989:10) gives the similar definition of proficiency tests

stressing that training is not the thing that is emphasised, but the

language. He adds that proficient in the case of proficiency tests means

possessing a certain ability of using the language according to an

appropriate purpose. It denotes that the learners language ability could

be tested in various fields or subjects (art, science, medicine, etc.) in

order to check whether the learner could suit the demands of a specific

field or not. This could refer to TOEFL tests. Apart from TOEFL we can

speak about Cambridge First Certificate test, which is general and does not

concern any specific field. The aim of this test is to reveal whether the

learners language abilities have reached a certain standard set. The test

could be taken by anyone who is interested in testing the level of language

knowledge. There are special tests levels, which can be chosen by a

candidate. If a candidate has passed the exam s/he can take another one of

a different level. However, these entire tests are not free of charge, and

in order to take it an individual has to pay for them.

Regarding Hughes (ibid.) who supposes that the only similar factor

about such tests that they are not based on any courses, but are intended

to measure the candidates suitability for a certain post or course at the

university, we can add that in order to pass these tests a candidate has to

attend special preparatory courses.

Moreover, Hughes (ibid.) believes that the proficiency tests affect

learners more in negative way, than in positive one.

The author of the paper both agrees and does not agree with the

Hughes proposed statement. Definitely, this test could make the testee

depressed and exhausted by taking a rather long test. Moreover, the

proficiency tests are rather impartial; they are not testee-friendly.

However, there is a useful factor amongst the negative ones. It is

preparation to proficiency tests, for it involves all language material

starting from grammar finishing with listening comprehension. All four

skills are being practised during the preparation course; various reading

task and activities have been incorporated; writing has been stressed

focusing on all possible types of essays, letters, reviews, etc. Speaking

has been practiced as well. The whole material has been consolidated for

many times.

To summarize we can claim that there are different types of tests that

serve for different purposes. Moreover, they all are necessary for the

teachers work, for them, apart from a proficiency test, could contribute

to successful material acquisition by learners.

Chapter 4

Ways of testing

In this chapter we will attempt to discuss various types of testing

and if possible compare them. We will start with the most general ones and

move to more specific and detailed ways of testing.

4.1 Direct and indirect testing

The first types of testing we are intended to discuss are direct and

indirect testing. First, we will try to define each of them; secondly, we

will endeavour to compare them.

We will commence our discussion with direct testing that according to

Hughes (1989:14) means the involvement of a skill that is supposed to be

tested. The following view means that when applying the direct testing the

teacher will be interested in testing a particular skill, e.g. if the aim

of the test is to check listening comprehension, the students will be given

a test that will check their listening skills, such as listening to the

tape and doing the accompanying tasks. Such type of test will not engage

testing of other skills. Hughes (ibid.) emphasises the importance of using

authentic materials. Though, we stipulate that the teacher is free to

decide him/herself what kind of material the students should be provided

with. It the teachers aim is to teach the students to comprehend the real,

native speech, s/he will apply the authentic material in teaching and

later, logically, in tests. Developing the idea we can cite Bynom (2001:8)

who assumes that direct testing introduces real-life language through

authentic tasks. Consequently, it will lead to the usage of role-plays,

summarising the general idea, providing the missing information, etc.

Moving further and analysing the statements made by the linguists (Bynom,

2001; Hughes,1989) we can posit the idea that direct testing will be task-

oriented, effective and easy to manage if it tests such skills as writing

or speaking. It could be explained by the fact that the tasks intended to

check the skills mentioned above give us precise information about the

learners abilities. Moreover, we can maintain that when testing writing

the teacher demands the students to write a certain task, such as an essay,

a composition or reproduction, and it will be precisely the point the

teacher will be intended to check. There will be certain demands imposed on

writing test; the teacher might be just interested in the students ability

to produce the right layout of an essay without taking grammar into

account, or, on the contrary, will be more concerned with grammatical and

syntactical structures. What concerns testing speaking skills, here the

author of the paper does not support the idea promoted by Bynom that it

could be treated as direct testing. Definitely, you will have a certain

task to involve your speaking skills; however, speaking is not possible

without employment of listening skills. This in turn will generate the idea

that apart from speaking skills the teacher will test the students ability

to understand the speech s/he hears, thus involving speaking skills.

It is said that the advantages of direct testing is that it is

intended to test some certain abilities, and preparation for that usually

involves persistent practice of certain skills. Nevertheless, the skills

tested are deprived from the authentic situation that later may cause

difficulties for the students in using them.

Now we can shift to another notion - indirect testing. It differs from

direct one in the way that it measures a skill through some other skill. It

could mean the incorporation of various skills that are connected with each

other, e.g. listening and speaking skills.

Indirect testing, regarding to Hughes, tests the usage of the language

in real-life situation. Moreover, it suits all situations; whereas direct

testing is bound to certain tasks intended to check a certain skill. Hughes

(ibid.) assumes that indirect testing is more effective than direct one,

for it covers a broader part of the language. It denotes that the learners

are not constrained to one particular skill and a relevant exercise. They

are free to elaborate all four skills; what is checked is their ability to

operate with those skills and apply them in various, even unpredictable

situations. This is the true indicator of the learners real knowledge of

the language.

Indirect testing has more advantages that disadvantages, although the

only drawback according to Hughes is that such type of testing is difficult

to evaluate. It could be frustrating what to check and how to check;

whether grammar should be evaluated higher, than composition structure or

vice versa. The author of the paper agrees with that, however, basing on

her experience at school again, she must claim that it is not so easy to

apply indirect testing. This could be rather time-consuming, for it is a

well-known fact that the duration of the class is just forty minutes;

moreover, it is rather complicated to construct indirect test it demands

a lot of work, but our teachers are usually overloaded with a variety of

other duties. Thus, we can only hope on the course books that supply us

with a variety of activities that involve cooperation of all four skills.

4.2 Discrete point and integrative testing

Having discussed the kinds of testing that deal with general aspects,

such as certain skills and variety of skills in cooperation, we can come to

the more detailed types as discrete point and integrative testing.

According to Longman Dictionary of LTAL (112), discrete point test is a

language test that is meant to test a particular language item, e.g.

tenses. The basis of that type of tests is that we can test components of

the language (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling) and

language skills (listening, reading, speaking, and writing) separately. We

can declare that discrete point test is a common test used by the teachers

in our schools. Having studied a grammar topic or new vocabulary, having

practiced it a great deal, the teacher basically gives a test based on the

covered material. This test usually includes the items that were studied

and will never display anything else from a far different field. The same

will concern the language skills; if the teacher aim is to check reading

skills; the other skills will be neglected. The author of the paper had

used such types of tests herself, especially after a definite grammar topic

was studied. She had to construct the tests herself basing on the examples

displayed in various grammar books. It was usually gap-filling exercises,

multiple choice items or cloze tests. Sometimes a creative work was

offered, where the students had to write a story involving a certain

grammar theme that was being checked. According to her observance, the

students who studied hard were able to complete them successfully, though

there were the cases when the students failed. Now having discussed the

theory on validity, reliability and types of testing, it is even more

difficult to realize who was really to blame for the test failures: either

the tests were wrongly designed or there was a problem in teaching.

Notwithstanding, this type was and still remains to be the most general and

acceptable type in schools of our country, for it is easy to design, it

concerns a certain aspect of the language and is easy to score. If we speak

about types of tests we can say that this way of testing refers more to a

progress test (You can see the examples of such type of test in Appendix


Nevertheless, according to Bynom (2001:8) there is a certain drawback

of discrete point testing, for it tests only separated parts, but does not

show us the whole language. It is true, if our aim is to incorporate the

whole language. Though, if we are to check the exact material the students

were supposed to learn, then why not use it.

Discussing further, we have come to integrative tests. According to

Longman Dictionary of LTAL, the integrative test intends to check several

language skills and language components together or simultaneously. Hughes

(1989:15) stipulates that the integrative tests display the learners

knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, spelling together, but not as separate

skills or items.

