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ESL: Teaching Through Testing

Updated on November 1, 2011

Simple techniques to help students get more practice on language during test

As it is known that learning happens only when there is a change in learners, the change in ESL learning is acquiring new language. There are many varied methods for teachers to use during teaching. ESL teachers can also teach through tests. Testing students at schools or universities does not mean assessing their new knowledge only, but also giving them more practice on language. There are many techniques to write and form test questions, but some of them are poor. Here are some examples of such questions with some suggestions for more effective teaching.


There are some poor questions ask learners to do no much except choosing the right word or fill in the blanks with the correct form of words. This may help learners to think of the structure and then answer, but there are some models which ask learners to form their own sentences. They can practice new vocabulary and grammar together. For example:

- Use the following words to write meaningful sentences (simple present).

Mean (adj.) – function – amazing – downtown .

- We use FOR to express the length of period while SINCE to mention the starting point of an event. Give examples to show each of that.

- The following sentences have some mistakes. Pick them out then REWRITE the sentence correctly.

I like play tennis during my spare time.

I have blue eyes and black short hair.

I met her when I went shoping.

- Write the past form of the following verbs then, use them in different meaningful sentences.

Wear – put – talk – sit – sleep.


Most of ESL reading test ask learners to read a passage then answer specific questions. Such questions may ask them to tick the correct sentence according to the passage, fill in with the missed word, or sometimes a question asks about the person who says certain words. Such questions are good for comprehension but teachers can add some other good questions that enable learners use and practice the language. After a passage, for example, teachers can submit WH-questions with instructions to answer with a whole sentence.


- Please read the following passage carefully then answer the questions bellow. Please write complete sentences.

- Do you agree with the writer? Give your own reasons.

- (A sentence taken from the passage) explain it with your own words.

This can be done also in listening. After learners listen to a conversation for example they can be asked to form sentences according to what they listened to.

ESL teachers can form and vary their test questions in a way that give their students chance to learn and practice language. It is not a matter what subject or skill it is, but what question we, as ESL teachers, can form to help our students get more practice on language.


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