Qualities of a Good Test
Tests are procedures for measuring ability, knowledge, or performance while testing is the use of tests, or the study of the theory and practice of their use, development, evaluation, etc.
A good test has some characteristics qualities. Traditionally tests have been designed to assign the students some grade for their work. But, ill -conceived traditional tests, as Rivers (1968) observes, "reveal what the students do not know and what they have not been taught." A good test should indicate the student's learning as well as his weaknesses. It also guides the teacher showing the effectiveness of his teaching. According to Rivers- ''each test is not an end in itself, but a means to the ultimate end of effective language mastery.'' Three most important characteristics of a good test are reliability, validity and practicality.
A test is reliable to the extent that it produces the same result under the same circumstances. Harrison (1983) says -"The reliability of a text is its consistency." If a student takes a test at the beginning of a course and again at the end, any improvement o his scope should be the result of differences in his skills and not inaccuracies in the test. According to Harrison , there are three aspects of reliability: "the circumstances in which the test is taken, the way in which it is marked and the uniformity of the assessment it makes."
A test is valid to the extent that it actually tests what it is supposed to test. Rivers (1968) says -"A valid test is one which actually tests what the designer of the test intended it to test." Lado says -"Validity is the degree to which a test measures what it claims to measure." According to Rivers, for achieving validity of a test, the teacher has to proceed through certain stages. He has to decide the objectives of the course. Then he has to decide which skill he will emphasize in particular tests. Again, testing too many aspects of a skill at a time may be misleading. For example, dictation is am auditory technique that involves writing also. The weakness of it is that a passage can be written accurately from dictation without paying much attention to the meaning of the elements dictated. Rivers suggests, '`Reading comprehension is more validly tested by selection of the correct answer from multiple choice items in the foreign language, on a reading passage.'
A teacher should test one thing at a time. He should identify the various aspects of the skill he is testing and test these one by one. For example, testing of speaking skill should not be conducted through the act of communication, such as oral interview, because it will inevitably test listening comprehension also. Thus the actual topic of tests may be overshadowed by other aspects under the same test.
Moreover, students should be tested on what they have been taught. Rivers observes that objectives and methods of foreign language learning have changed, but certain forms of tests remain the same. As a result, Number of students are being taught one way and tested in another way. For example, a traditional method of testing is passage-translation. This is inappropriate, because presently students have been taught how to use the language without conscious attention to structural manipulation. As Lado (1964) says -"Translation is a special skill different from speaking, listening, reading, and writing."
In the same way, traditional "fill-in-the-blank" type of test is ineffective because the blank can be filled up without knowing the meaning or without knowing their relationship to the whole sentence. Rivers (1968) suggests that a number of the various types of pattern drills can be converted into test items. As she says, students "may be given an outline to expand which has been structure in such a way that he is forced into using certain patterns and grammatical forms which he has practiced."
Sometimes tests are designed in such a way that instead of expecting what the students know, it reflects the expectation of a teacher. Certainly, these tests are not valid. Besides, the method of assessing the total for a test should be an appropriate on. For instance, if am assessment is based on deduction of points for student errors; a student with am incomplete answer may get more points than a student who writes completely, because the student who writer less is not in a position to make so many mistakes.
When a teacher designs a test, he should keep in his mind the image of the particular class for which he is constructing the test. Rivers suggests that the teacher should ask himself the following questions:
1 Are the instructions in the test so clear that no student can possibly misunderstand what he is expected to do?
2. Is there any ambiguity in the test items?
3. Are the tests linguistically useful?
Rivers (1968) also suggests that many aspects of foreign language learning can be tested by objective tests. As she says, "they are especially useful when it is considered desirable to test certain aspects of language skills in isolation..."objective tests are more easily and rapidly corrected. Again, more questions can be answered by students in a test period. Rivers (1968) mentions several types of objective tests such as "true-false", "multiple choice tests", fill in the blank" and "matching tests". If carefully constructed objective torts can be of great help.
A good test must have practicality. As Harrison (1983) says, "The main questions of practicality are administrative." the following questions may be helpful in this regard -
How long will the test take?
What special arrangements have to be made?
Is any equipment needed? etc.
Tests should be as economical as possible in time and in cost.
Thus, a good test must be carefully planned. Some traditional tests do not facilitate language learning. A good test must have validity, reliability and practicality. It must test only what it intends to test. Again, a test should not be puzzling for the students. It should test what the students know, what they have been taught. All these factors demand great care and responsibility on the part of the teacher.