Alderson (1996:219) poses that, by and large, most teachers prefer

using integrative testing to discrete point type. He explains the fact that

basically the teachers either have no enough of spare time to check a

certain split item being tested or the purpose of the test is only

considered to view the whole material. Moreover, some language skills such

as reading do not require the precise investigation of the students

abilities whether they can cope with definite fragments of the text or not.

We can render the prior statements as the idea that the teachers are mostly

concerned with general language knowledge, but not with bits and pieces of

it. The separate items usually are not capable of showing the real state of

the students knowledge. What concerns the author of the paper, she finds

integrative testing very useful, though more habitual one she believes to

be discrete point test. She assumes that the teacher should incorporate

both types of testing for effective evaluation of the students true

language abilities.

4.3 Criterion-referenced and norm referenced testing

The next types of testing to be discussed are criterion-referenced and

norm referenced testing. They are not focused directly on the language

items, but on the scores the students can get. Again we should concern

Longman Dictionary of LTAL (17) that states that criterion-referenced test

measures the knowledge of the students according to set standards or

criteria. This means that there will be certain criteria according to which

the students will be assessed. There will be various criteria for different

levels of the students language knowledge. Here the aim of testing is not

to compare the results of the students. It is connected with the learners

knowledge of the subject. As Hughes (1989:16) puts it the criterion-

referenced tests check the actual language abilities of the students. They

distinguish the weak and strong points of the students. The students either

manage to pass the test or fail it. However, they never feel better or

worse than their classmates, for the progress is focused and checked. At

this point we can speak about the centralized exams at the end of the

twelfth and ninth form. As far as the author of the paper is concerned, the

results of the exams are confident, and the learners after passing the

exams are conferred with various levels relevant to their language ability.

Apart from that, once a year in Latvian schools the students are given

tests designed by the officials of the Ministry of Education to check the

level of the students and, what is most important, the work of the teacher.

They call them diagnostic tests, though according to the material discussed

above it is rather arguable. Nevertheless, we can accept the fact that

criterion-referenced testing could be used in the form of diagnostic tests.

Advancing further, we have come to norm-referenced test that measures

the knowledge of the learner and compares it with the knowledge of another

member of his/her group. The learners score is compared with the scores of

the other students. According to Hughes (ibid.), this type of test does not

show us what exactly the student knows. Therefore, we presume that the best

test format for the following type of testing could be a placement test,

for it concerns the students placement and division according to their

knowledge of the foreign language. There the score is vital, as well.

4.4 Objective and subjective testing

It worth mentioning that apart from scoring and testing the learners

abilities another essential role could be devoted to indirect factors that

influence evaluating. These are objective and subjective issues in testing.

According to Hughes (1989:19), the difference between these two types is

the way of scoring and presence or absence of the examiners judgement. If

there is not any judgement, the test is objective. On the contrary, the

subjective test involves personal judgement of the examiner. The author of

the paper sees it as when testing the students objectively, the teacher

usually checks just the knowledge of the topic. Whereas, testing

subjectively could imply the teachers ideas and judgements. This could be

encountered during speaking test where the student can produce either

positive or negative impression on the teacher. Moreover, the teachers

impression and his/her knowledge of the students true abilities can

seriously influence assessing process. For example, the student has failed

the test; however, the teacher knows the true abilities of the student and,

therefore, s/he will assess the work of that student differently taking all

the factors into account.

4.5 Communicative language testing

Referring to Bynom (ibid.), this type of testing has become popular

since 1970-80s. It involves the knowledge of grammar and how it could be

applied in written and oral language; the knowledge when to speak and what

to say in an appropriate situation; knowledge of verbal and non-verbal

communication. All these types of knowledge should be successfully used in

a situation. It bases on the functional use of the language. Moreover,

communicative language testing helps the learners feel themselves in real-

life situation and acquire the relevant language.

Weir (1990:7) stipulates that the current type of testing tests

exactly the performance of communication. Further, he develops the idea

of competence due to the fact that an individual usually acts in a

variety of situations. Afterwards, reconsidering Bachmans idea he comes

with another notion communicative language ability.

Weir (1990:10-11) assumes that in order to work out a good

communicative language test we have to bear in mind the issue of precision:

both the skills and performance should be accurate. Besides, their

collaboration is vital for the students placement in the so-called real

life situation. However, without a context the communicative language test

would not function. The context should be as closer to the real life as

possible. It is required in order to help the student feel him/herself in

the natural environment. Furthermore, Weir (ibid.) stresses that language

fades if deprived of the context.

Weir (ibid., p.11) says: to measure language proficiency adequately

in each situation, account must be taken of: where, when, how, with whom,

and why the language is to be used, and on what topics, and with what

effect. Moreover, Weirs (ibid.) emphasises the crucial role of the

schemata (prior knowledge) in the communicative language tests.

The tasks used in the communicative language testing should be

authentic and direct in order the student will be able to perform as it

is done in everyday life.

According to Weir (ibid.), the students have to be ready to speak in

any situation; they have to be ready to discuss some topics in groups and

be able to overcome difficulties met in the natural environment. Therefore,

the tests of this type are never simplified, but are given as they could be

encountered in the surroundings of the native speaker. Moreover, the

student has to possess some communicative skills, that is how to behave in

a certain situation, how to apply body language, etc.

Finally, we can repeat that communicative language testing involves

the learners ability to operate with the language s/he knows and apply it

in a certain situation s/he is placed in. S/he should be capable of

behaving in real-life situation with confidence and be ready to supply the

information required by a certain situation. Thereof, we can speak about

communicative language testing as a testing of the students ability to

behave him/herself, as he or she would do in everyday life. We evaluate

their performance.

To conclude we will repeat that there are different types testing used

in the language teaching: discreet point and integrative testing, direct

and indirect testing, etc. All of them are vital for testing the students.

Chapter 5

Testing the Language Skills

In this chapter we will attempt to examine the various elements or

formats of tests that could be applied for testing of four language skills:

reading, listening, writing and speaking. First, we will look at multiple-

choice tests, after that we will come to cloze tests and gap filling, then

to dictations and so on. Ultimately, we will attempt to draw a parallel

between them and the skills they could be used for.

5.1 Multiple choice tests

It is not surprising why we have started exactly with multiple-choice

tests (MCQs, further in the text). To the authors concern these tests are

widely used by teachers in their teaching practice, and, moreover, are

favoured by the students (Here the author has been supported by the

equivalent idea of Alderson (1996:222)). Heaton (1990:79) believes that

multiple-choice questions are basically employed to test vocabulary.

However, we can argue with the statement, for the multiple choice tests

could be successfully used for testing grammar, as well as for testing

listening or reading skills.

It is a well-known fact how a multiple-choice test looks like:

1. ---- not until the invention of the camera that artists

correctly painted horses racing.

A) There was

B) It was

C) There

D) It

Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test:

A task basically is represented by a number of sentences, which should

be provided with the right variant, that, in its turn, is usually given

below. Furthermore, apart from the right variant the students are offered a

set of distractors, which are normally introduced in order to deceive the

learner. If the student knows the material that is being tested, s/he will

spot the right variant, supply it and successfully accomplish the task. The

distractors, or wrong words, basically slightly differ from the correct

variant and sometimes are even funny. Nevertheless, very often they could

be represented by the synonyms of the correct answer whose differences are

known to those who encounter the language more frequently as their job or

study field. In that case they could be hardly differentiated, and the

students are frustrated. Certainly, the following cases could be implied

when teaching vocabulary, and, consequently, will demand the students

ability to use the right synonym. The author of the paper had given the

multiple-choice tests to her students and must confess that despite

difficulties in preparing them, the students found them easier to do. They

motivated their favour for them as it was rather convenient for them to

find the right variant, definitely if they knew what to look for. We

presume that such test format as if motivated the learners and supplied

them additional support that they were deprived during the test where

nobody could hope for the teachers help.

