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Test your English

One of the most important things in learning is knowing what your level is. It helps to choose the right level of challenge that will keep you engaged and motivated, but won’t undermine your self-esteem.

For a general idea of your level, you can do and (see their description below under *). For a better understanding, continue reading.

In language learning I would look at four different areas that comprise the student’s level. I’ll briefly describe them and give links to check yourself where it’s possible. At the end you’ll also find a couple of words about Learner types which also help choose a better learning strategy.

Receptive skills – Reading and Listening

The first area is how well you understand the language you see (read) and hear. They are your receptive skills – Reading and Listening:

Grammar and Passive Vocabulary

The second area is your passive or ‘recognisable’ knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. This is what most tests will show you. Here are the links where you can test this level quickly and for free:

Productive Skills – Speaking and Writing

This is the language you can produce when speaking or writing without preparation. Writing skills are usually overlooked unless people need to improve them for work or exams, so I’ll focus on speaking. Here you’ll need to do a speaking test with a teacher. The one I do takes about 15-20 minutes.

The test is built on various questions to see what topics the student can talk about and what language structures they can understand and use. Typical questions will be ‘What do you do in your free time?’, ‘What are you going to do this weekend?’, ‘How did you spend your last holiday?’ and so on. Many of them have an underlying grammar structure, so it’s good to remember here that it’s not the ideas we evaluate, but the use of language. Another type of questions start with ‘Tell me about… (you dream job, your hobbies, etc)’. Anyway, the more you say, the better we can understand the level.

It’s not uncommon when the difference between students’ written test and speaking test is about one level. In this case I always recommend going to the level of your speaking skills because even if you know a lot of grammar, it takes a while to activate it in your speech and use without thinking. The same goes for vocabulary. You can read fiction in the original, but not be able to extract basic words in spontaneous speech. They are just different skills.

Study skills

Finally, there’s more to language learning than grammar and vocabulary. Why do some students find it easy to learn languages? Why is it easier to study a second/ third foreign language? The answer will be in quite specific language study skills. This is something that usually becomes clear during the first lessons – how do the students respond to the communicative approach?

Here’s something I check:

  • Do they try to give full answers or only the main point?
  • Are they ready to share some experience or too shy/ reluctant to speak?
  • How much are they afraid to make mistakes?
  • Do they repeat the correct structure when they are corrected or just say ‘Yes’?
  • Can they ‘catch’ new language and use it on the go? Or do they avoid using new words even if see/ hear them several times?
  • Are they willing to apply new language to their own ideas or they can’t think of any examples with it?
  • Do they know what type of learning works best for them?
  • Do they take notes? Revise new material? Do homework?

Answers to these questions help me understand what skills should be taught to get the students speaking and communicating with each other.

Have a go at these tests and let us know what you think!

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