A web site for the developing language teacher

Profile of a language learner
by Scott Shelton

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Rationale for devising Beatriz's test

I have chosen sections of CAE practice tests (book 3). I believe it adheres to the criteria mentioned above for a test to be both valid and reliable. (See appendix E2 & 5 for bits of the test)
The CAE handbook (2000) assures:

The work of the UCLES-EFL team is involved in a programme of ongoing validation, and specialist staff work and test analysis and evaluation.

Another obvious reason is that because Beatriz is taking the official exam in June, 2002, doing a mock exam now will serve as a benchmark as well as a motivational factor as she continues to study.

Content and administration of the test

The exam consists of five sections: reading, writing, listening, speaking and use of English. Each section carries equal weight in grading the final outcome. The overall grade is based on the total score gained in all five papers. A pass grade is given for a minimum of sixty-percent over all five sections

The CAE handbook (2000) breaks down the different sections and gives guidelines of expectations based on successful completion of the exam. For a full breakdown, see appendix E.

The test was administered over two one and a half-hour classes. Beatriz was allowed to do the writing over the weekend and was encouraged to write within the time limit of one hour. The speaking section was done the following week in her free time, with a classmate.

Analysis of test data

In this section I will analyze the data from Beatriz's test to find her strengths and weaknesses in terms of her knowledge and use of the language systems and skills tested.

Analysis of letter writing task (Appendix E2)

Writing skills will be analyzed using the following criteria:

- Task achievement

- Communicative competence -coherence and intelligibility of the letter

- Appropriacy - of style, organization and presentation

- Range - of lexis, grammar, and general language used

- Accuracy - of lexis, grammar, expressions, spelling, punctuation and use of cohesive devices.

Task achievement, Communicative competence and Appropriacy


- Beatriz has achieved the task by competently writing a letter to the newspaper using the conflicting information in the texts provided, pointing out the inaccurate information and asking for a reprint. She includes a short note to Malcom but forgot to include mention of enclosing a copy of the letter. This omission would likely cost her a one-band reduction. I do think that despite the errors and inaccuracies (including the use of contractions), the letters would have a positive effect of the reader, in that they would achieve what they had set out to do.

- The letters are intelligible and organized in clear paragraphs making them easy to follow despite their flaws. The information is presented in a logical pattern and she uses both grammatical and lexical references, which hold the piece together.

- The letters are presented in letter format and she has used appropriate opening and closing expressions, and opened her first paragraph stating her reason for writing in letter one.


- Beatriz has inappropriately used contractions, which are not used in formal letters. In the second letter, however, they are used well. This would keep her in a band 3.

- She has also gone over the word limit by some 60 words in the first letter, although in my opinion this does not have an overtly negative effect on the target reader.

- In the final paragraph she uses rather strong language threatening legal action. Other, more subtle wording might have been more appropriate.

Range and accuracy


- Beatriz uses some appropriate expressions - I'm writing with regard to the incident (3), In orden to clearify the facts…, I would like to explain…, (6), You are a wonderful man (4-#2), Don't worry (2-#2), I'm sure (2-#2), Yours faithfully (23), Best wishes (6-#2), in who we all trust(5-#2)

- Although marred by poor spelling and other inaccuracies, Beatriz uses a range of structures such as: Present continuous (3), present simple (4), relative clauses (4,5), past simple for main events (7,8,9,10), past continuous for background information and incomplete actions (8), future perfect (11), present perfect (15,18), Use of modals (6,9,11,18,21), use of conditional 'if/will' structure (21) (letter 1)

- A range of cohesive devices are used such as, the fatal day-that night, the Rex Cinema-after the show, such unforgivable mistakes-referring to discrepancies between article and reality, Not only this.. but…, so…also…I am the American tourist who…In regard to the incident which…handbag-handbag, thief-thief, cut-cut, facts-facts, Malcom-Malcom, article-article,

- Beatriz also makes an attempt at using appropriate vocabulary items and some collocations which, although often inaccurately spelled or in the wrong form, shows that she is attempting more complex ways to express herself and indicates development in her language system. Examples are: accompained, fatal day, to clearify the facts, ran bravely, heroic action, badly cut, tends to misunderstand readers (mislead), aggresor, unforgivable mistakes, clearifying article, disafortunate incident, legal actions, horrendous lack of information.

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