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Elvis Testley's Guide to Group Testing

So, you need to give a standardized test to a small army of students and are not quite sure how to manage? Luckily, Elvis Testley can help! If you follow the guidelines outlined below, your assessment experience should be safe and sane, and a whole lotta fun.

The Testing Climate:

When you are conducting any kind of formal testing in the classroom, you need to set a tone or climate that lets students know that things are different. The relaxed atmosphere usually enjoyed in everyday learning must be suspended to ensure that correct testing procedures are followed. It might be difficult for you to make the transition from teacher to test administrator, and students, in turn, may feel that the normal rules of the classroom should still apply (for example, students may leave the room at will, employ cooperative learning techniques, take notes, use dictionaries, etc.). To help facilitate the switch from classroom to test room, you need to explain to students well in advance of the test day what will be occurring, why it is happening, and what will be different regarding classroom behavior. Tell the students that you will be absent on the day of testing, and in your place, a testing official who looks exactly like you will be in to give a test. This official will be following very strict rules and will not accept any behavior that is not in keeping with these rules. If you warn students about what is going to occur, they will expect things to be different and respond accordingly.

Pre-Testing Preparations

A safe and sane testing experience is very much like brain surgery insofar as you wouldn't want to attempt either endeavor without first securing the proper supplies and making necessary preparations. How confident would you feel if your doctor wasn't sure where s/he had placed the scalpel, or wasn't entirely certain about which procedure was being performed? Our students deserve no less than a surgeon's approach in the way of test preparedness. Formal assessment is, under the best conditions, a bit anxiety producing for all involved, and if you are seen by your class as uncertain or ill equipped, that vibe is going to get communicated to the students.

Depending on the type of test you are giving, your list might differ, but basically, the following are considered necessary items for testing:

The Test Booklets
Administrative Packet
Answer Sheets
Tape Recorder

It's not enough to gather these materials two minutes before class begins. You need to study the directions for the test you'll be giving well in advance so that you might anticipate any problems. You also need to make necessary security checks. All tests issued from the Teachers Resource Center are numbered and packaged. It is your responsibility to count the tests to ensure that they are all accounted for before you use them. You also need to make a quick check to be sure that the tests are in usable condition (i.e. no pencil or teeth marks, etc.). Finally, the tests should be in numerical order when you get them. This will facilitate easy distribution/collection during the actual testing. If, heaven forfend, there is something amiss in your checking of the test package, you need to report it to your local Test Coordinator or Campus Coordinator immediately. Otherwise, you will be held accountable for damaged tests..

Before Students Arrive

On the day of testing, you need to make special arrangements. This includes furniture moving! On a non-testing day, your classroom is probably very user-friendly, with desks and tables scattered about willy-nilly.

On the day of testing, however, you need to rearrange the desks into long rows. This will make it easier for you to get to students who need help and also discourage cheating. Moving the desks around also signals students that this is not just another class lesson; something special is going on.

When Students Arrive

As students enter the classroom on testing day, you should monitor where they sit, and, if necessary, move them around. You know those small groups of students that like to sit together and share all sorts of information? Break them up! Don't forget, you aren't the regular 'ole cooperative learning happy-go-lucky normal teacher; you are AN OFFICIAL TESTER. Take advantage of your status and move people around to best suit a safe and sane testing environment.

Your first instruction, once students are seated, should be that everything be removed from desktops and placed on the floor under the desk. Don't skimp on this one; you oughta be able to conduct the white glove test on those clean desktops! Explain to your class that they are going to take a test, and remind them that, once the proceedings begin, nobody will be allowed to leave the room for any reason. (Sometimes at this point, I allow students to run out to get a sip of water or use the facilities. Use your discretion on this, but, if you let them go, be sure to tell them to come back!) If you have students who usually leave class early to go to work, etc., make arrangements for them to take the test with another teacher at another time and excuse them from the room. Once this discussion is concluded, everyone is in place and the testing is set to start, the doors to the classroom should be closed, and any late comers turned away (it might help to put a sign on the door telling students not to enter).

Distributing Answer Sheets and Tests:

At this point, you are ready to pass out the answer sheets and pencils. You need to have students write specific information on the answer sheets, so you need to make sure that this process is carefully monitored. On the answer sheets, have students fill in the necessary information. You might want, depending on the level, to use an overhead to help students understand what to write on the answer sheet. You also will need to visit each individual desk to make sure that the information is complete and legible. Once the scantron information is filled in, you are ready to pass out the test booklets. Before you do this, you need to explain to students that each test booklet has a number on it (in the upper-right corner), and the students will be asked to write that number in the space on the answer sheet. Tell students that this is the City College Test Security System at work. Since they are responsible for the test book they use, students are asked to write the number of the test booklet on their answer sheet. Tell students that many students have to use the same test booklets and that they are expensive to produce ("Do you think City College is rich?" No, we don't have money to replace tests when students write in them.") Tell them that, right after class, you will be going through the test booklets very carefully to make sure that none is marked in, or missing. If you find a booklet that has been damaged, the first thing you're going to ask yourself is, "Who did this?" Luckily, you'll be able to find out since you can trace the test number back to the student via the answer sheet. I always get very dramatic at this part of the speech to drive home the point: "So, I will look for the person's name on the answer sheet, and then, when I find out who the person is... Well, you might hear a knock at your door very early in the morning, and it will be the TESTING POLICE!"

