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Standardized Tests vs. Teacher Made Tests 1.

Introduction Tests generally share some common goals; measuring what students know and can do, improving instruction, and helping students achieve higher standards. The main goal of testing is, however, to obtain valid, reliable, and useful information concerning students achievement. This means that not all language tests are of the same kind. In other words, language tests are categorized into two types: standardized tests and teacher-made tests. 2. Standardized Test A standardized test is the one which has been developed from tryouts and experimentation to ensure that it is reliable and valid. 2.1. Characteristics of a Standardized Test 1. It is considered an economical, reliable, and valid assessment in determining whether someone can enter, continue or exit institutions such as school, university, business, and government. The tests usually use multiple-choice format tests. 2. According to Psychometrics, such tests cover only a narrow band of specialized intelligence, like Toefl or IELTS. 3. The content of standardized test is decided by the curriculum; it follows the uniform procedure and different examinees can understand it and the norms are determined by the school or a department in the school. 4. Standardized tests are usually used in large-scale settings in an attempt to assess the performance of students across whole schools, districts, states, and nations and for this reason, standardized tests are often referred to as large-scale assessments. 5. The standards are not too low to be too much easy and not too high to be discouraging. 6. This kind of tests is constructed by a panel of experts in testing after pre-planning and determination. 2.2. Test Question Formats While there is no set format for all questions on standardized tests, the most common standardized test question formats include multiple-choice questions and short-answer questions. 2.2.1. Multiple-choice Questions

Also called selected-response, this format presents two or more possible answers from which the student chooses. Typically, there is only one correct answer while the other possible answers represent common errors. However, multiple-choice questions are clearly limited in the kinds of achievement that they can measure; they are not suited for determining a students ability to apply critical thinking skills and carry out complex tasks, such as in performing a scientific experiment. Despite these drawbacks, the selected response format offers testing agencies a large degree of control in designing reliable, valid, and fair standardized tests. 2.2.2. Short-answer Questions The short-answer question format, also known as the open-ended or constructed response format, presents the test-taker with a question that is answered by a fill in-the-blank or short written response. Answers to constructed-response questions are hand-scored using a rubric that allows for a range of acceptable and partially correct answers. Questions and answers in this format provide a more sophisticated evaluation of student performance than selected-response questions. 2.3. Advantages of Standardized Tests Standardized tests have an important role in four main components of an overall testing program: 1. to compare individual or group performance with an external normative group 2. to identify relative strengths and weaknesses in skill areas 3. to monitor annual growth in skills 4. for program evaluation Other advantages of standarized test include: 5. The results can be empirically documented; therefore, the test scores can be shown to have a relative degree of validity and reliability. 6. Standardized tests have been historically promoted as objective in the sense that the examiners biases would not influence the results. 7. It is much easier to analyze and interpret the results of standardized tests than the results of alternative assessment procedures. 2.4. Disadvantages of Standardized 1. Standardized tests cannot measure creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, curiosity, judgment, commitment or ethical reflection.
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2. What they can measure and count are isolated skills, specific facts and function, content knowledge, the least interesting and least significant aspects of learning. 3. Standardized tests do not sample behaviors sufficiently. 4. In practice, they have led to some limitations, reliance on multiple-choice items limits the depth at which a test can probe for students understanding and thinking. 5. The standardized formats and protocols allow for little individual variation in communication across children. 3. Teacher-Made Tests (Informal Tests) Teacher-made tests are written or oral assessments that are not commercially produced or standardized. Most of the tests taken by students in classrooms are teacher-made, designed or selected at the teachers initiative and tailored to unique classroom circumstances and daily instructional needs. However, because classroom circumstances vary, these teacher-made tests differ considerably from teacher to teacher. In as much as instructor, test writer, and evaluator are all the same individual. And since the scoring will be done by only one person, the standards should remain reasonably consistent from paper to paper and test to test. Moreover, it is very likely that the teacher's ultimate evaluation of his students will be based on a number of tests and other measures, not just one. Therefore a single bad test performance by a student need not do irreparable damage to his final standing. 3.1. Elements of an Effective Teacher-Made Test Teachers must carefully plan and design the test. It is imperative that the teacher employs asystematic process for developing and using theassessment tool. That process should begin with the instructor asking a few basic and essential questions: 3.1.1. Is the test appropriate? The assessment must measure the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities the teacher feels important and do this in an appropriate way. 3.1.2. Is it relevant? An assessment task should make sense in terms of the assessment situation as well as the type of knowledge or skill being assessed. It should also provide relevant information based on what students should have learned in class. 3.1.3. Is it fair?

In assessment terms, that means all students must be given an equal chance to show what they know and can do. An assessment is not fair if it measures things unrelated to its objectives or is biased. Tests should be designed so that they are focused onthe instruction that preceded the assessment, and that ensure that testing, teaching and curriculum are all tightly aligned. 3.2. Planning the Assessments Teachers should use the following guidelines when planning any assessment: Provide explicit directions. Provide clear expectations. Allow an appropriate amount of time. Keep language as simple and clear as possible. Use a variety of item types within a test. Use a variety of test types to assess knowledge. Avoid using verbatim items. Avoid the use of negatives, especially double negatives. Avoid grammatical tip-offs and implausible options. Avoid a pattern of positions of correct responses. Avoid placing too much text on a page. Arrange test items in some logical order. Place the most difficult items near end of test. Consider placing material on the test to parallel the content coverage sequence. Be aware of the needs of special students. Before administering the test, prepare answer keys and scoring procedures Try to make each question independent. Students shouldn't be able to answer one question by reading another Make sure questions are easy to understand and well-written. Don't include choices that are obviously wrong.

3.3. Tips for Test Construction 3.3.1. When using True-False Items: make sure items are clearly true or false rather than ambiguous.
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ask studetns to make false questions true to encourage higher-order thinking. avoid abosolute words like all, never, and always

3.3.2. Use short-answer tests when you: have a large number of students want a reliable test that is quick and easy to grade are working with lower level primary students want to test for simple facts and vocabulary words

3.3.3. Use essay tests when you: want to test for critical and creative thinking skills such as problem solving, analyzing, and evaluating want to evaluate written communication skills have more time to grade a test rather than develop it want to make sure students cannot "guess"

3.4. Disadvantages of Teacher-made Tests: Constructing a good teacher-made test is very difficult and time consuming. The teachers' emphasis on lower-level thinking is dominant. Teacher-made tests do not carry the same importance as standardized tests in public relations between the school and the community. Teacher-made tests are often subject to question because theydiffer greatly from class to class. Teachers have had very little practice constructing problem-solving situations on tests to measure the application of skills and higher-order thinking. 4. Conclusion Although the teacher's primary testing concern will be in improving his own classroom measures, he may need at some time or other to make use of standardized tests, and it is therefore important that he knows how to select and evaluate such instruments as well. And, in turn, learning more about the techniques and research findings, of the professional testers will help the classroom teacher to write better tests himself.

References
Zucker, S. (2003).Fundamentals of Standardized Testing. Pearson Education Inc. Harris, D. P. (1988).Testing English as a Second Language. New York, USA: Mc Grow Hill Group Company. Teacher-made Tests: How to Assess Authentic Learning. SkyLight Training and Publishing Inc. Unlocking the Power of the Teacher-Made Test (2004). Educational Testing Service Shemis, Mark D. et al.(2001). Classroom Assessment in Action.United Kingdom.Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.