ESL Placement Test

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ESL Placement Test

Post by ojaeger » Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:52 pm

Hello, I am an ESL Administrator at the community college in Pennsylvania. Needless to say, I test numerous of new ESL students on daily basis. Our college uses ESL Compass Test (Reading, Listening, and Grammar) accompanied by an essay question that students are asked to answer afterwards. While the Compass test provides us with pretty accurate results that we use for determination and placing students in certain classes, the writing portion of the test often frustrates us rather than helps. When the department came up with the prompts to use, we thought it would be better to ask students to write about something they know best and are most comfortable with – their families and themselves; therefore, two questions currently look like this (the students only have to respond to one):
- Our lives are always changing. One of the greatest changes is moving to a new place. Think about the changes in your life because you moved to PA. Compare your life before you moved to your life here in PA. You may include topics such as your environment, your job, your school, your family, or your free time.
- We often find that we are similar to our friends or to people in our families. Think of one friend or a family member; compare ways that the two of you are alike and the ways in which the two of you are different. You may include areas such as looks, personality, likes, dislikes, family, or jobs.
However, overtime, I realized that in cases when students score really high on the test, these essay questions do not let us see their full potential, or oppositely, let us see good writing but on the primitive level. In other words, do you think these questions should be substituted for more academic topics and more sophisticated ideas that would require students to write at their fullest strength and skill? Unfortunately, we have a lot of instances when students score high on the test, provide a good sample, but then can’t keep up with the most advanced course in the program: English for Academic Purposes, which they technically scored for. I would love to hear what you think. Should we change the questions? Should we give higher level students an opportunity to write on a more challenging level? Should we leave the things the way they are?
Thank You.

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