Making life easier when testing your learners

02-Apr-2012

Before learners enter your classroom they often undergo a placement test that helps your institution find the right level and course for them. Some institutions offer a paper and pen test followed by an interview, others rely on students’ self-evaluation.

When faced with large numbers of learners, placement tests become an issue, especially with regard to the time you need to set aside for them. At my institution we dealt with large numbers of potential new customers who came to sit a placement test after work. Our opening times included two afternoons until 7pm. After 5pm we had to cater for long queues of people who had left their office early in order to come and see us. They would sit a paper and pen test in a room set aside for it, then return to the office and queue again to speak to a member staff of who would mark the test, check their speaking skills and go through the list of courses suitable for them. This setup caused a lot of stress for all involved, was not customer-friendly and appeared rather outdated.

As a result, we were looking for a test that would
•    help our teachers reduce their time set aside for testing
•    lead to reliable results
•    provide easy access and thus
•    increase the service offered our learners.

Opting for online testing was the obvious choice, and we haven’t looked back since. We introduced an online placement test, advertised it on our website and created an email address dedicated to the test. Potential students send an email asking for their login details, a member of staff sends them out, and they can sit the test whenever and wherever it suits them. The test result indicates their CEFR level, and learners can either look for a suitable class themselves, send us an email to ask for further details, or come to see us. Consequently, the questions we deal with during office hours have become more focused and make it easier and quicker to find the right course.

For technical reasons, placement tests so far do not include writing or speaking components. While this is a slight disadvantage I have to admit that our former paper and pen test did not include a writing component either. Compared to paper and pen tests, online placement tests offer more by including listening comprehension exercises.

Introducing online placement test has made our life much easier, has improved our service and has led to more people taking the test and thus less work booking participants out of their class into a more suitable one. It is modern and comes across as professional – why not try it out yourself?

You can find previous articles from this series below:

Using wikis in your writing lessons

Introducing Macmillan English Campus as an integral part of your face-to face teaching

The big adventure: Implementing Macmillan English Campus into your teaching

Teaching in the 21st Century

Astrid

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