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However, a product of this stage involving such four crucial things as students’ profile of language ability, construct/ability to be measured, sets of test tasks in the TLU domain and a plan for test quality evaluation, as described in 4.1.1, has never been produced and presented to the teachers as a principled basis or guidelines for the other two stages. This undoubtedly indicates that the first stage of oral test development at TNU is far from being consistent with the theoretical framework reviewed in 2.3.1 – Chapter 2. As a result, this big mismatch leads to the staff’s improper practices in the other two stages.

  • Test Operationalization Process

Apart from the mismatch between practice and theory at this institution mentioned above, a remarkably essential fact shown in Table 4.1 is that the Department and English Section have not provided any specific guidance, i.e. a blueprint, for speaking test construction process, namely (1) the number of test tasks to be included in a speaking test, and (2) specifications of each test task. These two factors are critically analysed respectively.

Firstly, as previously discussed, an achievement test of speaking skill is a means of eliciting students’ progress in overall speaking ability after a course of study, yet most of the achievement speaking tests in use at TNU can be asserted to fail to serve this purpose because they make use of merely one type of oral test or one test task – Tests where the learner prepares in advance (Tables 4.2) - combined with only one elicitation technique - Oral Report (Table 4.3). This is partially because no blueprint is presented. Underhill (1987) points out that an oral test rarely consists of only one elicitation technique but it is usual that it involves several techniques placed in a sequence. The reasons he provides for including more than one technique in an oral test are as follows

  1. It is more authentic to use a mix of techniques, with the learner doing different things with the language....
  2. An oral test that consists only of Question and Answer, for example, will naturally favour learners who are good at answering questions....
  3. To help improve the consistency of assessment, a change of tasks during a test can be used as an opportunity to swap interviewers and so combine multiple tasks with multiple assessment....
  4. A live test with several different parts is more flexible and can be adapted quickly to meet changing circumstances or different needs....

(Underhill, 1987, p.38)

Probably, such test tasks have been carefully discussed in class, and the students are expected to produce ‘well-prepared’ talk, even predictable questions can also be prepared in advance. Of course, ‘the task(s) on which the student has to perform may be generally familiar in form to the student, but the student cannot ‘prepare’ a written version of what he will say’ (Brown&Yule, 1983, p.120). He must prove to the assessors that in his test performance he has learned to use, not to repeat, what he has been taught. What we as examiners want to know when testing a students is not whether the students has learned what to have been taught, but whether he is able to produce an extended piece of spoken English appropriate to the communicative situation he encounters (Brown&Yule, 1983, p.120).

Questions & Answers

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