Everything mentioned above has raised the authors interest in the

theory on multiple-choice test format and, therefore, she finds extremely

useful the following list of advantages and disadvantages generated by

Weir. He (1990:43) lists four advantages and six disadvantages of the

multiple-choice questions test. Let us look at the advantages first:

. According to Weir, the multiple-choice questions are structured in

such a form that there is no possibility for the teacher or as he

places marker to apply his/her personal attitude to the marking


The author of the paper finds it to be very significant, for employing

the test of this format we see only what the student knows or does not

know; the teacher cannot raise or lower the marker basing on the students

additional ideas displayed in the work. Furthermore, the teacher, though

knowing the strong and weak points of his/her students, cannot apply this

information as well to influence the mark. What s/he gets are the pure

facts of the students knowledge.

Another advantage is:

. The usage of pre-test that could be helpful for stating the level of

difficulty of the examples and the test in the whole. That will

reduce the probability of the test being inadequate or too

complicated both for completing and marking.

This could mean that the teacher can ensure his/her students and

him/herself against failures. For this purposes s/he just has to test the

multiple-choice test to avoid troubles connected with its inadequacy that

later can lead to the disaster for the students receiving bad marks due to

the fact that the tests examples were too complicated or too ambiguous.

The next advantage concerns the format of the test that clearly implies

the idea of what the learner should do. The instructions are clear,

unambiguous. The students know what they are expected to do and do not

waste their precious time on trying to figure out what they are supposed to


The last advantage displayed by Weir is that the MCQs in a certain

context are better than open-ended or short-answer questions, for the

learners are not required to produce their writing skills. This eliminates

the students fear of mistakes they can make while writing; moreover, the

task does not demand any creative activity, but only checks the exact

knowledge of the material.

Having considered the advantages of MCQs, it is worth speaking about its

disadvantages. We will not present all of them only what we find of the

utmost interest and value for us.

The first disadvantage concerns the students guessing the answers;

therefore, we cannot objectively judge his/her true knowledge of the topic.

We are not able to see whether the student knows the material or have just

luckily ticked or circled the right variant. Therefore, it could be

connected with another shortcoming of the following test format that while

scoring the teacher will not get the right and true picture of what the

students really know.

Another interesting point that could be mentioned it that multiple-

choice differ from the real-life situation by the choice of alternatives.

Usually, in our everyday life we have to choose between two alternatives,

whereas the multiple-choice testing might confuse the learner by the

examples s/he even has not thought about. That will definitely lead to

frustration, and, consequently, to the students failure to accomplish the

task successfully.

Besides, regarding Weir (ibid.) who quotes Heaton (1975) we can

stipulate that in some cases multiple-choice tests are not adequate and it

is better to use open-ended questions to avoid the pro-long lists of

multiple-choice items. This probably will concern the subject, which will

require a more precise description and explanation from the students side.

To finish up with the drawbacks of MCQs we can declare that they are

relatively costly and time-consuming to prepare. The test designer should

carefully select and analyse each item to be included in the test to avoid

ambiguity and imprecision. Furthermore, s/he should check all possible

grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, evaluate the quality of

information offered for the learners tasks and choose the correct and

relevant distractors for the students not to confuse them during the test.

To conclude we can cite Heaton (1990:17) who stipulates that designing a

multiple-choice items test is not so fearful and hard as many teachers

think. The only thing you need is practice accompanied by a bit of theory.

He suggests for an inexperienced teacher to use not more than three options

if the teacher encounters certain difficulties in supplying more examples

for the distractors. The options should be grammatically correct and of

equal length. Moreover, the context should be appropriate to illustrate an

example and make the student guess right.

5.2 Short answer tests

A further format that is worth mentioning is short answer test

format. According to Alderson (1996:223) short answer tests could be

substitutes to multiple-choice tests. The only difference is that apart

from the optional answers the students will have to provide short answers.

The author of the paper had not used this test format, thus, she cannot

draw on her experience. Therefore, she will just list the ideas produced by

other linguists, to be more exact Aldersons suggestions.

Alderson (ibid.) believes that short answer tests will contribute to

the students results, for they will be able to support their answers and,

if necessary, clarify why they responded in that way but not the other. It

could be explained that the students will have an opportunity to prove

their answers and support them if necessary.

Nevertheless, the short answer tests are relatively complicated for

the teacher to be designed. The teacher has to consider a variety of ideas

and thoughts to create a fairy relevant test with fairly relevant items.

May be that could explain the fact why this test format is not such a

common occasion as MCQs are.

At this point we have come to advantages and drawbacks of short

answer tests. Weir (1990:44) says that this type of testing differs from

MCQs by the absence of the answers. The students have to provide the answer

themselves. That will give the marker the clear idea whether the students

know what they write about or not. Certainly, the teacher will be definite

about the students knowledge, whereas in MCQs s/he can doubt whether the

students know or have just guessed the correct answer. Moreover, short

answer test could make the students apply their various language skills

techniques they use while dealing with any reading, listening or speaking


Finally, Weir (ibid.) stipulates that if the questions are well

formulated, there is a high chance the student will supply short, well-

formulated answer. Therefore, a variety of questions could be included in

the test to cover a broader field of the students knowledge, and certainly

it will require a great work from the teacher.

Nevertheless, there are certain drawbacks displayed by the following

test format. One of the major disadvantages could be the students

involvement in writing. For if we are determined to check the students

reading abilities, it is not appropriate to give the students writing tasks

due to the high possibility of the spelling and grammar mistakes that may

occur during the process. Therefore, we have to decide upon our priorities

what do we want to test. Furthermore, the students while writing can

produce far different answers than expected. It will be rather complicated

to decide whether to consider them as mistakes or not.

5.3 The cloze test and gap-filling tests

Before coming to the theory on cloze tests we assume that it is

necessary for us to speak about a term cloze. Weir (1990:46) informs that

it was coined by W.L. Taylor (1953) from the word closure and meant the

individuals ability to complete a model.

However, to follow the model one has to posses certain skills to do

so. Hence, we can speak about introduction of such skill that Weir calls

deduction. Deduction is an important aspect for dealing with anything that

is unknown and unfamiliar. Thus, before giving a cloze test the teacher has

to be certain whether his/her students are familiar with the deduction


Alderson (1996:224) assumes that there are two cloze test techniques:

pseudo-random and rational cloze technique. In the pseudo-random test the

test designer deletes words at a definite rate, or as Heaton (1990:19)

places it, systematically, for example every 7th word should be deleted

occasionally with the initiate letter of the omitting word left as a


Although you may think of Britain as England ,i...is really four

countries in one. There a.. ..four very distinct nations within the

British I: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, each with their

o..unique culture, history, cuisine, literature a..even languages.

(Discovering Britain, Pavlockij B.

M., 2000)

However, the task could be more demanding if the teacher will not

assist the learners guesses and will not provide any hints:

Scotland is in the north and Wales in the west wereseparate

countries. They have different customs,.., language and, in Scotland

s case, different legal and educational.


The examples shown above do not yield to be ideal examples at all.

Without doubt, the material used in the task should more or less provide

the students with the appropriate clues to form correct guessing.

Notwithstanding, the author of the paper has used such tests in her

practice and according to her observations; she can conclude that the tasks

with the first letter left are highly motivating for the students and

supply a lot of help for them. Moreover, having discussed the following

test format the teacher has revealed that the students like it and receive

a real pleasure if they are able to confirm their guess and find the right


However, according to Alderson (ibid.), the teacher commonly does not

intend to check a certain material by the cloze test. The main point here

is the independence of the student and his/her ability to apply all the

necessary techniques to fill in the blank spaces. Concerning the mentioned-

above scholars, we have to agree that the following type of test is

actually relatively challenging, for it demands vast language knowledge

from the student. Heaton (ibid.) believes that each third or fourth deleted

word can turn into the handicap for the learner due to the lack of

prompting devices, such as collocations, prepositions, etc. Whereas, the

removal of each ninth word may even lead to the exhausting reading process.

