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Testing / Assessing Students

November at the Times is dedicated to a series of articles from Sharon K Couzens de Hinojosa, the creator and writer of TEFL Tips, The LA Job List, and The Ultimate Peru List.

Although tests and an exam are a necessary evil of classes, there are things that you can do to make them easier for both you and your students.

● Only test what you have taught. This includes the content and the structure of the exam. Content refers to the specific grammar or vocabulary points. And structure refers to the layout of the exam. For example, if you’ve only given them exercises where they’ve had to circle the correct answer, it wouldn’t be fair to give them fill in the blank/gap exercises.

● Buy an exam book. Often the teacher’s book will have a test section. You’ll make your life a lot easier if you use some of the exercises from the teacher’s book. I’m not saying to copy the whole thing, but you could use some and then supplement the rest with your own ideas.

● Be strict. As far as talking, borrowing pencils, erasers, etc, don’t allow it. Tell students ahead of time and be sure that your coordinator or director backs you up. If they need a pencil or eraser, make sure that you have some extras on hand.

● Check answers together. There are a couple benefits of checking exams together. First, it’s less work for you. Second, students get their results back faster. If you’re going to check the exam during class, make sure that the students only have a pen on their desk. Writing is the one exception, you’re going to have to check that by yourself. However, if you use rubrics, it’ll make checking writing a whole lot faster.

● Stagger your tests. If you teach different levels, have tests on different days so you don’t have to do all the grading at once. For example, test the intermediate students on Monday and the advanced students on Tuesday.

● Save your tests. While you probably can’t use them right away, you might be able to use the same exercises for different levels. This is especially true for grammar. And for reading, you could copy the text and simply write different questions.

● Proof-read. You’re bound to make a typo or two, so before you sent your exam to be printed, proof-read it. Or better yet, have someone else proof-read it.

● Do your tests ahead of time. It might not be fun, but sitting down one day and getting all your tests done for a class will save you from getting stressed later on.

● Make an answer key. This is especially necessary if other teachers are going to use your test. Or if you save your tests.

● Vary the exercises. Fill in the blank/gap, True/False, Fix the mistake, Matching, Multiple choice, are all possible exercises that can be used on exams.

● Make them easy to grade. Don’t overuse fill in the blank/gap exercises, they’re harder to grade and students might ask for partial credit if they have part of it correct.

About the author

Sharon K Couzens de Hinojosa is the creator and writer for TEFL Tips, The LA Job List, and The Ultimate Peru List. She enjoys answering people’s questions about TEFLing and Peru.

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