Exploring examples of assessments


To apply the concepts from this unit to pick out key features of some example assessments

Approx. 20 minutes

Review key concepts

Before we continue, let’s do a quick review of the types of assessment and test we looked at a few topics ago.

TASK: Look at the assessment term on the front of the flashcard. Try to remember the meaning, then turn the card to check your understanding. There are two sets of flashcards: one for Assessment and one for Testing


TASK: Download the following assessment and read the descriptions of the context in which it is being used. Note down your responses to the following questions

Example assessment used in this scenario


  1. What is being assessed?
  2. What type of assessment is being used?
  3. Why do you think this assessment has been chosen?
  4. What factors affect the validity of this assessment?
  5. What factors might affect reliability for this assessment?
  6. What backwash might this assessment have?
  7. Can you suggest a more appropriate assessment for the context?

Assessment scenario

E works for a large company giving investment advice. She uses English daily in her contacts with clients over the telephone, in conference calls and when giving presentations. She is at upper intermediate (CEFR B2) level and has booked a short tailor-made one-to-one English course to improve her speaking skills for work. Her teacher has decided to give her this test to find out her needs at the start of the course.


  1. This test is assessing speaking skills and the ability to talk about traffic and games, sports and entertainment.
  2. This is a diagnostic test as it is being used at the start of the course to find out about the learner’s needs. It is a direct test as it is testing speaking skills through a speaking test. It can also be considered a performance test as the learner’s ability to use English is being assessed. The test has been borrowed from the IELTS speaking exam but is not being used with the IELTS marking criteria so is not an example of a benchmarked / criterion referenced test.
  3. The assessment might have been chosen for reasons of practicality as it is a readily available test which the teacher is probably familiar with the format of. It allows the teacher to hear a reasonable amount of the student’s speaking and to hear them perform a number of different speaking functions (e.g. responding to questions, giving opinions, taking a longer turn)
  4. The student wants to improve her speaking skills for work so for the test to have good validity it would probably need to focus on this (which it doesn’t!). However, the test does assess her speaking and is appropriate for her level so in this sense does have some validity.
  5. The reliability could be affected by how much time the student is given to prepare, how formal the teacher makes the assessment, or how the teacher chooses to measure the student’s performance in the test.
  6. The test might have negative backwash if the topics chosen in the test then influence the topics covered during the course (they aren’t the topics that the learner wants to focus on). If the format of the IELTS test influences the content of the course then this could also be an example of negative backwash.
  7. A better diagnostic test might be asking the student to (a) give a short presentation about her job and (b) take part in a short follow up conversation about some of the issues discussed in the presentation. This would have greater validity as it would be assessing the areas that the student wishes to focus on.