How to organize and conduct entry testing effectively?

How to conduct entry testing

How to conduct entry testing

03.11.2023

45
3
minutes
  • Cambridge English
  • Teaching qualifications
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Entry testing is crucial because it is the beginning of every student’s ESL journey. In order to start this journey without stress and problems, it is essential to know how to effectively conduct entry testing. This article will definitely assist every ESL professional with this task. 

Entry testing plays a distinctive and indispensable role in English language teaching and learning.

Unlike traditional assessments that measure progress and achievement, these tests serve as the foundational cornerstone of every learner's journey into the English language.

They are designed to gauge a student's initial language proficiency, provide a diagnostic snapshot of their abilities, and inform us, as teachers, about the most suitable starting point for their instructional journey. 

In this article, we will look at the significance, goals, and strategies for administering entry tests in ELT, as well as their role in shaping language learning experiences for both students and teachers.

What is entry testing?

An entry test is a set of tasks assigned to students before the start of the course. The aim of such testing is to evaluate their prior knowledge and possible gaps. 

These findings will help us to find the most suitable class for the student and make the start of the course less stressful and much more effective and enjoyable due to the right level of materials and topics difficulty.

Why is it crucial to conduct entry testing correctly?

Entry testing should not be underestimated, as it basically makes pre-settings for  the course that may help to predict possible complications and even avoid them. 

Also, as the main goal of entry testing is to assess the current student’s skills  and knowledge, it surely helps with defining the difficulty of the course that will be taken. 

Normally, entry testing is based on the CERF criteria; therefore, after taking such a test, the level of language proficiency is defined.

More on CERF requirements

What are the fundamentals of successful entry testing?

As we can see, conducting entry testing is a pretty responsible task that  requires a reasonable and well-balanced approach. 

Here are some basic principles that every ESL teacher should take into the account:

  1. Entry testing has to be valid. All tasks must be designed in accordance with CERF requirements so that the assessment is valid and can be checked and compared with the requirements. 
  2. Entry testing is supposed to be reliable. It has to clearly represent student’s knowledge and skills. For instance, if the teacher is not sure whether any cheating has occurred during the testing process, the results can be called reliable.
  3. Entry testing must be fair and ethical. All the participants must have the same conditions and tasks. Students can’t be asked the things they are not supposed to know (for example, you can’t ask a 6-grade student the things you learn with your 9-grade students, this test won’t be representative). The time limits have to be realistic. 
  4. Entry tests  need to be accurately planned and reviewed before actual entry testing starts. 

How to develop effective entry testing?

Once you have decided on conducting the entry testing, you need to start a rather long and challenging preparation process. Naturally, you need to start with materials.

Plan the test

Think of the content of the entry testing. Take into account the age, previous background and aims of potential test-takers. 

Provide students with the tasks that  give a clear representation of the skills in every field of study. 

Calculate the amount of tasks and the time that will be appropriate for completing them. 

Plan how many points students get or lose when they answer the questions. 

Think of  an effective design

As soon as you have outlined the core of the test, try different versions of the tasks placement. Think carefully about the sequence of tasks. 

The test usually starts with the reading or listening activity and ends with the writing. Start with easier tasks and gradually move to more difficult ones. 

In this way, the weaker students won’t be demotivated and upset right away and will stay focused.

Common questions on entry testing

Try your test out

Before presenting the test to the focus group, show it to your colleagues and collect some recommendations.

It may happen that your test will benefit from some outside professional thought

Review the materials (if necessary)

If you have found yourself doubting after getting feedback from your colleagues or if you see that you need to make some changes, take your time and eliminate all the mistakes or sources of doubt.

Make sure you carefully reread the test: the instructions have to be clear, the images – big enough and of  good quality, and the text mustn’t have any typos or ambiguity. 

The answers shouldn’t be easy, but they also shouldn’t require any niche knowledge or skills, they are supposed to be not hard to answer if the student is confident enough in the material.

What are the pre-conducting steps?

When you are ready with the content of the test, it’s time for the test paper production. Here are some of the main steps you are going to deal with:

The materials production

This is not necessarily your work, as printing is not your job. However, at this point, you need to know the number  of tests that you need in case you conduct a group entry testing, for example.

Also, you have to be ready to adjust or quickly solve some problems if they occur. For instance, the question in the test is referring to the color of the object. But it turns out that the tests can’t be printed in color. Unfortunately, this task should be quickly reshaped. 

The control of quality

Again, this stage is not something that you can control, as at this point, your test goes to administration or methodologists and is reviewed by them.

There is nothing you can do here except wait. However, you still need to be flexible in case you are asked to edit or  change something. 

What makes a good test?

The first testing attempt

Finally, when the test is ready, the best thing to do is to invite a focus group that will try to complete the test within the estimated hours.

You have to be attentive and note all the difficulties and questions that occur. Also, provide your focus group with the feedback form after, so they can share their impressions and recommendations

Review the testing process (if necessary)

If you face some difficulties or a significant amount of critique is proposed, it’s time to look through the test one more time with a new perspective on certain tasks. 

This stage could be omitted in case there is nothing to change according to the feedback provided by the focus group. 

Classroom Management Tips for ESL teachers

Be prepared for challenges with us

How to conduct entry testing?

After the most stressful stage of preparation and editing is over, you may proceed to the day X – conducting the test. 

Arrange all the venues

The place where the entry testing is going to take place should be carefully examined in advance.

You or any other responsible person needs to check the size of the room, noisiness and even shape, which is necessary for the clear visibility of all the participants. 

The place should be close to the rest rooms; it would be great if students could have a glass of water somewhere nearby as well. 

In addition, clarify whether you have any people with special needs among the test takers. If yes, make sure that all the needs will be met and the conditions are as comfortable as possible

If you need some additional tools (a computer or speakers), they  should also be carefully checked in order to avoid any technical issues.

Conduct an accurate registration process

When the students arrive, check their personal information: name, surname, age, gender etc. 

Make sure that there will be no possibility of cheating during the test: warn all the participants about the rules. 

You have a right to not admit the students who are late or can’t present all the necessary information to verify their identity.   

Send/give all the necessary materials and manage the process

Finally, it’s time to provide students with the tasks. Don’t let anyone start before all the students get their papers

If there are some special rules, like writing with a black pen only, announce them clearly and loudly. It’s also high time to announce the classroom rules in general. For instance:

  1. Participants mustn’t use any technology.
  2. Participants mustn’t speak to their peers.
  3. Students mustn’t leave the room with their papers before the estimated time.
  4. Students can’t ask questions except for cases where there are some technical or organizational issues.

Etc.

Describe a clear timeline for the work. When the students start, your only task is to manage the classroom: look carefully whether any rules are violated, assist with turning on the audio file for the listening part if necessary, and answer the questions if any.

Tips on online class management

Collect the works

As soon as the estimated time is over, you have to collect your students’ works.

There are always people who are unsatisfied with their performance (or at least they feel they could do better), so you are likely to hear some comments, questions or even requests to have more time to finish the task. 

If that  is your case, you’ll have to insist on collecting the works in the softest way possible. You can’t make any exceptions, as fairness is one of the main principles of testing.

After you collect the works, you proceed with marking and grading them. The first part can often be done by the machine, though. 

Last but not least, you will have to review the whole experience and think whether it was successful or not, what could have been done differently etc.

Conclusion

To sum up, entry testing is a pretty long and difficult process which requires time, accuracy and responsibility. If you are anxious about starting all alone, you may always join our professional community and get more help, recommendations and assistance.

There is no need to invite a focus group after the test preparation is over.

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko

    Author

    Teacher of General English & IELTS

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