Why do any Testing at All?

Are Examinations and Tests Useful or Important in the EFL Classroom?

There is often controversy about the role of testing in any classroom, though I am not really sure why.  If you test what you have taught, you should be okay.  But “test what you taught” is not always an easy concept.  In other words, if you are teaching speaking skills, don’t give the students a written test, give them a verbal test.  Time consuming – yes – but much more accurate.

Testing and examinations do play an important role in EFL

There are three major reasons for giving tests in an EFL classroom.  Some are obvious even to new teachers, others are not.  The last reason is my favorite . . .

The first and most obvious reason why you need to test students is to see if they learned what you were supposed to teach.  The controversy over testing is usually that “What you were supposed to teach” is not or was not always very clear.  So, as a teacher, it is important to try and get a handle on EXACTLY what it is you are trying to teach your students.

The second purpose of testing is to use it as a progress check.  The course is halfway finished, have you covered half the material and have the students learned it?  If you test and they have mastered the material then great.  If not, you need to figure out why not.  Are you teaching too much material?  Is it too advanced?  Are your methods effective?

My favorite reason for testing

The third and last reason here is to MOTIVATE  and help direct the efforts of your students.  You as the teacher can use testing to emphasize specific content of your course.  If you think everyone is having trouble with, for example, linking in pronunciation – then announce a test on linking.  Give the students the specific content that you will test and you will usually see great effort extended in that area.

Testing used as a motivator or guidance mechanism is really effective.  Don’t ignore the potential it has to really help move your students along in areas in which they are having difficulty.   You will often be amazed by how effective it can be.

Testing as a memory dump

But . . . be careful of testing material and never going back to it.  If your students’ realize that you are doing that, they will memorize material ONLY for the test.  They will put it in short-term memory and it likely be forgotten before they even get out the door of the examination room.

If certain material is very important – and really, why teach any material that is NOT important – use a few surprise quizzes to make sure students don’t “dump” the content you want them to remember.  Surprise quizzes work best if you announce you will have them, but just don’t say when.  And make sure you follow through.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Testing can be an important teaching aid.  Use it to its maximum potential to motivate your students and increase their skills.  That is, after all, why you are in the front of the classroom, isn’t it?