La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

Preparing students for international examinations

The implications for the classroom, with particular reference to speaking tests

Ann Humphry-Baker

In diesem Beitrag werden die Auswirkungen internationaler Prüfungen für den Unterricht besprochen, wobei es sich insbesondere um die mündlichen Prüfungen handelt. Prüfungen können eine motivierende Wirkung haben. Es wird darauf hingewiesen, dass das Zertifikat zwar als Belohnung lockt, und die Lernende damit extrinsisch motiviert werden, die Lehrenden jedoch die Verantwortung haben, die Lernenden längerfristig auch intrinsisch zu motivieren.
Lernenden sollten mit dem Testtyp vertraut gemacht werden, aber für den Unterricht empfiehlt es sich ein Lehrwerk oder andere Materialien zu benutzen, damit die Lernenden Kompetenzen erwerben, die nicht nur prüfungsbezogen sind.
Bei internationalen mündlichen Prüfungen werden immer häufiger zwei Examinatoren eingesetzt und die Kandidaten in Kleingruppen (2 bis 3 Kandidaten) geprüft. Mündliche Prüfungen werden wohl immer zu Stress führen, aber sie sind im letzten Jahrzehnt immer humaner geworden. Wichtig ist, dass die Kandidaten bei der Vorbereitung auf die Prüfung Erfahrung mit Gruppenarbeit haben und auch lernen, sich zu Themen zu äussern, die ihnen nicht geläufig sind. (Red.)


An increasing number of schools and institutions in Switzerland are entering their students for international examinations, either as an option, or integrated into the final certificate. Preparing students for these examinations can influence strongly what happens in the classroom.

Why test?

Perhaps the most potent stimulus for orienting both students and teachers towards acquisition is the test. (…) the students will study for the test, the teacher will teach to the test, and nothing will change this. If preparation for the test results in more comprehensible input for students, tests are effective –test such as reading comprehension and conversation, with the emphasis on exchange of information, not on grammatical accuracy, meet this requirement. To study for a reading comprehension test, students will read. To prepare for a conversation test, students will engage in conversation. Both of these activities will mean more comprehensible input and more acquisition of grammar. (Krashen:1985:58)
Tests are also the simplest and most effective form of extrinsic motivation, of imposing discipline on the most unruly class, and of ensuring attention as well as regular attendance. (Prodromou 1995:14)

Tests as motivation

Whatever the reasons for taking an examination, there are, according to Krashen, benefits for the learners in the shape of increased acquisition. Preparing for an examination can, according to Prodromou, result in increased motivation and an easier class for the teacher to deal with. However, a course which focuses exclusively on the examination will not necessarily be one that serves the learners’ long-term interests or goals. The teacher has a responsibility to the learners to give them the best possible chance of passing the examination, but not at the expense of neglecting such areas as differences in learning styles, strategy use, learner autonomy and learning beyond the classroom.
The “carrot” of a certificate at the end of a course may act as extrinsic motivation, but the course has to meet the wider needs of the learner in order to turn extrinsic motivation, which may be eroded by uninteresting lessons, into intrinsic motivation which, it is hoped, will last longer.
It could appear logical to use mainly books of practice tests when preparing learners for examinations. While it is beneficial for the test taker to be familiar with the test format, an unadulterated diet of tests can be very dry, and, in the long run, may even be harmful. Learners may become adept at performing test-related tasks, but be unable to transfer this language use to real world tasks. It would be preferable for the class to use a more general coursebook, examination related or not. [...]

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