Functions of Written Tests in EFL Classes in Primary School

Analysis of an Exemplary Test

Term Paper, 2019
27 Pages, Grade: 10


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Testing in the EFL Primary Classroom

3. Differentiation of Written Tests in the EFL Primary Classroom

4. Quality Criteria of Written Tests
4.1 Validity
4.2 Student-Reliability

5. Reflection of Test Creation

6. Conclusion

7. Development of my Professional Vision

8. List of References

9. Appendix
9.1 The Examplary Test
9.2 Differentiated Task

1. Introduction

The subject English as a foreign language [EFL] belongs since 2005/2006 to the curriculum of primary school in whole Germany (cf. Börner & Edelhoff 2005:110). The EU research study of 2007 on early language learning, education quality and pedagogical principles states that early foreign language acquisition is favoured over the late one, as the younger students are intrinsically motivated and have a positive attitude to EFL acquisition process (cf. Edelenbos & Kubanek 2009: 23ff.). EFL acquisition in primary school usually begins in the third grade and aims to provide the first experiences with learning a foreign language (cf. Börner & Edelhoff 2005: 110). Nevertheless, these first experiences are to be assessed and the students are to be provided with feedback. This procedure demands a large amount of effort and reflection time on the teacher’s side, considering the communicative character and some other peculiarities of EFL classes in primary school. Correspondingly, the topic challenges many teachers while teaching EFL in primary classroom (cf. ibd.: 110f.). Therefore, the ways to facilitate this challenge are sought. A written test is an assessment form that manage the challenge and can be easily used in primary school. Consequently, the term paper focuses on written tests and their functions in EFL classes in primary school.

Regarding the peculiarities of EFL classes in primary classroom, the main function of written tests will be outlined. Börner and Edelhoff (2005) specify the functions of written tests in primary school. They point out diagnostic, (forward) guidance, comparison and (value) judgement functions (cf. ibd.: 111f.). In the course of the term paper the exemplary written test is investigated regarding its diagnostic function. Constructively, the exemplary test will be reviewed, if this specific function is realised. Therefore, the central question of the term paper is how far the exemplary test aids the realisation of the diagnostic function. The analysis and the following reflection of the exemplary test are grounded on the sources Brown and Abeywickrama (2010) ‘ Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices’ and of Küchler and Roters (2014) ‘Embracing Everyone: Inklusiver Fremdsprachenunterricht’.

The first chapter of this term paper focuses on testing in EFL classes in primary school. Considering that, the general definition of tests is going to be outlined and their functions are going to be explicated. Subsequently, the definition of a test in EFL classes in primary school will be clarified and its functions specified. The diagnostic function of the written tests in EFL classes in primary school will be highlighted and characterized in detail. The second chapter deals with the differentiation of written tests in EFL primary classes. This part of the term paper covers various ways of task differentiation in written tests in EFL classes in primary school on basis of the diagnostic function specified in the first chapter. Consequently, this work lays out quality criteria of a written test; validity and student-reliability will be explicitly regarded. These quality criteria are significant for analysis and reflection of the exemplary test and answering the central question of the term paper.

The last chapter discusses the issue of test creation: The diagnostic function of a written test in EFL classes in primary school is going to be regarded. The exemplary test will be analysed and reflected, and the central question of this term paper is going to be answered. The main findings of the term paper are summered up in the conclusion.

2. Testing in the EFL Primary Classroom

The Common European Framework of References for Languages considers tests to be an assessment form. Assessment is broadly aimed to control the language learning progress achieved by a student after a certain period (cf. Council of Europe 2001: 177). Brown and Abeywickrama (2010) argue that “in educational practice, assessment is an ongoing process that encompasses a wide range of methodological techniques. Whenever a student responds to a question, offers a comment, or tries out a new word or structure, the teacher subconsciously makes an appraisal of the student’s performance” (Brown & Abeywickrama 2010: 3).

Written works or rather written tests are embraced into the wide definition of assessment. O’Malley and Pierce (1999) define tests as “a set of questions or situations designed to permit an inference about what a student knows or can do in an area of interest” (O’Malley & Pierce 1999: 240). As tests usually consist of several tasks, it is significant to explain their definition as well. A task is defined as “an activity usually requiring multiple responses to a challenging question or problem” (ibd.). The Hessen Education Ministry (2018) points out the following forms of written tests:

- In-class test or course test 1 that can be substituted for a presentation, a term paper or a project work,
- Exercise test and some other exercise forms to assess the language proficiency level of a student, the test is not going to be scored,
- Achievement and Proficiency Level Diagnosis Study of students in primary school with state-wide uniform tasks (cf. Hessisches Kultusministerium. Verordnung zur Gestaltung des Schulverhältnisses 2018a: §32).

As this term paper concerns with in-class or course tests, it is demanded to state their functions:

- To control 2 the acquired knowledge and skills of a student, to facilitate him/her to manage a task by himself/herself and to diagnose his/her language learning progress,
- To allow a teacher to assess the achievements of a student, to monitor, if the learning goals are achieved and to decide what should or can be changed while teaching and learning EFL for a whole class or just for individual students (heterogeneity included),
- To provide the parents of a student the information about the EFL teaching and learning process of the school and to inform them about the student’s proficiency language level and his/her progress (cf. Hessisches Kultusministerium. Verordnung zur Gestaltung des Schulverhältnisses 2018a: §32).

Heaton (1999) points out some further functions of written tests. According to him, the written tests encourage a student to learn English. Furthermore, they increase the motivation and encourage him/her not to lose the enthusiasm for learning, as written tests provide some current information about the language learning progress and summarise all the knowledge and skills gained by a student since the last written test. Additionally, a teacher uses a written test as a diagnostic instrument to find out and to state the learning difficulties of his/her students (cf. Heaton 1999: 9ff.). Regarding this, Heaton (1999) concludes that “teachers must diagnose problems in order to teach effectively” (ibd. p. 11). Furthermore, written tests are used to place students in various learning groups according to their learning abilities. At the beginning of a term a general placement test should be held to measure the language abilities of each student and to sort them into certain learning groups. This procedure differentiates the language learning process and motivates students to learn the language together with those students who are of the same language proficiency level (cf. ibd. p. 15). Lastly, a written test can be used “to select certain candidates for a job or for a place on a course. A selection test is necessary when the number of applicants surpasses the number of available positions (cf. ibd. p. 16).

As this term paper is concerned with the written tests in primary school, it is meaningful to clarify the peculiarities of EFL classes there. Firstly, EFL classes in primary school aim to foster language skills, no language knowledge is going to be conveyed or taught explicitly (cf. Börner & Edelhoff 2005: 117). Secondly, the EFL classes tend to start in year three. It allows up to six written tests during a school year, every test can last from fifteen to thirty minutes (cf. Hessisches Kultusministerium. Verordnung zur Gestaltung des Schulverhältnisses 2018b: Anlage 2). Lastly, the achievement and the performance of a student respectively written tests are not going to be scored. A survey of Kahl and Knebler carried out in 1996 figures out that the practice of no scoring in EFL classes in primary school effects the student’s motivation and the learning engagement positively:

Der Grundschulunterricht bietet die Chance, […] die Neugier der Kinder auf die fremde Sprache und ihre Kultur zu wecken, ohne zugleich eine Bewertung der sprachlichen Leistungen in Form von Schulnoten vorzunehmen. Auch leistungsschwächere Schüler/innen […] haben deshalb im Englischunterricht der 3. und 4. Klasse überwiegend Erfolgserlebnisse und können eine positive Einstellung entwickeln. (Kahl & Knebler 1996:12, as cited by Börner & Edelhoff 2005: 126)

On this basis, Cameron (2005) summarises the factors of assessment in primary school that differ from the ones in secondary school:

- “Age [emph. b. author]: children’s motor, linguistic, social and conceptual development must be regarded in designing and implementing assessment,
- Content of language learning [emph. b. author]: a focus on oral skills, vocabulary development and language use at discourse level,
- Methods of teaching [emph. b. author]: interactive use of games, songs, rhymes, stories to carry language content and practice,
- Aims [emph. b. author]: programmes for young learners often cite social and cross-cultural aims, as well as language content and practice,
- Learning theories [emph. b. author]: e.g. zone of proximal development; learning through social interaction, able to do more with helpful other” (Cameron 2005: 214).

Correspondingly to the established peculiarities of EFL classes in and the assessment factors in primary school, the functions of written tests in EFL primary classes should also be explicated. According to Börner and Edelhoff (cf. Börner & Edelhoff 2005: 111f.) there are four main functions of the written tests in the EFL primary class. The Table 1 ‘Functions of the written tests in EFL classes in primary school’ presents them shortly:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Tab. 1: ‘Functions of the written tests in EFL classes in primary school’2

Börner and Edelhoff (2005) point out that diagnostic function is the most significant one, as it aims to help each individual student to influence their learning process positively. The feedback should be given both to the student and to the teacher, so that the learning and teaching process can be changed and optimised. Simultaneously, it is important to provide evidence of the language learning progress to the student’s parents and to society, since a student is going to move from primary to secondary school and this information is consequential to organise and to hold the change in an optimal way (cf. Börner & Edelhoff 2005: 111f.).