On the contrary, the rational cloze technique, or as it is usually

called gap-filling, is based on the deletion of words connected with the

topic the teacher wants or intends to check. At this time the teacher

controls the procedure more than it is in the pseudo-random test discussed

above. Moreover, s/he tries to delete every fifth or sixth word, but does

it rather carefully not to distort the meaning and mislead the learner.

Besides, a significant factor in this type of testing is that the teacher

removes exactly the main words that are supposed to be checked, i.e.:

Britain.a deceptively large island and surrounded by some very

beautiful coastline. The south of England has popular sandy beaches,

especially in the west. But the coast in the south west Wales..a unique

coastal National Park. Its beaches great for sunbathing and the rock

pools and cliffs ..havens for wildlife. Up in Scotland, the striking

white beaches of the west coast and islandsexcellent places for

explorative walks.

(Discovering Britain, Pavlockij B. M., 2000)

It is evident that the teachers aim by the help of the rational cloze

test is to check the students knowledge of the Present simple of the verb

to be. Thereof, the cloze tests could be successfully used for testing

grammar, as well.

We have come again to the point when we are going to mention the

advantages and disadvantages of cloze and gap-filling testing coined by

Weir. Regarding Weir, there are more disadvantages than advantages in

applying the cloze tests. He says that to design a cloze test is fairly

easy, and they are easy to evaluate, and it is the best means to check

reading comprehension. Concerning the drawbacks, we can emphasise that

randomly removed words usually will act as distractors and will not be of

true importance for the students to comprehend a message if, for example,

it is a reading task.

Compared to the cloze test, gap filling is more material based, for

it checks the students knowledge of a particular topic. Therefore, we can

speak about the first advantage that is the learners will know exactly what

they should insert. Moreover, the selectively deleted items allow focusing

exactly on them and do not confuse the student.

The last what could be said about gap filling tests is that this

technique limits us to check only a certain language skill, e.g. a

vocabulary on different topics.

5.4 C-Tests

It is worth mentioning that in the 80s German school introduced an

alternative to cloze test another type of testing C-Tests. This test was

based on the cloze test system; however, every second word there was

deleted. It could seem quite a complicated type, though it is not.

According to Weir (1990:47) in this type every deleted word is partially

preserved. Thus, the students, if they possess a fairly good knowledge of

the language and can activate their schemata, or background knowledge of a

topic or the world, they will succeed in completing the test. Such test

format could look as follows:

Cats ha. always been surroby superstitions. In ancEgypt

ca.were cons. sacred, but in medi..Europe ma.. people beli cats we.

witches in disgu A popular supers... about ca. is that a blaccat,

cros your pa from left to rig., will bri you bad lu. However, in some

cult.. a black ca is thought to be a go omen rat than a ba one.

(First certificate Star, Luke

Prodromou, p.134)

Definitely there are advantages and disadvantages of the following

test format. According to Weir, due to the frequency of the deleted items

there is a great possibility to include more tested items in the test.

Moreover, this test is economical. However, despite all the advantages, the

test can mislead the students as it is fragmented. The examples are

deprived from the context that could be very helpful for the students

guessing of the missing parts.

5.5 True/False items

This test format is familiar for all the teachers and students. Each

reading task will always be followed with true/false activities that will

intend to check the students comprehension of a text. The students will be

offered a set of statements some of which are true and some are wrong,


1. People went to see Cats because of the story. T F

2. Lloyd Webbers father helped his career. T F

3. Lloyd Webber comes from a musical family. T F

( Famous Britons, Michael


They usually should be ticked, and in order to tick the correct variants

the students have to be able to employ various guessing strategies.

According to Weir (1990:48), the advantage of such test is found in

its applicability and suitability. One can write more true/false statements

for a test and use them to check the students progress or achievement.

Furthermore, the current sort of testing could be more motivating for the

students than a multiple-choice test. It will not make the students

confused offering just one possibility than a multiple-choice test, which

typically proposes more than one option to choose from. Moreover, it is

easy to answer for the students and check for the teachers.

5.6 Dictation

Another test format that could be applied in the language classroom is

dictation. We commonly use dictations to check spelling; nevertheless, it

could be applied to test listening comprehension, as well. It is obvious

that to dictate something we have either to speak or read. It means that

while writing a dictation the student has to be able to perceive the spoken

language efficiently enough to produce in on paper. For this purpose the

student will require a variety of techniques such as schemata and its

application, predictions, guessing and context clues, etc. Further, it also

is constrained that dictation help the students develop their abilities to

distinguish between phonemes, separate words and intonation. Besides,

dictations function in spoken language; thereof the students have an

opportunity to learn to understand the language through listening. To

conclude what has been mentioned above we can agree with Weir (1990:49)

that dictations will force the students to use the variety of skills:

listening, reading, speaking and writing skills.

Heaton (1990:28) advises that to enable the students comprehend

successfully, the teacher need to read carefully and clearly, however

avoiding slow, word for word reading. Moreover, to allow the students to

check what they have written the repetition will be required. The author of

the paper when giving dictations to her students had encountered the need

for repetition for a number of times. The following could be explained by

many factors, such as the students are not able to perceive spoken speech

through listening; they are not able to elaborate various guessing,

inferring of the meaning techniques or their pace of writing is simply

rather slow. Thus, we entirely support the next statement claimed by Heaton

that it is wise after the first reading of a dictation to ask a set of

comprehension questions to make the students aware of the general idea of a

text. It will simplify the process of the understanding.

Notwithstanding, even an ideal variant will definitely contain some

drawbacks. The same could be applied to dictations. First, to write a

dictation, the student requires a good memory. S/he has to retain

information they have heard in order to display it later; moreover, the

information should be identical to the original. Therefore, we can claim

that the student has to recognize at least seventy-eighty per cent of what

has been dictated. In that case we short-term memory should be well


Apart from memory, scoring could be problematic, as well. Weir

(1990:50) believes that is difficult to decide what to pay attention to:

whether to evaluate spelling and grammar, or just perceived information.

Thus, the teacher has to work out a certain set of criteria, as we have

already mentioned that in Chapter 1, the criteria s/he will be operating

with. Besides, the students should be acquainted with it, as well.

In addition, Weir (ibid.) says that dictating is more efficient if it

is recorded on the tape and is delivered by a native speaker. It could mean

that the students will have a chance to fell themselves in the real-life

situation; for this is the actual purpose they learn the language for. The

following has been expanded by Heaton (ibid.) that speaking face to face

with a speaker is even more beneficial, for we can compensate the lack of

understanding by his/her facial expression, gestures and movements.

Listening to a cassette does not provide us with such a chance, and

therefore, it is more challenging and requires more developed skills to

understand a recorded message.

5.7 Listening Recall

This test format is specifically applied to testing listening skills.

It differs from a dictation that it supplies the students with a printed

text. However, the text is given not as the complete script of the tape.

Certain words that carry the meaning load are deleted from a passage, and

the students after listening to the tape are supposed to insert them.

Hence, it could be related to a gap-filling test. Here the cassette is

usually played for two times; first, the students listen for information

and attempt to insert the missing details. The second time allows them to

add what they had failed to understand at the beginning. The author of the

paper had not used that as a direct test format but as a while-listening

activity during her classes. According to her scrutiny the students with

more advanced language abilities were able to comprehend the texts

immediately, whereas the weaker students sometimes could not manage to

understand the message even listening for the tape for the third time. That

again proves the significance of usage of pre-, while and post-listening

activities in the language classroom. Weir (ibid.) states that such type of

testing involves the students short-time memory, which they need to switch

while listening to the tape.

According to Weir (ibid.), one of the advantages of listening recall

is uncomplicated construction, administration and marking.

