Why Students Aren't Passing Tests
Second Grade Students Taking Mid-term Tests in Thailand
Students Aren't Passing My EFL Tests
Thailand fifth grade EFL students are having a very hard time passing English tests. After taking recent mid-term tests in grammar, speaking, reading, and writing, only half of my students were able to get a passing grade of 50. The results were shocking to me, because previously the failure rate wasn't so high. This article is a post-mortem on my tests in which I suggest reasons for students not passing tests.
In Thailand, mid-term tests are usually given during the ninth or tenth week of our 20 week first term. The exams last for one hour each, and they are held on exclusive test-taking days which are announced to students well ahead of time. Exam topics cover the items which were taught and reviewed during the weeks prior to the tests. Students and their parents are also made aware of the topics and types of questions on the tests one month in advance.
Nine Reasons for Kids Not Passing Tests
After examining the mid-term tests as well as the quizzes, homework, and daily performance of students leading up to the exams, I suggest nine reasons for my kids and other students not passing tests.
Inability of Students to Do the Classwork
It was obvious from the results of my pre-test that many students were unable to do the assigned classwork. This was validated by scores from quizzes, dictations, and homework assignments which were given prior to the tests. It was also frequently seen in classroom participation.
Why, then, do so many students have the inability to do classwork? It's simply because many need remedial work and don't belong in the class. How else can you explain a fifth grader speaking on a second grade level, and reading and writing like a first grader? The sad fact is that through school promotion policies kids who aren't ready for fifth grade English have been placed with students working at grade level. The kids and parents of the misplaced students feel good about themselves, but teachers and other students suffer.
Test Taking Skills
Inability of Students to Understand Test Directions
All of the students who are unable to do the classwork also have the inability to understand test directions. For example, on one part of my reading and writing exam, The instructions called for the students to find and circle mistakes in each sentence, and then to rewrite the sentences. The kids who couldn't read and understand these directions answered the seven questions on the test by writing words or combination of words for the directions. Hence, the answer written for the test item "We likes the movie very much" was "circle."
Why Students Aren't Passing Tests
Which is the major reason students aren't passing tests?
Tests Were Too Difficult
I have come to the conclusion that my tests were too difficult for many students to pass. This is undoubtedly due to the kids inability to understand and do the classwork and directions on the tests. The tests should have been easier and included questions which the students could more easily understand. For example, in testing vocabulary, the pupils had to demonstrate how to use words correctly in sentences. Considering the average level of the students, vocabulary knowledge should have initially been tested by having the kids identify word meanings with pictures.
Tests Didn't Reflect What Students Actually Learned
To be honest, the tests which I constructed didn't reflect what the students had actually learned. Instead, questions on the test were based on items in the textbook which I thought the kids should have learned. Based on student performance on quizzes, dictation, and daily homework, I should have only tested those items in which the vast majority of students demonstrated competence.
Students Didn't Study for Tests
Many students probably didn't study for my tests, because they had been unable to do the daily homework. This was clearly shown in answers to true and false questions related to an article which the kids should have read. If the students had difficulty reading and understanding the article, they certainly weren't very motivated to review it while studying for the test.
In most Thailand schools, students don't have to worry about failing tests. If they should not pass a test on the first try, the policy of schools is to retest students with simpler tests until they are eventually given a pass.
Students Don't Know How to Take Tests
A lot of my kids don't know how to take tests. I initially found this out when giving my students short practice tests. Many kids had the problem of focusing and getting started on a test. After beginning a test, a big problem was budgeting time on the various parts of the test. A problem that amazes me is the number of students who will not answer a multiple-choice question they don't understand. Many students are probably afraid to take educated guesses. Another problem is that many kids rush through their tests, and then neglect checking their answers. This often leads to careless mistakes.
How to Pass Tests
Tests Are Too Long
Some exams are too long, and students are pressed to have enough time to finish answering all of the questions. I would prefer to write shorter tests; however, school administration usually dictates a minimum number of test items for mid-term and final tests. My school isn't too keen on short tests, regarding them as generally too easy and able to be completed in 15-20 minutes.
Students Have Learning Disorders
Some students fail tests due to learning disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD).
Students Have Physical and Emotional Problems
Finally, some students fail tests due to physical and emotional problems. If students are physically and/or emotionally sick, they will not be able to perform well on tests. Also, students who haven't had much sleep will fair poorly on tests.
When teachers create future tests, they would do well in reflecting on why their students did so poorly on previous tests. Making sure that tests accurately reflect what students have studied and mastered is one sure way of preventing a lot of failures. Students must also know how to take tests and understand test directions.
© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn