Most of the EFL classes I’ve taught in the last three years in Thailand have been conversation classes. Thais, like many other nationalities, are good at English grammar but, when it comes to conversation, they’re lost. Testing EFL students in a conversation class can also be nerve-wracking, for both them and the teacher. EFL students get nervous when they know they’re going to be graded on speaking and some end up with a disastrous test result because of it. To make it easier for the teacher to test and for EFL students to not lose their nerve, I devised this simple way of doing a first in-class EFL conversation test. Try it. It really works.
The first test I administer in an EFL conversation class is a mid-term. By that point in the course, students are familiar enough with my teaching style and the course content, taking a test shouldn’t be difficult. I do preparation for the test in the class BEFORE the test class, so students have a few days or a week to prepare and practice before they are tested.
Materials Needed – Whiteboard and markers, vocabulary list, video camera and blank CDs
EFL Conversation Test – Step One
The first step is to write down 30 vocabulary words on the whiteboard. These are words already discussed in class and that students should know. Then, I put students into pairs. The person they are paired with is the person they will be creating a conversation with and the person they will be testing with.
EFL Conversation Test – Step Two
Now, I give the students a “Conversation Assignment” that can be created using some of the words on the whiteboard. So, for instance, if some of the words are ‘booking’, ‘reservation’, ‘plane’, ‘train’ and ‘executive suite’, I will give an assignment where the students have to create a 2 minute conversation about booking a plane or trip trip followed by making a reservation in a hotel.
Once they have been given the assignment, each pair has to choose at least 6-10 words from the 30 words on the board, and incorporate those into the conversation they are creating.
EFL Conversation Test – Step Three
Students are given time in class to work with their partner to create a 2-minute conversation on the subject assigned. I walk around the class giving suggestions, helping with vocabulary and grammar and making corrections when I hear my students saying something incorrect.
EFL Conversation Test – Step Four
After about 30 minutes, all students should have finished creating the conversation. Each pair now does a role play of their conversation in front of the class. I ask other students in the class to listen for any mistakes they hear so that they can be corrected when the pair has finished. Corrections are made after each pair acts out their conversation and then we move onto the next pair. By the end of class, each pair should have acted out their conversation and been corrected, so that the conversation they have for their test is almost perfect.
EFL Conversation Test – Step Five
Students should practice their conversation with their partner during the time available before the ‘test class’ (mine usually have at least 5 days between the preparation class and the class in which they will take the test).
On the day of the test, I set up a video camera on a tripod in another room and, one by one, each pair comes into the room and performs their conversation and is video taped. It’s up to you whether you allow notes or not. For my lower level students, I allow them to use notes the first time, in subsequent tests I do not. For higher level students they should be able to have a short conversation easily so…….no notes.
EFL Conversation Test – Step Six
Once every pair has been video taped, we congregate back in the classroom and watch the videos. Students love it as they get to see themselves on the ‘big screen’. I stop the video every time there’s a glaring error and explain to the pair what they should say next time.
EFL Conversation Test – Step Seven
Finally, before the next class, I make a CD for each student with their video-taped test on it and give it to them along with a grade sheet showing them the grade for that test and any grammar or vocabulary mistakes they made (Make sure you praise them more than criticize though as, if too much criticism, it can damage their self-esteem and their performance is worse during the next test).
This is such an easy way to administer an EFL conversation test, yet students love it and it actually ends up being a lesson plan for the teacher for two classes so not too much work for a fun class and EFL test.