Nevertheless, there are several disadvantages, as well. There is a

danger, that the students will read the passage before listening to the

tape, thus we will not be able to evaluate exactly their listening skills.

The author of the current paper had encountered the similar situation,

where the teacher warns the students not to read but just listen. However,

they start reading immediately after receiving the text, even though the

tape record being still turned off.

5.8 Testing Grammar Through Error-recognition Items and Word Formation


One of the test formats for testing grammar is error-recognition

items. Here the teacher writes sentences underlining various words. One of

the words is obligatory wrong, and the students have to identify what word

is wrong and should be corrected. Heaton (ibid.) introduces a variation of

that type, saying that the teacher can supply the students with incorrect

sentences asking the students to provide the right variant. This again

demands a fairly good knowledge of the subject from the students to

differentiate between the right and wrong variants. In that case the error-

recognition format could be compared with multiple-choice format and even

called a branch of it. Below you can find the example of error-recognition

items format:

1. I cant come to the phone I have / Im having a shower!

2. I watched/ I was watching TV when suddenly the telephone


3. I had been waiting/ I had waited in the rain for ages when

she finally turned up.

(First certificate Star, Luke

Prodromou, p.12)

Further, for testing grammar and language structures we often use

word-formation tasks, e.g.:

Making friends and people is a gift that some influence

.people seem to be born with, while for others it luck

is a skill that has to be ..through practice and acquire

hard work. It is, however, .to know that most skills, comfort

particularly .skill, can be learnt and that it is never society

too late to start improving.

(First certificate Star, Luke

Prodromou, p.41)


|verb |noun |person |Adjective |

|Invent | | | |

| | |discoverer |- |

| |creation | | |

It is frequently used in centralized exams to know the students

ability to coin new words that displays the students advanced level of the

language. The students are demanded coining nouns from verbs, adjectives

from nouns, etc. This requires certain knowledge of prefixes, suffixes and

roots in order to create a necessary word. Word coinage is an inevitable

skill for recognizing new word items either.

5.9 Controlled writing

In order to check the students grammar and writing ability the

teacher can use different test formats: transformation, broken sentences,

sentence and paragraph completion, form filling, notes and diaries.

According to Heaton (1990:32), transformation deals with re-writing

sentences. For example, the students are asked to change a sentence in

Active voice into a sentence in Passive voice. To differ the task the

teacher can put the required word in brackets at the end of each sentence.

The students will need to transform a sentence to fit the word in brackets.

Or another example of transformation could be changing the focus of the

sentence, e.g.:

1. Berlin is not an easy city to move about in.


Itin Berlin.

2. I wonder if you could open the window.


You couldnt .

3. When did you start to learn English?



(First certificate Star, Luke

Prodromou, and p.40)

Further, he discusses the sentences that are divided into fragments

(he calls them broken sentences), and the students task is to arrange the

words in order to produce correct examples. Thus, the students have to know

grammar and syntaxes to make a right sentence with the correct word order.

Sometimes the students are asked to alter the words to make grammatically

correct sentences, e.g.:

1. a German/hunting/huge/black dog

2. a 25-year-old/Opera/tall singer

3. a brand-new/plastic/shopping/green bag

4. an English/young/interesting teacher

(First certificate Star, Luke

Prodromou, and p.80)

Afterwards, the students can be asked to complete the whole

paragraphs, finish dialogues, write diaries using the given information,

and fill the form, for example hotel check-in. The author of the paper had

used writing a diary in her 8th form, when the learners had to write the

diary of captains wife whose husband disappeared in the sea. They also had

to write the diary of the captain himself before the catastrophe. The

students liked the task immensely.

5.10 Free writing

Heaton (ibid.) believes that the most suitable way to check the

students writing skills is asking them to write a composition. The teacher

can include a variety of testing criteria there depending on what is really

being tested. The topics for a composition should be appropriate to the age

of the students and respond to their interest. However, the teacher has to

establish clearly what s/he is going to check (the material studied: e.g.

grammar) and what could be neglected. The students have to know whether

the teacher is interested in the context or may be s/he is concerned with

grammar and spelling, as well.

5.11 Test Formats Used in Testing Speaking Skills

We are not going to deep into details of test formats used for

testing speaking skills. Heaton (ibid.) displays that one of the most

essential elements of testing speaking is pronunciation. To check how the

students pronounce certain testing items the teacher may ask his/her

students to read aloud and retell stories. Moreover, the teacher will

receive the impression how well his/her students can operate with the

spoken language.

Afterwards, the teachers can use pictures to test the students

speaking skills. This is widely used task, and a lot of teachers use it to

check the students speaking skills and the knowledge of the vocabulary.

Moreover, while describing the picture the student will have to imply the

correct grammar and knowledge of the English sentence structure. The

description could be done on the spot and does not require a lot of time

for preparation, though Heaton (ibid.) stipulates that the teacher should

ensure his/her students with a time during which they can formulate their

ideas before presentation.

Apart from the pictures the students could be offered to describe a

person if their topic is peoples appearance or jobs, stay the sequence of

events basing on the provided information or pictures accompanying the

task, spot differences between two pictures and compare them. Further,

Heaton (ibid.) displays a rather interesting task. The students receive a

picture with speech bubbles. They are asked to write what they think people

are saying. This in turn involves creativity from the students and could be

assessed as an additional element and contribute to the students marks.

Definitely, each teacher will develop and give the students various tasks

regarding the criteria and demands to be tested.

In conclusion we can say that the teacher can use a variety of test

formats, such as multiple-choice questions, transfer of information;

reordering the words, describe a picture, listening to the instructions to

check the language skills of his/her students. Every teacher has to choose

him/herself the tasks that will be appropriate to their way of teaching and

the needs of the students.

Below we have attached the table of four language skills and test

formats applicable for each skill.

| | |

|Language Skills |Test Formats |

| | |

|Reading skills |1 Multiple-choice items |

| |Short answers test |

| |Cloze test |

| |Gap-filling test |

| |False/true statement |

| | |

|Listening skills |Multiple-choice items |

| |False/true statements |

| |Gap-filling tests |

| |Dictations |

| |Listening recall |

| | |

|Writing skills |Dictations |

| |Compositions |

| |Reproductions |

| |Writing stories |

| |Writing diaries |

| |Filling-in forms |

| |Word formation |

| |Sentence transformation |

| | |

|Speaking skills |Retelling stories |

| |Describing pictures |

| |Describing people |

| |Spotting the differences |

Chapter 6

Analysis of the Test of English as a Foreign Language and Cambridge First

Certificate test according to test design criteria.

The present chapter deals with the practical part of the research. It

will be based on the analysis and comparison of two proficiency tests

formats TOEFL (The Test of English as a Foreign Language) test and CFC

(Cambridge First Certificate) test. We will start with the brief

description of their overall features; afterwards we will make an attempt

to contrast them and draw relevant conclusions.

The first test to be discussed is Cambridge First Certificate test. It

will usually consist of five papers: reading with the duration time 1 hour

and 15 minutes, writing -1 hour 30 minutes, use of English -1 hour 15

minutes, listening - 40 minutes and speaking approximately 14 minutes.

There is no absolute pass mark, but the candidates need to get about 60% of

the total marks to pass with a Grade C (Prodromou, 1998:6-7).

TOEFL test is an examination that intends to evaluate the level of the

English language of a foreign speaker (Gear, 1996:3-4). Moreover, it is

commonly one of the aspects included into the entrance exams of any

university in the USA. The institution the person requires the test for

could implement the demanded score here. Nevertheless, the highest score

does not differ from that of the CFC. TOEFL test as CFC test consists of

four different parts: listening comprehension that occupies approximately

35 minutes and consists of three parts, structure and written expression

with time limit 25 minutes composed of two tasks and reading comprehension

55 minutes, consisting of several passages.

Here we can notice some differences between CFC and TOEFL tests: when

TOEFL test consists of just four parts, CFC includes a speaking part more.

