So, you have a student to teach. It’s time to find out what the student needs to improve his or her English. It’s time to fully understand the students level and needs. The main goal is to help the student better understand others and speak with confidence in the English language. A seven point English student assessment should be mandatory for all students.
Please note that this assessment is for students who have previously studied English. Obviously, if a student has never studied English, he or she is a beginner. No testing is needed.
If a student is able to accomplish a score of 60% or higher on an elementary test, you are most likely looking at an Elementary level student. If the student is able to achieve a score higher than 80%, you may be looking at a pre-intermediate student. You will never be sure until you have assessed a student carefully.
Accurate level assessment is crucial to determine what is best for the student. The following are guidelines developed over the past nine years while teaching English in Ukraine. This is just a guide. You may want to modify it to suite your needs.
The individual conducting the assessment should speak in English only. Watch the students reactions when you speak. Sit across from the student while you review the test. Don’t be afraid to ask the student to what degree does he or she understand your English.
If a student understands less than 50% of your spoken English, this is the first indicator that the student is most likely elementary. If the student understands something closer to 75% of your English, he or she may or may not be elementary. A further assessment is needed. If the student understands all of your English, the odds are the student is pre-intermediate or above.
In general, most publishers agree there are six levels of English for learners of a second language. Those would be “Beginner”, “Elementary”, “Pre-intermediate”, “Intermediate”, “Upper-intermediate” , “Advanced”. You may also want to refer to the “Cambridge English Scale” It ranges from “A-1” to “C-2” beginner to advanced, there are five levels.
The Seven Point English Student Assessment.
Point #1: Review the students grammar test item by item. Discuss with the student grammar points, answers and related facts. Look for key areas of knowledge and grammar elements. Clearly, if a student fully understands the verb “To Be” the student is not lower Elementary.
Point #2: Ask the student to read prepared common English vocabulary starting with the letters “Th”, “V”. “W”. Five words each will do. As the student reads, listen carefully to the students pronunciation. It is common for at least one of the sounds to be mis-pronounced. The “Th” sound can often be pronounced as a…. “W”, “V” or “Z”. Listen carefully to the “V” and “W” sound. These are often reversed when spoken by Ukrainian and Russian language speakers. It is a good idea to watch the students lips carefully as he or she reads the text.
Note; If a student has difficulty pronouncing one or more of the above sounds, this should be the students first homework assignment. Ask the student to practice just one sound the first week at home. Look for progress with your student in the next few lessons taught. When the student begins pronouncing the practice sound correctly, congratulate the student and look for other habits the student may have formed while studying English in the past.
Point #3: Ask the student to read prepared words with the silent “R”. The silent “R’ is usually at or near the end a word. This is called Rhoticity. The main idea here is to see if the students pronunciation is a strong or heavy British English pronunciation. Some students prefer British and some prefer American English. Ask the student which is more important to him or her. I usually tell the student that when the “R” is completely silent, it is sometimes difficult for others to understand. It’s always a good idea to try and pronounce a soft “R”. That way, just about everyone will understand you.
Point #4: Ask the student to recite the alphabet. This can be done by simply reading or without written text at all. The main idea here is to observe proper pronunciation and fluency. If a student struggles to read the alphabet or recite without errors, it is clear that the student is not above a pre-intermediate level. If the student is able to recite the alphabet readily without reading from text and without mistakes, the student may be pre-intermediate or above. Ask the student to read numbers one to twenty. Again, if the student is able to read fluently without interruption, the students is most likely above the elementary level. Look for numbers “13” and “30” while listening for the “Teen” and “Tee” pronunciation.
Note: Review the students ability to perform all of the above. If the student struggles with difficulty the above tasks, he or she is most likely no higher than pre-intermediate or possibly an “A2” on the Cambridge English scale. Further testing may be needed if you are not sure.
Point #5; Ask the student to read a short passage in any Elementary or pre-intermediate book. Remember the higher the level of English, the more difficult words become to read and comprehend. Watch for fluency, pronunciation, word stress, intonation and punctuation’s. Does the student understand the difference between the pronunciation of a verb or noun or adjective? Clearly, if a student struggles to read a few words at the elementary level, most likely, the student is a candidate for elementary study.
Point #6: Ask the student to read examples of short form or contractions. Examples like: It’s, he’s, she’s, we’re, they’re etc, Again, look for fluency and pronunciation. If the student is able to recite short form correctly without error, most likely, the student is not elementary. If the student struggles to pronounce short forms correctly, continue your seven point English assessment.
Point #7: Ask the student a few simple questions like: “What’s your name?” If the student answers with one word instead of repeating your question, your student is most likely not elementary. Ask a few more questions to be sure of your evaluation. Simple questions like: “When was the last time you formally studied English?”. “What level did you study?”. Explain to the student the various levels of English and ask how the student feels about their level. The student may have already considered his or her level. It’s possible a student is able to speak without too much difficulty but, would like to review previously studied level. This is okay if it is the students request. Be sure to monitor the students progress and watch for signs of boredom.
Proper level seven point English assessment is absolutely necessary for all students unless they have never studied English before. The exception to this is a student who clearly can’t speak English, but studied it in school. If this is the case, do not advise the student to study at beginner.
If the student has a basic knowledge of English, he or she is not beginner. Only a person who has never studied English in their lifetime should be considered a beginner. If a student knows some basic English, to study at beginner will be boring and monotonous.
The main purpose of this seven point English assessment is two fold. Proper assessment is to help evaluate a students level of English and secondly to identify a students habits from the past.
You can help your student even before you have begun to teach his or her first lesson. This can help create a solid relationship and build confidence. Helping a new student speak and better understand English can be the start of a professional relationship between the teacher and student.
If after assessing your student, you are still not sure of a students level, two or three lessons with a qualified teacher will usually determine where the student should study.
A great school and teacher would never allow a student to study at a level that is boring or monotonous for the student. A great teacher will always make sure that the student reaches up and not down.
In later articles, I will discuss currently available popular language learning resources. Please note that there are many publishers and books published with various editions and levels. Most private language schools in Ukraine favor using certain publications.