An oral test is the best way to evaluate a student’s linguistic ability. It allows the teacher to establish what the student’s level of understanding and use of the English language really is; it does not just take into account what they know, but how they know it.
In a written test, it is not possible to discern whether the correct answers have been attained as the result of knowledge, intuition or luck; or if the student took 30 seconds or 10 minutes to answer the questions.
The oral test consists of a series of questions in ascending order of difficulty and grammatical complexity. Each question, including those which are apparently banal, is designed in such a way to allow the teacher to evaluate the student’s ability to use certain vocabulary, constructions, tenses, prepositions, etc. Because of this, it is necessary that the student gives complete answers (not a simple “yes” or “no”).
On the basis of the students’ answers, the teacher proceeds with increasingly complex questions before deciding on the correct level for the student.
The test is not an examination that the student either passes or fails; it is simply a way of analysing their knowledge of English, and to see where their strong points are, as well as their weak points.
This information reveals the student’s capacity to absorb new language points so that they can be matched with a group that will share a similar level of ability. This is very important, as we always aim to match each student with the right group for their ability.
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