Moreover, each part of each test will include a various range of tasks,

i.e. each part TOEFL test will mainly be composed of two tasks, whereas

CFC will classically contain four different activities.

Doing the tests in both cases the students will get special answers

sheets where they will have to mark the answers they think are the right

ones. The instructions before the taking the test usually warn the

participants not to write in the books with questions. Moreover, both tests

are checked by the scoring machine, therefore the students should be aware

of what type of marking the answers they have to use. In both cases it

should be a black lead pencil for the scoring machine to read. The answers

should not be circled or lightly marked; in TOEFL test the students are

supposed to fill in an oval answer with a letter inside corresponding to

the question, whereas in CFC the students will have to fill in a small

rectangular under a certain letter. Together the two tests remind the

participants to choose only one answer. If the student changes his/her mind

and decides to choose another answer, s/he can easily rub out the previous


We can call the both tests valid, for they test what is supposed to be

tested and measured and they usually have the same format and length;

regarding reliability, we cannot say exactly whether there is reliability

or not, for if the student was not lucky for the first time taking the

test, s/he can study hard and take the test again for the second time and,

thus, score a better result.

Both of the tests involve the four skills: reading, listening, speaking

and writing. The difference could be found in the sequence of them, for

example if CFC test will start with reading first, TOEFL test will deal

with listening. The types of tasks and activities implied in the test

differ as well. We will start our analysis with reading part.

Reading Comprehension Part

CFC reading paper will test the students ability to read in a variety of

ways: reading for gist (understanding of the text), reading for details,

understanding how a text is organized and deducing the meaning from the

context. (Typically, the students could be given four parts to fill)

(Prodromou, 1998:8). For that purpose CFC reading paper will offer the

students multiple matching. The students will have to match headings or

summary sentences to the parts of the text. They will have to show their

ability to grasp the overall meaning of the text involving various kinds of

knowledge such as morphological, semantic and syntactical one. For example:

Meet the Flinstones, a modern Stone Age family. From the town of Bedrock,

heres a bit about their history.

1. Somewhere in the world, every hour of every day, The Flinstones is being

broadcast. An incredible 300 million fans tune in to watch it regularly.

Whether you like them or not, Fred, Wilma and their neighbours are

impossible to avoid.

A) Rocky jokes B) A Stone Age family in skins C) A new idea D) A

popular show, etc.

Prodromou, First Certificate Star,


Thus, basing on the theory we have discussed in the first part of our

paper, we can claim that it is integrative type of test, though being

direct, that denotes testing one particular skill directly, but not through

other language skills.

Afterwards, CFC may offer the students multiple choice, gapped texts and

again multiple matching only connected with information. In multiple-choice

activity the students will have to answer four-option multiple-choice

questions about a text. For example:

Mad Cow Disease is a deadly illness of the brain and it is the non-

technical term for BSE or Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis. This so difficult

to say that journalists and even some doctors prefer the more vivid Mad Cow


1. We use the expression Mad Cow Disease because

A) it is more accurate.

B) It is easier to say.

C) It links cows with people.

D) It sounds less scientific.

Prodromou, First Certificate Star,


It is obvious that only one answer will be the right one, but the others

will be distractors that will try to confuse the reader. It will limit the

students and make them use a variety of reading strategies, knowledge of

vocabulary and syntaxes to discover the right variant. However, the

students will not have an opportunity to support their choices and prove

why the answer they have chosen is the exact one. Moreover, the students

will be checked whether they understand the general meaning of the text,

its details, whether they can infer the meaning from the text and

understand references (who refers who). Thus, we can declare that this type

of test is integrative, for it involves the students abilities to apply

various reading strategies and still direct, for it tests just reading


The same could be said about gapped texts that will check the students

knowledge of reading strategies, such as organization of the text, reading

for gist, etc. (examples available in Appendix p.17) To complete it the

students will have to show their knowledge of the certain areas of the

language. Multiple matching will require the students to match pieces of

information either with a certain text divided into fragments or with

several texts joined together with one topic (examples available in

Appendix p.8).

CFC will display various types of texts in order to see how well the

students can cope with any authentic material when dealing with reading.

They will have to show their capability of dealing with advertisements,

letters, stories, travelling brochures, guides, manuals, and magazine and

newspaper articles. The type of test applicable here will be integrative,

including a variety of strategies and direct checking the students reading


TOEFL tests reading part usually involves the students general

comprehension of a text. It is regularly a text followed by a number of

questions about it typically in the form of multiple choice items format.

However, this part of the test requires the students to show their skills

in reading for gist, the students have to define the main idea of a text;

afterwards, the students will have to display their knowledge of the

vocabulary, especially synonyms, ability to infer the meaning, define the

words and apply their skills connected with working with references, i.e.:

.The biggest disadvantage was that the sound and pictures could become

unsynchronised if, for example, the gramophone needle jumped or if the

speed of the projector changed. This system was only effective for a single

song or dialogue sequence..

47. The word sequence in line 14 is closest in meaning to

A) interpretation

B) progression

C) distribution

D) organization

Gear, Cambridge preparation for the TOEFL test, 1996

The students will be offered to read several passages, usually

historical, scientific, medical, etc. facts. They will intend to check the

students ability to understand specific types of tests taken from specific

fields, the skill required at the universities, whereas CFC will offer the

students the texts they can encounter in their everyday life being abroad.

Each text will be typically accompanied with seven questions.

TOEFL test will chiefly use multiple-choice items; there will be no gap

filling or matching implied. Thus, we can call a reading part of TOEFL test

as a direct, for it tests the students reading skills, and more discrete

point tests than integrative, for it is mainly concerned with checking the

students knowledge of vocabulary (examples available in Appendix p.391-


The above mentioned could be stated as the first difference: TOEFL test

is a discreet point test, while CFC is integrative one.

Another difference between CFC and TOEFL reading part could be a variety

of tasks given to test the students reading skills. CFC will mostly offer

a great range of tasks (headings, summary, fragmented texts) and texts

types, while TOEFL will not vary a lot.

Listening Part

The listening part of CFC test aims to test the students ability to

listen and understand the gist, the main points, and specific information

is to deduce meaning. TOEFL test will check whether the students are able

to understand conversations and talks in English.

CFC test will offer the students a variety of activities in order to

check whether the students can imply effective listening strategies to

comprehend the message. It suggests the idea of the test being integrative,

for it will focus on different means that could be used to deal with a

listening task. For example, CFC offers multiple choices as a task

(examples available in Appendix p.37): the students listen to several short

extracts that are taken from different contexts. They could be dialogues or

monologues as well. The answer sheet will display the three answer items

from which the students will have to choose the correct one. The task could

ask the students to guess who the speaker is, where the action takes place,

what the conversation is about and even it can include the question about

the feelings and emotions of speakers that could be guessed from the


Afterwards, there will be another task note taking or blank filling

that will check the students ability to listen for gist and for details.

This type will demand the students capability to use his/her writing

skills to put down information they will hear. They will have to be able to

pick up the necessary information and retain it in their memory in order to

fulfil the task (examples available in Appendix p.87).

Subsequently, a further task could engage multiple matching where the

students will have to concentrate on a particular kind of information. This

task could be displayed in the form of a dialogue or a monologue. The

students will be given several answers with letters that should be inserted

into the right box. However, there will always be one option that does not

suit any question, the so-called distractor. Moreover, asking the students

to complete a grid, i.e. advantages and disadvantages of anything, could

expand the task, i.e. advantages and disadvantages of keeping a certain


| |Advantages |Disadvantages |

|dog | | |

|cat | | |

|fish | | |

Prodromou, First Certificate Star,


Moreover, the listening task could involve True/false activities where

the students will have to listen to a dialogue or a monologue and react to

it (examples available in Appendix). The students will have to display how

well they have comprehended the message ticking the statements whether they

are true or false. In spite of that, Yes/No questions could take place. We

have been discussing them already in our theoretical part and mentioned

that the so-called open-ended questions allow the students support their

answers. Answering them, the students are having a chance to prove why they

have chosen a certain answer, but not the other. Usually, if the students

are aware of such a possibility, they fill more secure and motivated, for

they can be certain that the examiner will be able to realize the students

point. However, it is not a very appropriate type for such a test as CFC,

for checking such tests will be rather time-consuming.

