Quite a while back I cooked up a 90 question multiple choice test to help me divide groups of between 30 and 50 people into two or four sub-groups. My test has proved to be very effective and certainly speeds up the process of dividing classes into groups.
The test attempts to assess both grammar knowledge and an individual’s ability to use commonly used English expressions and structures – use of English. It is specifically aimed at Italian learners and has a focus on so-called business English. The test takes around an hour to complete – much less if someone knows English well and more time if someone is at a lower level. While I won’t explain exactly how it works, because I would quite like to market it someday, I would like to say that it bucks the trend as far as multiple guess tests go, possibly because multiple-choice tests are not really in widespread use here in Italy.
The test also allows me to identify those who are border-line so I can carry out a short interview and is quite good at identifying people who have picked up the language through using it, rather than having studied all the rules and then gone abroad somewhere to perfect their conversational skills. I used to incorporate an extra comprehension test, but abandoned it after a while because I found that there was a high correlation between those who scored highly on the multiple choice parts and their ability to understand the spoken word. I have had some circumstances in which the results have proved to be highly inaccurate, but I can count them on the fingers of one hand. I have tested over 1200 people over the last four years, which means the accuracy is more than acceptable to me. Sometimes people do ask to be moved between groups but this is usually a reflection of their confidence and the fact that some ambitious students think that they can learn more from being in a class of higher level learners. If they have the right motivation and are not too far behind, I agree to movement between groups, but only within the first two or three lessons.
I believe that the test could become more accurate and could even be used to establish levels and progress, so if anyone out there is interested I’d be happy to discuss how it works and how it could be improved. It could easily be adapted to learners other than Italians, I reckon and it could also be modified to test either more general or more technical varieties of English. I’m sure it is not perfect, but it works very well for me – but then I did design it, so I understand how it works.