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SKOLA English in London Testing: How and Why?

This article explains how we test our students and the logic behind the process.

Regents University
This is a picture of SKOLA Regents Park

How do we test?

We test online before the start of the course. We send the parent of the student a grammar and writing test for their child to complete. Parents are told of the importance of the student completing the work independently.

The parent and student will have an interview with a teacher or the Director of Studies online over Zoom. The interview will help SKOLA understand the motivation for attending our summer school. Then we can adjust to the wants and needs of our students.

After the short interview questions, the student will have a speaking test.The students writing and grammar scores will be compared to their spoken level. This will give an understanding of their working level.

Why do we test before the course?

Testing in person and in groups takes a long-time. Many summer schools can take up to a day to test their students. We believe this is too long. It is boring for the students and teachers. Last year, our testing averaged one hour. This is still too long because the first day is important for the students to settle into the summer.

So we have moved our testing online and before the summer. So during the summer, students have more time learning and teachers have more time teaching.

What is our test?

Motivation to Learn English: our test includes questions that ask parents and students about their motivation to learn English. Studies show motivation plays an important role in language learning (Dornyei, 2009). Motivated learners are more likely to be successful in their language studies (Guilloteaux & Dornyei, 2008).

Motivation is related to a person's goals, beliefs, attitudes, and values. So, by asking our students about their motivation to learn English the test assesses the psychological factors that influence a learner's language acquisition. We use this information to adjust the course to the interest of our students. Also this offers us lots of data to better understand the learning needs of our students.

Speaking: our test weights the speaking part more than the other parts. Speaking is a critical component of language learning, and studies have shown that speaking practice is essential for developing speaking skills (Bachman & Palmer, 1996). The ability to speak fluently and accurately is often the primary goal of language learners. So, by giving more weight to the speaking part, the test evaluates a student's ability to communicate effectively in English. Furthermore, majority of our studies come from countries where their educational system offers them the theory behind English. For example, grammar rules. But they lack the practical skills, such as communicating in English (speaking).

Online Format: our test is conducted online over Zoom. Online language tests have become increasingly popular due to their convenience and accessibility. However, the online format can also pose challenges, such as technical difficulties, distractions, and lack of face-to-face interaction (Lu & Bao, 2021). But we have found that since lockdown, children have became more knowledgable with the online world. Students are also less worried when being tested online, in the comfort of their own homes. When we test in person, students can become very nervous. So students taking tests online are less likely to be nervous.

In conclusion, English language ability tests are essential for assessing a student's language proficiency and ensuring that they are placed in appropriate classes. The science and psychology behind such tests are complex and multifaceted, and factors such as motivation, speaking skills, and online adaptability all play a crucial role. By understanding these factors, teachers and administrators can create tests that accurately evaluate a student's language abilities and provide effective language instruction.

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  • Bachman, L. F., & Palmer, A. S. (1996). Language testing in practice: Designing and developing useful language tests. Oxford University Press.

  • Dornyei, Z. (2009). The psychology of second language acquisition. Oxford University Press.

  • Guilloteaux, M. J., & Dornyei, Z. (2008). Motivating language learners: A classroom-oriented investigation of the effects of motivational strategies on student motivation. TESOL Quarterly, 42(1), 55-77.

  • Lu, X., & Bao, W. (2021). Designing and validating online language tests. In C. Chapelle, A. Enright, & J. Hegelheimer (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Language Testing (pp. 383-396). Routledge.

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