Once you have terrorized your students about the dangers of writing in the booklets, you can begin handing them out. Pass out the booklets in numerical order, and as you place a booklet on each student's desk, call out the number in a voice loud enough for all to hear. This alerts students to the fact that you are handing out the booklets in an orderly fashion, and, has the added bonus of creating a sort of game in which students can anticipate which booklet number they will receive and can get ready to write the number in the box on their answer sheet. Of course, you will have warned students not to open their test booklets, but, as you are passing them out, it will be helpful to repeat this mandate more than once. Your monologue will sound something like:

"Number one, number two, number three, remember, don't open your test booklets; just write the number.. number four, number five, do NOT open your booklets yet... number six, number seven, HEY, don't open your test booklets!"

After you've passed out the booklets, go back around and check each answer sheet to ensure that the number has been written in the correct space. Then, take any extra booklets and place them back in the administrative envelope and put the envelope in your desk drawer or in your briefcase (i.e. do not leave it sitting out).

Taking the Test:

At this point, you are ready to go over practice items. For the reading tests, follow the directions printed at the beginning of the test. For the listening test, all the directions are on the tape (see test descriptions elsewhere on this website). Take the time to make sure that all students understand what they need to do. Remind students that if they finish early (this is for the Reading tests), they can either: a) go over their answers; or b) put their heads on their desks and sleep. They may not leave, or pull out homework or other materials to work on.

For the Reading tests, put the start and finish times on the chalkboard and signal students to begin. For both Reading and Listening tests, It's important that you visit every student within the first few minutes of the exam to make sure that everyone is marking their answer sheets correctly, not marking the test booklets, etc. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the classroom. Also, do not assume that this would be a good time to catch up on paperwork! You need to be totally attentive to the testing process. Sure, it will be a bit boring to circle around the room playing assessment cop, but, that's exactly what the job requires! Take this time to find that elusive Zen of testing!

Collecting Tests and Answer Sheets:

When the test is over, ask students to close their test booklets and put their pencils down. You are very likely to discover selective listening to this particular directive, so be prepared to repeat it often as you zoom around the room collecting stuff.

First, collect the answer sheets. Students might be trying to compare answers at this point, so you need to move swiftly up and down rows grabbing those scantrons. After you've collected the answer sheets, collect the test booklets. Again, collect the books in numerical order (i.e. do NOT have students pass them up to the front of their rows!). Go to each desk, pick up the booklet, and call out the number. This way you'll be able to keep track if a booklet is missing. While this is all going on, you need to tell students (firmly, if necessary) that the test is not finished yet. Students absolutely may not get out of their desks until all of the materials are collected and secure.

Once you've collected the test booklets, put them in the administrative envelope, and, again, place them out of sight. Lastly, collect your pencils. At this point, students may be excused.

Returning Materials:

After testing, you need to return the package of tests immediately to the designated spot (chances are another teacher will need the tests within the hour). Then, use the answer key included in your administrative package to grade the tests. The Test Results Sheet then needs to be filled out with the students' names and scores, as well as final placement for the coming semester. Make a copy of this sheet for your records and then put the original back in the administrative package, along with the answer key, and return this package to the designated place.

Other Important Stuff:

Students will probably want to know their scores on the test. You may certainly tell them how they did, but, under no circumstances should you go over any of the test questions with students. Also, and this seems silly to say, but you'd be surprised at what has happened, do not photocopy the test for yourself, your students, or your second cousin. Be sure you read and follow that little line printed on each test booklet: DO NOT REPRODUCE IN ANY MANNER.

To avoid allowing students to test more than once, you are encouraged to get together with the other teachers at your level and coordinate where shared students will test. The Results Sheet included in your administrative package can be a handy tool for informing colleagues how shared students scored on the tests.


Hopefully, this webpage has provided you with the information necessary to have a safe and sane testing experience. Assessment is a vital component in the ESL department's curriculum, and your careful use of tests and thoughtful analysis of the results garnered should prove meaningful to the decisions you make about student promotion.

Finally, if you feel that, in spite of the hints and suggestions offered herein, you will need assistance with giving the promotion tests to your students, please do not hesitate to ask for help. Your Campus Coordinator and Campus Test Coordinator are available to help explain things, get a proctor to assist you, etc. All you need to do is ask!

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