Communicative Language Testing

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Teaching and testing are so closely interrelated. It is obvious that the development of different theories and approaches of language learning and teaching also affects the history of language testing. Therefore, it is common to see evolution of both language teaching and language testing.

There has been a shift from analytical to integrative approach in both language teaching and language testing falling into three stages:

❖ Grammar –translation
❖ Structural
❖ Communicative Approach

These three generations of language teaching are seen parallel to three generations of language testing. Through this shift, new ideas about language testing and new ways of evaluating the performance of language learners have emerged.

The traditional description led to the teaching and learning of formal patterns of the language and the testing of language structures and vocabulary within a discrete – point single sentence format while the elaboration of communicative competence has had a considerable impact on language testing.

Applied linguistics claimed that communicative language testing means not communicative testing of language, but the testing of communicative language. Thus, what distinguishes communicative language testing is the introduction of real – language input rather than new methodology of testing.

As far as testing grammar is concerned, grammar has always been regarded as an important area for testing learner's language proficiency. It still occupies a major position and is still present in many school examinations and even with commercially available proficiency tests. There is no doubt that this is a category to be measured when investigating an individual's performance in a language. Thus, a better understanding of the construct of grammar is needed in order to improve the ways in which grammar is tested. However, what is of great importance is the extent to which the role of grammar has to play within communicative competence.

The methods of testing grammar nowadays have been rather limited. Little attention has been given to create unique test designs for testing grammar within a communicative curriculum. Looking at commercially produced tests and available practice materials for tests, there has not much changed in them as there is not much that provides practice for testing communicative grammar communicatively.

There is a common practice to test grammatical competence through decontextualised, isolated sentence formats and discrete-point items, which still seems to hold firm in the testing practice although various models of language proficiency have been proposed which advocate the measurement of the constituent parts of language proficiency communicatively. According to some experts, such type of test is non-communicative and context independent.

As a reaction against the traditional assessment of using grammatical items divorced from the context, an alternative approach for the assessment of grammar with the notion of contextualizing items in a grammar test was introduced since testers pointed out that with isolated format there is a danger of testing an ability to do particular type of test rather than an ability to use the language. Other attempts to move away from discrete-point, decontextualised test items assessing grammatical competence include a variety of test formats. These tests measure grammatical competence within the framework of testing global language skills like speaking and writing, and listening and reading. There are views that a test of grammar has to be administered through some medium. Since most of grammar tests are in written form, the test-taker have to read in order to be able to respond to the grammar test items. This caused then the emergence of integrative tests. These integrative tests are often used as instruments for measuring one's knowledge of 'the rules in use' in a specific...
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