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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 10/29/2022

How Do I Assess my ESL Students as an ESL Teacher?

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

People often think of tests when they hear the term "assessment," however, there is much more to it than that. Assessment refers to the variety of ways teachers collect information on their students' language abilities or achievement, whether it’s formal or informal. Giving formal tests is only one part of assessment.

During our 4-week TEFL course, we will explain all of this in detail and give you some practical experience with the assessment process as you work with our real ESL learners.

Formative and Summative Assessment

As teachers, we are constantly checking our students' comprehension by asking questions and requiring them to give us examples. This allows us to make immediate adjustments to how we are presenting the information or materials. This is known as formative assessment.  Summative assessment, on the other hand, allows the teacher to determine what language students have acquired up to a particular point in time and often looks like a formal exam.  Both types of assessment are necessary.

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Different Types of Tests

There are a different types of language tests, most of which you've probably heard of. 

Proficiency exams measure a student’s overall language capability and readiness for tasks that require a specific English level, like working or studying. These are normally standardized tests developed and administered by testing agencies. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are the two most popular proficiency exams in the world of ESL.

Placement tests determine a student’s language ability for appropriate placement in a particular course or level and are typically given by someone that works at a school or a language institute.  Diagnostic tests are used by teachers to determine gaps in a student’s language ability and weaknesses in a particular skill area in order to establish the course timeline.  And finally, achievement tests measure the students' abilities to meet the goals of a course syllabus or program and are generally given as mid-term and final exams.


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4 Characteristics of a Good Test 

In order for an exam to successfully measure what it set out to measure, it must be valid. This means the exam measures what it is supposed to and it matches what was taught in the course. It must also be reliable, meaning scores are consistent with different groups of students. Finally, it must be authentic, which is reflecting real-world language situations. This is especially important when assessing our students' reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. 

Assessing Skills

When it comes to assessment, it’s important to give students a clear set of directions expectations, Whether you’re assessing speaking, reading, writing, or listening, your students must have a clear understanding of what is expected in their response and how they will be evaluated.  It is also necessary to ensure the language level used on the assessment corresponds to your students’ ability and the content covered in class.


Whatever type of assessing we are using, we need to make sure we create an environment that is comfortable and free of distractions.  Interested in learning more about meeting the needs of our English students?  Get in touch with us today about saving your seat in one of our 4-week TEFL courses in Costa Rica!

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