Analysing a grammar or vocabulary test.

Choose a language test/alternative language assessment task that is suitable for the assignment


  1. Focus your reading on assessing the relevant macroskill: the Cambridge series “Assessing …….” are a good place to start.

Ensure that you have read and used relevant, recent and credible sources.


  1. Analyse the test/alternative language assessment that you have chosen.

Keep in mind the purpose of the test: what is it designed to test?   If it is a listening , grammar or vocabulary test, answer all the questions as if you were a candidate, and then compare your answers with the answer key. Consider: the number of possible answers, faulty items, ambiguous items and instructions, the absence or presence of examples, culturally inappropriate items, guessability, the test method(s) employed (selected response or constructed response), weightage of items, exactly what is being tested in each item?

For a listening test, it is also vital to examine the listening text transcript: what kind of text is this? Why was it selected? What features does it have? If there is more than one text, are they similar or different? Are different listening skills required to answer the questions on different texts? How much time is allowed for previewing questions and answering questions?

If you also have access to the recording: How many speakers? Male and/or female?What kinds of accents? Is the pacing relatively quick or slow?


If you are reviewing a speaking or writing test, carefully examine all aspects of the task that candidates are required to do, the information and task materials that candidates are given, the rating scales used and information given to raters. If you have access to the information, you would also consider the training of raters. It is important to consider the impact of the interlocutor (if it is a speaking test) and the impact of timing (if it is a writing test). Think about what the test was designed to test, and then compare this with what is actually being tested – both in the task, and the rating scales.


  1. Consider each quality of test usefulness in relation to the test you are reviewing: ensure that you have readBachman and Palmer’s (1996) Chapters 2 (Reading pack), and if you would like to go further into this, Chapter 7 (this book is on Reserve in the library).   After you are very clear about the six qualities of test usefulness, you can go to the next step.


  1. Write the purpose, description and use

Test purpose = a concise statement of exactly what the test is designed to measure

Test description:   Is it an achievement, proficiency or placement test? If it’s an achievement test, is the purpose formative or summative? What does it contain- number of items/tasks, sections? Test method- select/constructed response? Weighting?


Note: be mindful of the word limit. Further details of the test can be given in the Appendix, which is not included in the word count.


  1. Then write up each quality of test usefulness as itapplies to the specific test that you are reviewing. Ensure you clearly define each quality before you evaluate it. Use test development theory and specific examples from the test you are reviewing to support your claims.


Questions to consider: what are the strengths of the test? What is being threatened(for example, threats to construct validity), and how? What impact does this have on other qualities of test usefulness? What has research established about testing this skill by these methods? What can confidently be inferred from the test scores/performance on this test?


  1. Write the summary :Keep it concise, bringing together all the points you have made. Clearly identify the strengths and weaknesses of the test, in terms of the 6 qualities of test usefulness. Depending on what you have found in the analysis, you finish with recommendations with regard to either the test, or the use of the test.


  1. Ensure that you have included a word count, and that your assignment is within the word limit.


  1. Ensure that your References list is complete, and referencing conventions have been followed.



  1. In the Appendix of your assignment, you should include:
  • Relevant documents relating to the test. This must include the actual test paper/task sheet, answer key (for a listening, grammar or vocabulary test), transcript (for a listening test) ,rating scale (for a speaking or writing test). If you have an official description of the test or syllabus documents relating to the test and/or specifications, this should also be included.

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