English Preterit and Perfect Testing Techniques Boryana T. Ruzhekova Rogozherova, Todor Kableshkov Higher School of Transport, Chair of Humanities and Languages, Sofia Summary: The article treats some general issues related to the importance of language testing, types of tests, criteria testing materials should correspond to as well as more specific topics as to particularities and implementation of English preterit and perfect new testing techniques. Suggested innovative procedures concern the use of graphs, pictures, poetry, fiction texts, storytelling, text elicitation and editing. Importance of testing 1 In Introducing Applied Linguistics Corder regards tests as “ measuring instruments” as they “are designed to measure the learner’s “knowledge”, or “competence in” the language at a particular moment in his course …”. Importance of testing 2 However, tests supply much more information to specialists assessing the “relationship between the teaching materials and their exploitation, and language learning.” (ibid.) Importance of testing 3 Tests provide information as to teaching / learning styles; learning / acquisition problems; learners’ personal characteristics (background knowledge, qualifications, age, sex, native as well as other previously or simultaneously studied language(s), interference or interlanguage, emotionality, etc.) relation to curricula, teaching techniques and lecturers’ professional knowledge and skills. Importance of testing 4 Tests can be also used as a teaching tool due to relevant feed back, explanation and remedial work, on the one hand (they can be implemented at final grammar teaching stages), and on the other, test materials can “teach” in the very process of sitting the test. Types of tests Tests (Cohen, A. 1979: 332,333) fall into the following main categories: prognostic tests (aptitude tests and placement tests), evaluation of attainment tests, normreferenced, criterion-referenced, listening, reading, speaking, writing, fluency, accuracy, different age groups,different ethnic or language groups, fixed format, structured format, phonology, grammar, vocabulary, pragmatics, mechanics, stylistics. Criteria testing materials should correspond to Bachman and Palmer (2004: 9) define tests in terms of their usefulness, “consisting of several qualities (reliability, construct validity, authenticity, interactiveness, impact and practicality)”. Taking into account grammatical features of tested categories – crucial in test design Grammar features analysis + error prediction (see Ruzhekova Rogozherova’s articles on contrastive teaching), interlanguage analysis determine types of test tasks, number, sequence, resources and scoring of activities. English preterit – basic temporal characteristics → lack of current relevance, single or a series of non-current relevant event(s) = narration; sometimes simultaneous, nonchronologically presented events, all entirely pertaining to the past deicticity English preterit – basic aspectual characteristics inchoativity – beginning of a finished process duration – length of a finished process repetition – repeated finished process punctuality – punctual finished process termination – end of a finished process English perfect– basic aspectual characteristics perfect of result, of an activity with explicitly marked or understood beginning continuing up to the present = “correlation deicticity” (term of ours), omnitemporal, not-yet – perfect, of experience, superlative, of a recent activity Innovative suggestions for preterit and perfect test items (partially inspired by Celce-Murcia, M. and Hilles, J. 1988 and Strutt, P. 2000-the graph) 1. Story telling Story telling – tests preterit’s characteristic narrative use, Story telling - sharing experiences + expressing opinions + commenting results of activities and achievements – tests perfect meanings. 2. Pictures use A sequence of presenting consecutive or jumbled activities images could represent the basis of a written account, thus testing preterit use. Pictures presenting changes, results or acquisition naturally test perfect use. 3. Charts, tables and graphs use Preparing a CV - describing consecutive employments and fulfilled duties during a fixed period tests the preterit. Preparing a CV - describing acquired knowledge and experience so far tests the perfect. Using a CV Education, years, start from the most recent Employment, Duties years, start from the most recent Acquired knowledge and experience so far Marketing General research, and plans, specialized promotions, knowledge advertising in… Foreign Research, languages sales at levels… planning 1995-1999PhD in accountancy and trading Advertising and sales manager, Bosh, 20022007 Business School, 1989-1994 1999-2002sales manager,… Price changes of zinc 1750 1700 Price by tonne [$] 1650 1600 1550 1500 1450 1400 1350 1300 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Month 8 9 10 11 12 now 4. Poetry or fiction texts use A poem or a fiction text could be typed leaving blank spaces at some verb forms’ positions. However, we should not “deprive” test takers of all preterit and perfect forms; we should pick up some to remain in the purpose of making context more evident. Test takers are asked to fill in the blanks; suggestions are discussed and motivated. The Road Not Taken 1 (Text selected by Celce-Murcia and Hilles 1988 ) Two roads ……………….. in a yellow wood, And sorry I …………….not travel both And be one traveler, long I ……………… And looked down one as far as I could To where it ………………in the undergrowth; The Road Not Taken 2 Then ………….. the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it ……….. grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, The Road Not Taken 3 And both that morning equally ………….. In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I ………… the first for another day! Yet, knowing how way leads on to way, I ……………. if I should ever come back. The Road Not Taken 4 I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two diverged in a wood, and I – I ………… the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Robert Frost 5. Text manipulation Test takers will have to transform a written in the present simple text into the preterit and introduce slight contextual changes if grammar context requires it. Slager (1973 in: Celce-Murcia and Hilles 1988) suggest ordering random presented sentences belonging to a paragraph in the purpose of forming a sensible sequence. 6. Text elicitation This task consists in creating some imaginative context appropriate for the use of studied categories. Test takers should develop a short paragraph providing required information as proposed, correctly using the preterit or / and perfect. 7. Text editing This test task focuses on correcting deliberately wrong grammar items. Conclusion Quality testing is bound to have not only its personal, related to language competence enhancement effect, but also, it can influence the teaching / learning process as a whole, curricula as well as overall FL studying motivation in its capacity of measuring and teaching tool . 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