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The Teachers' Room

Writing a simple progress test

Dan and Sian talk about basic principles for writing a progress test

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Writing a progress test
Progress tests are a useful way of assessing your students’ understanding of a particular language point that you have taught them, and a great way of giving them a little extra practice. Many course books provide pre-printed progress tests, but for one reason or another, such as class personalisation, the teacher may wish to write their own. Here are a few useful tips.
 
Instructions
Make sure instructions are included with every question section. The language must be graded, clear and explain what the student needs to do, and in some cases how. In order to clarify further, remember to include an example with every question set. In this way, even if students have not fully grasped the instructions, they have a better chance of understanding what to do.

Question sections
When writing questions always keep in mind exactly what you are testing. Try not to test more than one aspect of language per question section. Are you testing form, meaning or use? For example: A gapfill where learners need to conjugate a verb which has been given to them in brackets would test form, but a set of sentences where learners would need to select the correct verb out of a choice of three focuses on meaning.

Include context in your questions and sentences. Students need a clue to be able to help them understand the situation around the sentence. A set of questions about the past should contain past time words.  Consider using a second sentence to support the context of the first e.g.’Oh no, I just ________ the bus. Now I will be late for work.’

Make tests more interesting by varying the types of question. This will keep your students working hard and challenge them. Don’t mix up activity types within one set of questions. Here are some suggestions:
Gapfill / cloze
Choose the correct word / Find the wrong word
Matching
Sentence transformation
Sentence stems
Error correction

Marking
Include the number of marks on the paper so students know how important that question section is and how much time to spend on that section.
Having a marking scheme is a good idea, but once in while students will suggest something that is correct language but not on the sheet. Don’t be afraid to embrace this and congratulate them. Seeing them excel in this way is one of the joys of teaching.

To do

Try our quiz to see if you've picked up our tips.

The Teachers' Room Quiz

4 Questions

Check what you've learned by selecting the correct answer to each question.

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Get involved

Well, those were just a few ideas that we here at BBC Learning English had, but we know that you teachers out there have lots of fantastic ideas too, and we’d like you to share them with us and everybody else.

If you have a great tip or technique about testing, or anything else, please email us at learningenglish@bbc.co.uk. Your email could be posted here on this page, or may even be mentioned in our show.

We are also looking for video tips to include in the programme. You could be rewarded with a T-shirt for your efforts.

End of Session 4

Next up is Learners' Questions. What will this week's Learner Question be? Whatever it is, Dan's here with the answer! Join us in Session 5 to find out.

Session Vocabulary

  • Writing a progress test

    • Instructions
    • Question sections
    • Marking