Listening part of the TOEFL test differs a lot from that of CFC, for it

is fully based on the multiple-choice items that focus mainly on the

understanding of the main idea of a message (examples available in Appendix

p.379-384) The participants are exposed to a set of short dialogues that

are accompanied with four answers, where three are usually distractors and

the rest one is correct, i.e.:

(man) I think, Ill have the curtains changed.

(woman) They are a bit worn.

(narrator) What does the woman mean?

A) She thinks every bit of change is important.

B) She wants to wear them.

C) She thinks theyve been worn enough.

D) She thinks theyre in bad condition.

Gear, Cambridge preparation for the TOEFL test,


The test implies the idea that to do it the students have to use a

variety of listening strategies, but it is not directly aimed at it.

Whereas, the listening part of CFC test is structured so that the students

would be able to display their listening skills and strategies, that are so

useful for them to comprehend the real message in the real-life situation

dealing with a native speaker.

Thus, we can distinguish certain similarities and differences, which we

can encounter comparing them. They are both direct aiming at checking one

exact skill; however, CFC is integrative, but TOEFL is discreet point test.

Moreover, the test formats differ as well. CFC is richer in activities,

than TOEFL test, which offer the students just multiple-choice items test.

The author of the paper presumes that CFC listening part is more testee-

friendly, while TOEFL listening part is more reserved and does not allow

the students fill free, but alarmed.

Writing Part

Writing part of CFC test tests the students ability to write different

types of writing texts. These could be transactional letters, simple

letters, compositions, descriptions, reports, etc. Moreover, the students

could be asked to write an opinion composition and even an article

(examples available in Appendix p.38).

Transactional letters are aimed at making somebody do something. Writing

them, the students have to keep in mind that they are supposed to get a

relevant answer.

There are different types of transactional letters, such as a letter of

complaint, a letter of invitation, a letter asking for information and a

letter describing something. The task requiring the students ability to

write these letters will supply the students with necessary information,

may be even pictures, and usually will ask for the students personal

opinion. Moreover, the students have to be aware of the style that should

be used depending on the requirements. Furthermore, the students will have

to know how the letters are structured, for it will be the factor that will

be evaluated as well.

Another writing task such as writing articles for a magazine will require

the students to display their writing abilities, the knowledge of the

vocabulary, the style and letter organization knowledge (examples available

in Appendix 38).

Writing a report will be based on the students capability to gather

facts and analyse them. It could involve a kind of a research work and

knowledge how to express and link the ideas together (examples available in

Appendix 30).

Writing a narrative story will ask the creativity from the students to

make it interesting and original. Again the students will have to be able

to express and link their ideas to produce a meaningful text.

Opinion composition will involve the students abilities to state

advantages and disadvantages of the topic being discussed, expressing own

opinion, stating the problem and possible solutions of it and expansion on

the topic analysing various aspects of a topic.

Another writing task could be a book review. The students will have to

know how to plan and organize the review, giving brief information about an

author and some essential details about a book. Moreover, personal opinion

of the students will be required as well.

Thus, looking at the facts stated above we can declare that the writing

part of CFC is purely integrative type of test, for it involves all

possible written tasks and strategies that should be used to accomplish the

tasks effectively. Furthermore, it will be a direct testing aimed at

testing the students writing skills. The tasks and activities presented in

this part of CFC reflect the students needs they may meet in a real-life

situation, for every possible writing piece is given.

The writing part of TOEFL test will generally involve essay writing.

There will not be any letters or book reviews. The students will be given a

topic that is typically a statement and they will have to expand it and

write about it giving the facts, ideas and sometimes even a personal

opinion, i.e.: If the earth to be saved from environmental catastrophe,

we shall all have to make major changes in our lifestyles (Gear, Cambridge

preparation for the TOEFL test, 1996). This type of writing will focus on

expressing ideas and their linking as well. To write a good essay the

students will require the knowledge of the topic, or schemata, the

knowledge of a relevant vocabulary, appropriate style and organization of

the written text, i.e. thesis sentence, paragraphs, etc (examples available

in Appendix p. 377 378).

Therefore, we can conclude that the writing part of TOEFL test could be

called also an integrative type of test involving the range of strategies.

Moreover, it could be defined as direct testing, for it implies testing

exactly the writing skill. Furthermore, it is totally based on the

knowledge how to organize an essay with all necessary paragraphs,

introductions and conclusions.

Use of English or Structure and Written Expressions

An import role in both tests is occupied by use of English or as it is

called in TOEFL Structure and Written Expressions part. It aims at testing

the students knowledge of grammar and vocabulary used in the English


CFC offers the students a range of various activities and task to be done

during the testing time. They are multiple choice cloze, open cloze, key

word transformations, error correction and word formation. Whereas, the

usual procedure of the same part in TOEFL test will mostly include multiple-

choice cloze and error correction.

The multiple choice cloze in CFC will usually be in the form of a gapped

text followed by fifteen multiple questions with four options, as always

the only one will be the correct. It will mostly be concerned with

vocabulary items or grammar issues (examples available in Appendix p.44).

For example:

Robin Williams was creative and gifted from an early age. He was a/an

(1)_______________child and at school was always a (2)_____________pupil:

he wrestled, ran cross-country and worked (3)_____________at his studies.

1. A imaginary B imaginative C fantastic D mythical

2. A classic B model C superior D spoilt

3. A quickly B easily C hard D fast

Prodromou, First Certificate Star,


Open cloze will mostly be presented in the form of a text with several

spaces, which the students will have to complete with an appropriate word.

It will imply the students knowledge of grammar and vocabulary and will

involve the students ability to predict and guess from the context

(examples available in Appendix p.94). The task will be rather complicated,

for it will not be a C-test type where the words to be inserted preserve

the initial letter or letters to make the guessing process easier. In our

case the students will have to know how the words and phrases are connected

together, how the sentences are linked, and they will have to know the

grammar forms and structures, so, for example, if they see have/has, they

should immediately know that Present perfect is used. For example:

When you join the International Bird Society, your membership

(1)_____________ make a positive difference to birds everywhere even if

the only ones you see are the blue tits..

Prodromou, First Certificate Star,


Key word transformations will make the students alter the sentences

structures, however preserving the entire meaning of them. They will have

to complete a sentence with a given word; here the vocabulary and grammar

will be of major interest again (examples available in Appendix p.86). The

usual change will occur with phrasal verbs, active and passive voice, verbs

and prepositions that go together, etc.:

1. I didnt like the story and I didnt like the actors. neither

I ______________________the actors.

Prodromou, First Certificate Star,


Error correction will implement the students knowledge of grammar

structures. The students will receive a passage in which they will have to

find incorrect item and highlight it (examples available in Appendix p.55).

Such types of activities will usually include an extra or unnecessary word.

These words could be relative pronouns, prepositions, articles,

conjunctions, etc. For example:

________ If you want to find out about someones personality, one way of

to do it is to

________take a sample of their handwriting and analyse it; this is called


________graphology. To do graphology properly, it is important to use

fairly typical..

Prodromou, First Certificate Star, 1998

Word formation will based on completing a text by making an appropriate

word form from a word stem given, i.e. discover discovery (examples

available in Appendix p.104). This part will focus mainly on vocabulary,

especially on word formation rules. Here the knowledge of suffixes and

prefixes will be essential for the students. For example:

Who is mad? Cows or farmers?

Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis is a (1)___________ brain DEAD

Disorder found amongst cows. As this medical term is almost

(2) _________for the majority of ordinary people to say, the illness


is (3)________known as Mad Cow Disease. POPULAR

Prodromou, First Certificate Star, 1998

Concerning TOEFL test, we might say that it is similar to CFC use of

English; however, it displays just several types of tasks. As we have

already mentioned they are error correction and multiple choice cloze.

Multiple choice cloze typically consists of a range of statements in which

there will be a certain grammar structure missing. It is usually based on

grammar, than on vocabulary (examples available in Appendix p. 385 386).

The students will have to know how the subject and predicate go together,

how the words and sentence parts are linked with each other. For example:

1. --------infinitely large number of undiscovered galaxies.

A) An

B) There are an

C) From an

D) Since there are

Gear, Cambridge preparation for the TOEFL test, 1996

Error correction will differ from that in CFC, for in TOEFL test we will

have a statement with the underlined words that are supposed to be wrong.

The students will have to choose the correct variant (examples available in

Appendix p. 387 390). It will usually be based on the students knowledge

of grammar items and word formation as well. For example:

Drying food by means of solar energy is ancient process applied wherever

food and climate conditions


make it possible.

Gear, Cambridge preparation for the TOEFL test, 1996

In conclusion we can state that Use of English is both discreet and

integrative type of testing, for in some tasks of CFC the knowledge of word

formation is demanded, but in some grammar will be included either.

The Use of English of CFC and TOEFL will be a direct testing, for it will

test the students grammar and vocabulary knowledge.


Speaking is another part of the test that is present in CFC and is not

included into TOEFL test. It could be explained by the fact that if the

student passes TOEFL test successfully, s/he will be interviewed directly

at the place s/he needed the test for.

Therefore, will briefly look at CFC speaking part and discuss it. It aims

at the students ability to use spoken language effectively in different

types of interaction. The students could be asked to give personal

information, talk about pictures and photographs, be involved in pair work

task or even in discussion.

In personal information part the students could be asked to supply the

personal details about themselves: i.e. their job, family position,

studies, etc.( examples available in Appendix 10 11).

In describing pictures or photographs they will have to share their

opinion about them speaking with an examiner. There will be a time limit

set for the talk.

In pair work task and discussion the students will be supplied either by

pictures or photos or by charts and diagrams. They will be joined in pairs

and will have to carry out the task together. It could be either the

solving the problem, planning something, putting something in order or

discussing a certain topic. Discussion will certainly require the students

personal opinion and analysis of a topic (examples available in Appendix


In CFC the students will have to cooperate with another interlocutor:

either the examiner or another participant.

The author of the paper assume that this part is both integrative and

indirect testing. It is integrative, for it will involve the students

knowledge of the whole aspects of the language: grammar, sentence

structure, vocabulary, listening skills and may be even reading skills if

the task will be written. To communicate successfully the students will

require listening and comprehending the other speakers message to respond.

Grammar should be accurate to produce a good and correct dialogue or a

monologue, for accuracy is an important factor there. The rich word stock

will be inevitable element as well.

Indirect testing means that the whole material will be included while

testing speaking skills.

To conclude we can declare that CFC and TOEFL tests are both integrative

and discreet point tests. They are also direct, however, speaking part in

CFC could be defined as indirect one involving all four skills to be used.


The present research attempted to investigate the essence of two

types of tests, such as TOEFL and CFC tests. The research has achieved the

initially set goals and objectives. It dealt with the basic data about

testing, where the author had displayed the ideas what was the essence of

tests, why the students should be tested, what consequences could tests

produce and whom they would mostly influence. Afterwards, the reasons for

testing were discussed, where the author of the paper had gradually showed

why tests were significant in the process of learning and the role of

testing in the teaching process. After the basic data had been discussed,

the author came directly to types of testing. At that point the author of

the research made an attempt to review various sources on the topic she was

able to find. She had presented the definitions of the types of tests

offered in Longman dictionary of LTAL and then had compared them with the

definitions given by various authors. Later, the author of the research

displayed the ways of their applications and reasons for that. She had also

presented several examples of tests types in the Appendix. The author of

the paper had also discussed ways of testing, such as discrete point test

and integrative test, objective and subjective tests, direct and indirect

tests, etc. The attention was drawn to the significance of their usage and

the purpose for it. Furthermore, the discussion had changed the focus on

another important issue, such as tests formats and approaches for testing

four language skills. Here the author had broadly and explicitly discussed

and analysed the tests formats, such as MCQs, false/true items, cloze

tests, gap-filling tests, etc. She had focused on their application and

skills for which they are used. Moreover, she had displayed various

examples to exemplify each test format, offering several of them in

Appendix of the paper. Likewise, a table with the language skills and test

formats applicable for them was attached to the work as well. Further, a

practical part in the form of the tests analysis was presented.

The author of the paper had also dealt with the main issues that are

very vital and essential in analysis of the tests. She had focused on the

reliability and validity of the tests and tried to trace them in TOEFL and

CFC tests. She had thoroughly discussed the tasks and activities composing

the tests designed to test the students language skills. Moreover, she had

attempted to compare the two tests and find out any similarities and

differences between them. She had methodically studied each part of the

tests, starting from reading skills finishing with speaking. She had

presented a detailed investigation into the matter together with the

examples that could be observed in Appendix, as well.

Eventually, she had gained her aim having checked the theory into

practice and had proved that it really functioned in the real world.

Moreover, she had revealed that though being sometimes different in their

purpose, design and structure, the TOEFL test and CFC test are constructed

according to the universally accepted pattern.

Thus, the hypothesis of the present research has been confirmed.


1. The role of tests is very useful and important, especially in language

learning, for they indicates how much the learners have learnt during a

course, as well as display the strength and weaknesses of the teaching

process and help the teacher improve it.

2. The tests can facilitate the students acquisition process and function

as a tool to increase their motivation; however, too much of testing

could be disastrous changing entirely the students attitude towards

learning the language, especially if the results are usually


3. Assessment and evaluation are important aspects for the teacher and the

students and should be correlated in order to make evaluation and

assessment go hand in hand.

4. The test should be valid and reliable. They should test what was taught,

taking the learners individual pace into account. Moreover, the

instructions of the test should be unambiguous.

5. Validity deals with what is tested and degree to which a test measures

what is supposed to measure.

6. Reliability shows that the tests results will be similar and will not

change if one and the same test will be given on various days.

7. There are four traditional categories or types of tests: proficiency

tests measuring how much of a language a person knows or has learnt;

achievement tests measuring a language someone has learned during a

specific course, study or program; diagnostic tests displaying the

knowledge of the students or lack of it, and placement tests placing the

students at an appropriate level in a programme or a course.

8. There are two important aspect direct and indirect testing. Direct

testing means the involvement of a skill that is supposed to be tested,

whereas indirect testing tests the usage of the language in real-life

situation and is assumed to be more effective.

9. Discrete point test is a language test that is meant to test a

particular language item, whereas the integrative test intends to check

several language skills and language components together or


10. There are various tests formats, such as multiple-choice tasks, gap-

filling tests, cloze tests, true/false statements, etc. used to check

four language skills.

11. To enter any foreign university the students are supposed to take the

TOEFL or CFC tests. Besides, they can be taken to reveal the students

level of the English language.

12. Serving for almost similar purpose, however being sometimes different

in their design and structure, the TOEFL and CFC tests are usually

constructed according to the accepted universal pattern.


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4. Heaton, J. 1990. Classroom Testing. Longman

5. Hedge. T. 2000. Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford

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6. Hughes, A. 1989. Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge University


7. Hicks, D. Littlejohn, A. 1998. Cambridge English for Schools (CES).

Teachers Book. Level Two. Cambridge University Press.

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9. Kruse, A. 1987. Vocabulary in Context in Vocabulary Learning in Long. M.

(ed.), Methodology in TESOL. New York. Newbury House Publishers.

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11. Prodromou, L. 1998. First Certificate Star, McMillean

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