Written tests are considered an assessment form that can be used in EFL classes in primary school. Its main function is to diagnose language learning progress of each student to adjust EFL teaching and learning process in primary school. Therefore, it can be positively influenced both by a teacher and his/her student. Although, the heterogeneity aspect cannot be forgotten. Otherwise, the test results can diagnose a false issue and teacher’s and students’ efforts to solve it are going to be useless. That is why, it is significant to regard differentiation of written tests in EFL classes n primary school.

3. Differentiation of Written Tests in the EFL Primary Classroom

The challenge of heterogeneity points to the difficulty of assessment function implementation in EFL primary class. Ziegler (2009) outlines the definition of heterogeneity. According to him, the term covers „lernrelevante individuelle Merkmale der Lernenden, wie Präkonzepte, Intelligenz, Motivation sowie Lernstrategien […], aufgrund dessen die Schülerinnen und Schüler unterschiedliche Fähigkeiten und Fertigkeiten in den Fremdsprachenunterricht mitbringen“ (Ziegler 2009, as cited by Janikova 2013: 129f.). Kirchoff (2012) summarises that providing differentiated tasks to students while taking a written test does not equal having slow learners but instead fostering the needs of learners of various competence level (cf. Kirchoff 2012: 5, as cited by Küchler & Roters 2014: 243).

Without taking these factors into account, a teacher assesses his/her students identically. Therefore, the false results of written test can turn out and this can lead to a false issue diagnose. That is why, the implementation of diagnostic function suffers and further teaching and learning process for each individual student in the EFL primary class is incorrectly stated. “Nun gibt es Dilemma, auch negative Rückmeldung geben zu müssen und trotzdem motivieren zu wollen […]“ (Groß 2005: 199f.). To implement a diagnostic function correctly and to avoid this negative feedback, a teacher should differentiate the tasks of written tests according to the heterogenetic factors of the students. Thus, each student can experience success and stay motivated and engaged while taking a written test, and a teacher can still diagnose the language learning progress of the students.

While differentiating, a teacher can consider some significant factors as “Rahmenbedingungen, Themenbereiche, Aufgabenstellung, Leistungsniveau, Lernwege, Lernvoraussetzungen und Sozialformen [emph. by author], die aber nicht isoliert, sondern im Zusammenhang wirken“ (Janikova 2013: 135f.). Not all these factors can be easily regarded by differentiation of written test tasks in EFL primary classes, as e.g. a social form of organisation and the workflow4 cannot be changed, the individual performance is demanded to be assessed and diagnosed. According to Baczewski et al. (2013), quantitative and qualitative differentiation are possible. Whereby a teacher can provide more time for solving a written test task5 or a task can be facilitated with help of visual aids or vocabulary lists6 (cf. Baczewski et al. 2006: 4f., as cited by Janikova 2013: 136f.). Additionally, Küchler and Roters (2014) suggest the following examples of quantitative and qualitative differentiation of written test tasks: Tasks with help cards, scaffolding, solution pattern, foster pages or simpler tasks. Visualisation aids is a good supporting assistance for a student to solve a task as well. This enumeration provides an outline of possible differentiated tasks that can be applied in EFL classes in primary school (cf. Küchler & Roters 2014: 241f.).

Heterogeneity factor influences the implementation of a diagnostic function while taking a written test. Therefore, a teacher should regard it while creating a test and differentiate written tasks quantitatively or qualitatively. Correspondingly, the diagnostic function of written tests can be fully realised, and its effects applied in EFL teaching and learning process. Nevertheless, while creating a test, the quality criteria should be regarded as well, as just written test that correspond the quality criteria can be regarded for a diagnostic function of written tests.


1 All the emphasis cases in the listing are added by the author of the term paper.

2 All the emphasis cases in the function list are added by the author of the term paper.

3 All the bold and big lettering of the table is borrowed from the original.

4 The German phrase ‘Sozialform’ is meant. As far as I know there is no English equivalent for it.

5 It is a case of quantitative differentiation.

6 It is a case of qualitative differentiation.

Excerpt out of 27 pages


Functions of Written Tests in EFL Classes in Primary School
Analysis of an Exemplary Test
University of Frankfurt (Main)  (Institut für England- und Amerikastudien)
Testing, Evaluating and Assessment: Theory into Practice
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
#englisch #assessing #written tests #englischdidaktik #funktion #EFLclasses
Quote paper
Viktoryia Schulz (Author), 2019, Functions of Written Tests in EFL Classes in Primary School, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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