The following was taken from a discussion on the internet.

Finals are coming. Do you know what is expected? Do you have a plan of action?

 

Here is what Linell Davis and I have done for final exams in university conversational English classes in mainland China

 

Testing speaking

by Roger Chrisman

 

Often in order to get by in China , as in life, we compromise. For example, how do you grade Oral English students in China ?

 

In Chinese universities I have tested Oral English classes two ways. My first way was to give each student 3 minutes to tell me anything they wanted, privately. It worked but I found it tiring. So now I conduct discussion question/answer tests. My purpose in both cases is not to come up with a fine tuned grade, but rather to differentiate the students enough to come up with a proficiency grade based on their proficiency compared to each other. I consider it unfair and poor pedagogy. But I do it to satisfy my boss; hmmmmm...... compromise, art of politics. To mitigate the unfairness, I score the students close to each other despite an often very wide proficiency range.

 

Three-minute presentation test

(tiring but interesting)

 

The monitor (class captain) and I work up a schedule the week before. It is a 5 minute incremented schedule. That gives me 2 minutes of time flex in which to coax a student to a conclusion if he is going on too long, write down a score and call in the next student. I hear the students one at a time privately with the next students waiting outside the door according to the schedule. I warn the students ahead of time that I will not permit them to read a speech to me but notes are OK. Some of them respond by memorizing a 3 minute speech. I try to discourage this (warn them ahead of time that you will do this) by asking questions to derail their language off their memorized speech if I sense they are "reading" a memorized speech instead of talking to me. I tell them to practice their material, whatever they choose, by telling it to their favorite classmates a few times instead of memorizing it. I tell them to choose topics they personally care about and have feelings about/are interested in. It is a tiring procedure for me but sometimes I learn interesting things about my students and their interests by conducting the oral exam this way. It is often the only chance for most of the students to tell me something privately and some of them use this opportunity to share something personal with their foreign teacher. However, listening to 25 stories *in a row* is just plain tiring! and kind of a lie since I just don't remember it all.

 

Discussion question and answer test

(easier)

 

Lately I have used this approach and find it easier on me. And it doesn't require any preparation on the part of the students. The class divides into two equal halves. Next I read a short discussion starter text taken from a discussion text book. I add thoughts as I read, in a discursive way, and make sure everyone understands enough of the issues in the text to think about them on their own and formulate discussion questions of their own about them or a related topic. Then, while everyone chats with their neighbor about the issues in the text, or anything else that it brings to their mind, I go around the classroom and ask each student for their student number and name. Those I write on a simple seating chart that I will presently use to record the students scores. It takes about 5 minutes going around the class of 24 students to prepare it-a simple grid with my name marked at the front of the classroom to keep it oriented will do. Divide the chart down the middle with a bold line, equal numbers of students on teach side. Then the test begins: I call on one student from one side to ask a discussion question of another student who I call on from the other side. They each are allowed a flexy maximum of 1 minute to ask or answer as their case may be. I write a score for language proficiency for each questioner and answerer onto the seating chart at their respective places. After everyone on one side has asked one question and everyone on the other side has correspondingly answered one question, they swap rolls-I now call on each person, one at a time, from the other side to ask a discussion question from someone on this side. Try to pair the advanced students with the advanced, the intermediate with the intermediate, and the beginners with the beginners. Thus each student gets two marks, one for asking a question and one for answering a question. It kind of drags out, but with 24 students it works and can be done in two hours. If the topic has been beaten to death after the first half have asked their questions, then I say the floor is now open to any discussion question on any topic that they are interested in, from the news, about life, anything, including of course our original topic if anyone still has a burning question that hasn't been asked yet. If their question is a short answer question I have them ask another that is more discussion inviting. I remind them that the purpose is not to quiz each other but to ask questions that invite communication of ideas, not facts, and that their purpose is to demonstrate to me their communicative proficiency in speaking English. If a question is not understood I have it repeated, or even paraphrase it myself if need be. I average each student's question score with his answer score to obtain his score. It has worked. Does drag a little with so many students patiently waiting their turn. I try to keep everyone listening by telling them that they may not repeat any question that has already been asked and therefore must listen carefully to each question. I find this test procedure not ideal, yet practical and easier on me and the students than the 3 minute speech procedure.

 

Testing speaking

by Linell Davis

 

I do not usually teach speaking, but when I do I use a testing method somewhere between Roger's hard and easier methods.

 

A week before, give the students a list of about 5 topics that will be on the test. They might be related to but not the same as discussion topics you used in the course. I used things like coping with study problems, maintaining health, preparing for work, etc., but you can use anything. Then tell the students that in the test they will have a dialogue on one of the topics with a partner.

 

When the students arrive in pairs for their test, they draw a slip of paper from a box to determine the topic they will discuss. Each pair has 10 minutes to prepare their dialogue while the previous pair is being tested. This procedure prevents memorization but gives students an opportunity to prepare. The test is 5 minutes and I use two or three minutes to give the pair feedback. This encourages them to set personal goals for improving their speaking ability. The teacher is the observer and evaluator, so it is not so tiring.

 

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