December 2008
Volume 12, Number 3

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Testing Spoken English for Credit within the Indian University System

Shreesh Chaudhary
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India


Courses in Spoken English (SE) are yet to be acceptable in Indian universities because conducting session-end tests in SE is assumed to be logistically difficult and academically problematic. This article argues that it need not necessarily be so; session-end tests can be conducted just as in other courses. With voice recording, preferably a computer network in a local area, this can be done relatively easily, meeting all the demands of a standard test with respect to validity, reliability and ease of administration and evaluation. The article begins with a description of some reasons behind the unpopularity of SE tests, particularly at universities, and then talks about the features of a standard academic test. Finally, it reports the results and organization of a session-end test for a credit course in SE at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. This article also defines the items to be tested in a course in SE, and argues that there is greater need to test the features of continuous speech than those of the sounds in isolation. Tempo, phrasal pause, and word-stress deserve greater attention than segmental features. Recorded speech, particularly on the computer, can be as easily evaluated and stored for verification as a written text. Use of headphones can facilitate mass recording without compromising privacy, as required in an academic test. Testers can use more than one set of questions to test the predetermined aspects of SE.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, India, testing, assessment, IELTS

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