Britain…….a deceptively large island and ……surrounded by some very beautiful coastline. The south of England has popular sandy beaches, especially in the west. But the coast in the south west Wales…..a unique coastal National Park. Its beaches…… great for sunbathing and the rock pools and cliffs ……..havens for wildlife. Up in Scotland, the striking white beaches of the west coast and islands……excellent places for explorative walks.
(Discovering Britain, Pavlockij B. M., 2000)
It is evident that the teachers aim by the help of the rational cloze test is to check the students knowledge of the Present simple of the verb “to be”. Thereof, the cloze tests could be successfully used for testing grammar, as well.
We have come again to the point when we are going to mention the advantages and disadvantages of cloze and gap-filling testing coined by Weir. Regarding Weir, there are more disadvantages than advantages in applying the cloze tests. He says that to design a cloze test is fairly easy, and they are easy to evaluate, and it is the best means to check reading comprehension. Concerning the drawbacks, we can emphasise that randomly removed words usually will act as distractors and will not be of true importance for the students to comprehend a message if, for example, it is a reading task.
Compared to the cloze test, gap filling is more material based, for it checks the students knowledge of a particular topic. Therefore, we can speak about the first advantage that is the learners will know exactly what they should insert. Moreover, the selectively deleted items allow focusing exactly on them and do not confuse the student.
The last what could be said about gap filling tests is that this technique limits us to check only a certain language skill, e.g. a vocabulary on different topics.
It is worth mentioning that in the 80s German school introduced an alternative to cloze test another type of testing C-Tests. This test was based on the cloze test system; however, every second word there was deleted. It could seem quite a complicated type, though it is not. According to Weir (1990:47) in this type every deleted word is partially preserved. Thus, the students, if they possess a fairly good knowledge of the language and can activate their schemata, or background knowledge of a topic or the world, they will succeed in completing the test. Such test format could look as follows:
Cats ha…. always been surro………by superstitions. In anc……Egypt ca….were cons……. sacred, but in medi…..Europe ma….. people beli…… cats we…. witches in disgu…… A popular supers……... about ca…. is that a blac…cat, cros… your pa… from left to rig…., will bri… you bad lu…. However, in some cult….. a black ca… is thought to be a go… omen rat… than a ba… one.
(First certificate Star, Luke Prodromou, p.134)
Definitely there are advantages and disadvantages of the following test format. According to Weir, due to the frequency of the deleted items there is a great possibility to include more tested items in the test. Moreover, this test is economical. However, despite all the advantages, the test can mislead the students as it is fragmented. The examples are deprived from the context that could be very helpful for the students guessing of the missing parts.
5.5 True/False items
This test format is familiar for all the teachers and students. Each reading task will always be followed with true/false activities that will intend to check the students comprehension of a text. The students will be offered a set of statements some of which are true and some are wrong, e.g.:
- People went to see Cats because of the story. T F
- Lloyd Webbers father helped his career. T F
- Lloyd Webber comes from a musical family. T F
( Famous Britons, Michael Dean)
They usually should be ticked, and in order to tick the correct variants the students have to be able to employ various guessing strategies.
According to Weir (1990:48), the advantage of such test is found in its applicability and suitability. One can write more true/false statements for a test and use them to check the students progress or achievement. Furthermore, the current sort of testing could be more motivating for the students than a multiple-choice test. It will not make the students confused offering just one possibility than a multiple-choice test, which typically proposes more than one option to choose from. Moreover, it is easy to answer for the students and check for the teachers.
Another test format that could be applied in the language classroom is dictation. We commonly use dictations to check spelling; nevertheless, it could be applied to test listening comprehension, as well. It is obvious that to dictate something we have either to speak or read. It means that while writing a dictation the student has to be able to perceive the spoken language efficiently enough to produce in on paper. For this purpose the student will require a variety of techniques such as schemata and its application, predictions, guessing and context clues, etc. Further, it also is constrained that dictation help the students develop their abilities to distinguish between phonemes, separate words and intonation. Besides, dictations function in spoken language; thereof the students have an opportunity to learn to understand the language through listening. To conclude what has been mentioned above we can agree with Weir (1990:49) that dictations will force the students to use the variety of skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing skills.
Heaton (1990:28) advises that to enable the students comprehend successfully, the teacher need to read carefully and clearly, however avoiding slow, word for word reading. Moreover, to allow the students to check what they have written the repetition will be required. The author of the paper when giving dictations to her students had encountered the need for repetition for a number of times. The following could be explained by many factors, such as the students are not able to perceive spoken speech through listening; they are not able to elaborate various guessing, inferring of the meaning techniques or their pace of writing is simply rather slow. Thus, we entirely support the next statement claimed by Heaton that it is wise after the first reading of a dictation to ask a set of comprehension questions to make the students aware of the general idea of a text. It will simplify the process of the understanding.
Notwithstanding, even an ideal variant will definitely contain some drawbacks. The same could be applied to dictations. First, to write a dictation, the student requires a good memory. S/he has to retain information they have heard in order to display it later; moreover, the information should be identical to the original. Therefore, we can claim that the student has to recognize at least seventy-eighty per cent of what has been dictated. In that case we short-term memory should be well developed.
Apart from memory, scoring could be problematic, as well. Weir (1990:50) believes that is difficult to decide what to pay attention to: whether to evaluate spelling and grammar, or just perceived information. Thus, the teacher has to work out a certain set of criteria, as we have already mentioned that in Chapter 1, the criteria s/he will be operating with. Besides, the students should be acquainted with it, as well.
In addition, Weir (ibid.) says that dictating is more efficient if it is recorded on the tape and is delivered by a native speaker. It could mean that the students will have a chance to fell themselves in the real-life situation; for this is the actual purpose they learn the language for. The following has been expanded by Heaton (ibid.) that speaking face to face with a speaker is even more beneficial, for we can compensate the lack of understanding by his/her facial expression, gestures and movements. Listening to a cassette does not provide us with such a chance, and therefore, it is more challenging and requires more developed skills to understand a recorded message.
5.7 Listening Recall
This test format is specifically applied to testing listening skills. It differs from a dictation that it supplies the students with a printed text. However, the text is given not as the complete script of the tape. Certain words that carry the meaning load are deleted from a passage, and the students after listening to the tape are supposed to insert them. Hence, it could be related to a gap-filling test. Here the cassette is usually played for two times; first, the students listen for information and attempt to insert the missing details. The second time allows them to add what they had failed to understand at the beginning. The author of the paper had not used that as a direct test format but as a while-listening activity during her classes. According to her scrutiny the students with more advanced language abilities were able to comprehend the texts immediately, whereas the weaker students sometimes could not manage to understand the message even listening for the tape for the third time. That again proves the significance of usage of pre-, while and post-listening activities in the language classroom. Weir (ibid.) states that such type of testing involves the students short-time memory, which they need to switch