5 Expert Language Testing Tips for Teachers & Students
Thursday, May 03, 2018 by David Bong
By following these tips from some of Avant’s expert raters, students can feel more confident going into their language proficiency tests this spring.
Nobody knows what success looks like on a language proficiency test better than Avant’s team of expert raters – those who have experienced thousands of student responses. They know what to look for and how to judge true proficiency.
As hundreds of thousands of students prepare to take their language proficiency assessments in schools across the country this spring, we have asked our expert raters to share their best tips to help those students. Whether you are a teacher in Portland, Oregon getting ready to administer a Somali language test, or a student hoping to receive the Massachusetts Seal of Biliteracy for the first time, you can use these tips to succeed.
Maury Ennis, Avant’s Rating Manager, instructs her raters to look for pieces of evidence that verify that the student has presented enough language to create a “bigger picture”.
Teachers can encourage students to push the boundaries of where they are in their language creation by showing them how to create that bigger picture. There are a variety of ways you can do this. It is more than just adding vocabulary words to their response. Students can add a variety of details and complex language which helps create a more complete response.
Liz Farnsworth, a Spanish rater agrees. “If a student can tell a cohesive story and use different tenses correctly, they will be well on their way to receiving a high score.”
Help students understand how to create an organized response.
Rachel, a German rater, says, “In order to score at advanced levels 7 or 8, responses need to be organized.” Students need to prove that they can talk about several aspects of the prompt in detail using some specific, topic-related vocabulary.
For example, if the prompt asks them to explain their feelings about current events, the students should write an introduction stating their opinion, with a few sentences supporting it, followed by a few more sentences offering an alternative perspective. Students should end with a solid conclusion. Advanced vocabulary and transition words and phrases creating a cohesive flow should be present to tie the response together.
For the written language section, many raters say that it is helpful for students to read their written responses aloud after they have written them down. Doing this can help the student identify errors, as well as provide opportunities to improve a sentence or add further detail.
Kristine Fuler, an English rater, encourages students to “speak clearly” during speaking assessments. It is important for students to take the time to listen to their response to ensure that they are satisfied with their recording before hitting the submit button.
Kathy MacArthur, a French rater suggests that when a student feels they do not have vocabulary specific to the prompt, they should not panic. There may be a variety of ways to answer the questions in the prompt. The student should be encouraged to put forth their best effort to focus on the parts of the prompt that they can address. They should be bold and respond using the vocabulary that they do know.
If your students keep these tips in mind, they will be well on their way to not only an excellent rating, but to building strong, real-world language skills that can benefit them for a lifetime.
Click here to learn more about Avant Advance, which trains language teachers in proficiency standards the same way we train our raters.