Choosing assessment activities

Module Two | Lesson planning and use of resources for language teaching

How are assessment activities chosen?


Read questions 1-7 and match the instructions for the assessment tasks with the aims listed from A-H. there is an extra one which does not need to be used.

Assessment Aims

A.   To check the knowledge of functional exponents.

B.   To assess gist reading skills.

C.   To assess writing skills.

D.   To check awareness of stress.

E.   To check grammatical knowledge.

F.    To check the knowledge of vocabulary.

G.   To assess accurate pronunciation.

H.   To assess oral fluency.


Instruction for the assessment tasks

  1. Reply to the advertisement and explain to them why you are the best person for that particular job.
  2. Select the more suitable response for each of the following situations.
  3. Listen closely and underline the words that the speaker says most strongly.
  4. Have a discussion with your partner about the problem you both have and try to find a solution for it.
  5. Select the most appropriate heading for each paragraph.
  6. Use the given notes to make completed sentences. Make sure to put the verbs in the correct form.
  7. Scan the text and find the words that match the given definitions.

An assessment means collecting information about a student’s academic performance to make judgments about how they are learning. A teacher can decide to assess their students formally or informally. Formal assessments are done by using tests and examinations whereas an informal one can be carried out during a lesson by monitoring and observing the students while they do the classroom activities as normal. Doing an informal assessment is a good way to check how the students are progressing with their learning. However, it is not possible for a teacher to assess all her learners at all times during the lessons. Carrying out formal assessments is a good method to retrieve more information about the individual students’ progress.

The first thing that needs to be done when planning an assessment is to consider our reasons for assessing the students. Once this is done, we can make the decision when to assess them and how often to do it. We can also select what methods of assessment are the best and decide what we are going to use.

The differences between formal and informal assessments

The differences between formal and informal assessments can be summarized under the headings of assessment tasks, marking and purpose:


Formal assessment

Informal assessment

Assessment tasks

  • ·        Tests
  • ·         Examinations
  • ·         Normal classroom teaching and learning activities
  • ·         Homework tasks


  • ·         Learners receive grades (%, A-F, Pass/Fail, etc.)
  • ·         Teacher keeps records of progress but does not give grades


  • ·         To assess overall language ability (proficiency test)
  • ·         To assess learning at the end of a course (achievement test)
  • ·         To assess learning at the end of part of a course (progress test)
  • ·         To decide if learners can continue to the next level
  • ·         Feedback for the teacher (i.e. to find out how successful our teaching has been)
  • ·         To help us improve our procedures or choose different materials or activities for future lessons
  • ·         Feedback for learners about what they can do and what they still need to work on

Formal assessment

A formal assessment can usually consist of tasks that have single answers. For example, multiple choice questions, true/false questions). These are easy to mark. Using objective test tasks like these will give the teacher information about her students’ knowledge of particular language items and certain areas of language skills. Sometimes, certain formal assessments make use of more real-life tasks. For example, oral interviews, letters and essays. Using these, the teacher can obtain more information about students’ general ability to use the language in written and spoken form.

When a class test is being prepared, it is essential to add a few varied tasks. This is because the teacher can get a good mental image of her students’ strengths and weakness. She can also test the main things that she has taught to her students.

It is important to select different assessment tasks with great care for younger students and to make sure that the tasks are familiar. They should not be too difficult for the student or too abstract.

Informal assessment

The informal assessments that are done in classes depend on a few things. They are:

  • The number of students in the class
  • The students’ ages. Informal assessments are useful for younger students. Formal test tasks are usually too complicated for them to understand.
  • How frequently formal tests or examinations are given.
  • The language skills that the teacher needs to assess

The students must know that they are being assessed and how and when it is being done.

In order to do an informal assessment of productive skills in classes where there is a large number of students, it is necessary to assess small number of students in different lessons. The teacher can then record her opinions on a record sheet or she can otherwise fill in a check list.

Informal assessments of receptive skills can be done by checking the students’ answers to certain reading or listening tasks. Notes should be taken on their individual performance.

Separate assessments of students’ grammatical and lexical knowledge can be created by using a variety of language games or quizzes. It can also be done by monitoring practice activities. The teacher must make a note of the errors that are made occasionally. Then, the teacher can give the feedback to the students or otherwise to the entire class. The teacher may also go back to the problems later when doing a revision lesson.

The teacher may also want to assess the things in a student such as motivation and effort. This can be done by observation and also by talking to individual students about their learning.

It is crucial that the teacher keep records of informal assessment. This is important especially in classes where there are larger numbers of students. The importance of this is so that the teacher has the information about her students so that if a report or feedback is necessary on the students’ progress, it can be given. The records do not need to be very complicated. They can be simply done records with headings for grammar, language skills, vocabulary, motivation and the general progress of the learner.

Informal assessments need to be planned in the same way as the teaching is planned.


Nerd baby says ...​

Some of the same methods can be used for both informal and formal assessments. For example, the students’ spoken language can be assessed in an interview. Where productive skills are concerned, the students’ performance needs to be judged against the clear descriptions of different levels of skill, whether or not the assessment is formal or informal. The descriptions given may be general ones of speaking or writing. They may also give separate descriptions of alternative subskills. Given below are two example for speaking which have been designed to assess a wide ability range.

Example 1

5. Speaks very well – very few errors.

4. Speaks quite well – some errors, but message is always clear.

3. Has some difficulties in speaking – frequent errors and not always clear.

2. Has serious problems in speaking – only very limited ability to communicate.

1. Almost unable to communicate.


Example 2






Grammatical and lexical accuracy extremely high.

Speaks fluently without hesitation or searching for words.

Very clear; stress and intonation help to make meaning clear.


Quite accurate; some errors, but meaning is always clear.

Some hesitation and something has to search for words.

Generally clear; reasonable control of stress and intonation.


Frequent errors; meaning is not always clear.

Quite hesitant; limited range of vocabulary and structures.

Frequent errors; not always clear enough to understand.


Very frequent errors: difficulty in making meaning clear.

Extremely hesitation; very limited range of language available.

Very frequent errors; often very difficult to understand.


Almost unable to communicate.


Test Your Knowledge

Have a look at the statements given below and decide if they are True (T) or False (F).

  1. Homework tasks can be used for informal assessments.
  2. The methods used for assessments are always different the ones that are used for informal assessments.
  3. There are many various possible answers for objective tests. Because of this, they are more difficult to mark.
  4. Sometimes, games and quizzes can be used for informal assessments.
  5. It is very important that all the students know when they are being informally assessed.
  6. The best formal tests have only very few different tasks for students to do.

Read the comments and decide which you agree with and why you do.

  1. Most of the assessments I do are informal. Informal testing is much better than formal testing as a method of discovering what my students can and cannot do.
  2. My students have tests given to them regularly. Therefore, I don’t need to do informal assessments.
  3. I do not have the time for informal assessments because I am too busy with the teaching.

Please comment below your answers and/or any questions regarding the lesson. 

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