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Delta Module One Course


Syllabus area 6
Key concepts and terminology related to assessment


This section of the syllabus covers these three areas and you should be able to:

  • Classify the purposes of assessment
  • Relate key principles of assessment to classroom assessment
  • Critically evaluate widely used types of assessment

To be able to do this you need a knowledge of assessment.  The main guide on this site is devoted to the area and there is little point in repeating its contents here.
You should, however, follow it carefully, especially if assessment is an area you know little about, and then return to this page to try some tests of your knowledge.  Click here to open the guide in a new tab.


An overview of what you need to know

Testing and assessment is a technical area requiring design, mathematical and psychological skills, some of which are beyond the brief (or interests) of many teachers who have no ambition to become designers of public examinations or generic international or national tests.
Nevertheless, expert teachers constantly assess and evaluate their learners' abilities by, for example, listening to them, reading what they write or constructing progress tests of one kind or another.  It is not an exaggeration to say that a teacher's ability to evaluate learners' abilities is a factor without which little effective teaching and learning will take place.
A basic understanding of key concepts such as formative vs. summative testing, formal vs. informal testing, validity, reliability and practicality is essential for any teacher.
In addition, of course, the ability to construct good questions in the classroom and effective, varied, targeted and valid tests of our students' abilities is essential.
The guides linked here are intended to encourage these skills and that knowledge.
All the guides open in a new tab so you can simply shut them to come back to this page when you are done.


What to avoid in the examination

The examination is not an invitation to you to write all you know about concepts such as reliability, validity, objectivity, marking schemes and so on.
You have to apply your knowledge of assessment procedures critically to the data with which you are presented and make sensible comments about the suitability or otherwise of the assessment procedures and tasks.

All of this is premised on the learner(s) for whom the test is intended.

The rubric requires you to:
    Make a total of six points. You must include both positive and negative points.
Making more than six points has two negative effects: a) it wastes your time and b) the marker will only consider the first six points you make and if they do not cover both positive and negative aspects you will not have conformed to the instruction and will lose significant marks no matter how good points 7 onward are.

You should also note that, despite the fact that this section of the syllabus is entitled, in the Cambridge Syllabus document:
    Key concepts and terminology related to assessment
(Cambridge English Delta Syllabus Specifications, page 3, emphasis added)
the report on the 2015 examination has:
    there are no longer separate marks available for the accurate use of terminology
so randomly inserting reference to validity or whatever is pointless.
Unfortunately, Cambridge's examiners' advice is contradictory here because you are also admonished to:
    explicitly state what kind of test it is ... to use the correct terminology relevant to that type of testing
and that will require you state whether the test is diagnostic, formative, summative or what.
You are also advised to ensure that you:
    understand the meaning of key testing terms, particularly backwash, fresh starts and construct validity and refer to them where appropriate
All very confusing and internally inconsistent, isn't it?
(Fresh starts, by the way, refers to whether the test-takers answers are constrained by previous tasks or whether a fairer approach is taken in which each task is independent and does not rely on a good response to a previous one.)
The advice is, therefore, that you use the terminology where you need it to make your points but do not use it without making it clear that you know what it means and do not use it inaccurately or irrelevantly.

The second thing to avoid is misreading or not reading the rubric.  This will tell what the test material is intended to achieve and it may also tell you something about the needs and characteristics of the course and the learner(s).  It is against that yardstick that you need to evaluate it.  The question does not invite you to evaluate the test items globally.


Ten things to consider when evaluating the test

Here's a list of ten criteria you might want to apply but remember that not all of them will be relevant to the examples you are given:


Now try a task.

  1. Download and print the worksheet for this task.
  2. Get hold of a copy of a test from your institution, your own records, an examination board or from a teacher's book.

  3. Apply the ten criteria (bearing in mind that they may not all be relevant to all tests).
  4. Fill in the worksheet.

In the examination, you must identify positive and negative comments.  If you only have one or the other, go back and try to be a bit more balanced.
If you return to this task after you have completed the examination preparation and done the tests for this area, you may gain even more confidence.

Syllabus areas Guides to these areas
Diagnostic, formative, summative assessment

Concepts of validity, reliability, impact and practicality

Widely available tests and purposes for which they are used
The guide to assessment
Asking good questions (a simple guide to a difficult skill)
The guide to assessing Listening Skills
The guide to assessing Reading Skills
The guide to assessing Speaking Skills
The guide to assessing Writing Skills
The guide to assessing Grammatical Competence
The guide to assessing Vocabulary

where next

Where next?

Once you have worked your way through the guides and done some research, it's time to test your knowledge in these areas and then do some revision exercises.

Here are the choices:

A set of tests to check what you can remember.  Do these first.
Revision course index there is a section of the Delta Module One Revision Course for this area of the syllabus
Examination practice apply the knowledge you have gained to practising for the examination (new tab)

index small exam practice
course index exam practice