How good is your English?

04 Mar

I am currently, and belatedly, getting on with the business of the literacy tests I am marking, using an instrument I adapted from an online test some years ago. The test very clearly highlights problems second-language English learners may present, but even native speakers rarely score 100%. It is in two parts: a multiple choice test that targets particular aspects of grammar, and a writing task that requires deployment, among other things, of just about the full range of tense and modality.

If you are curious, you can try it for yourselves. The test and answers are in a password-protected file, and yes, you may ask for the password via the contact page. Occasionally more than one answer is right in the multiple choice section.

I have administered this test, or its earlier versions, to over 1,500 students in the past decade.


Posted by on March 4, 2008 in education


5 responses to “How good is your English?

  1. marcellous

    March 4, 2008 at 10:37 am

    My guess is that native speakers who fail probably just do so because of the usual misreadings of questions – that is, because there is an (practically if not literally) inevitable error rate in all tests.

    I was stymied by the “so” in question 50.

  2. ninglun

    March 4, 2008 at 10:45 am

    You obviously got in before I moved everything to password protected. Interesting comment about Q 50, one that comes from the test I adapted, where it may not be Q 50! Only one answer really fits there.

    Oh, and native speakers never fail. They just don’t often score 100%. In fact, I have ruled that 90%+ usually indicates someone without many basic problems. When genuine earlyish English learners try, though, the pattern of errors is consistent, not really random, and often spectacular.

  3. marcellous

    March 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Second thoughts: you didn’t say native speakers fail, so my comment applies to their failure to get 100%.

  4. marcellous

    March 4, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    I never checked the answers. I just assumed they were protected.

    If we are still talking about the same question (OK, I meant 58 in this test) there seems to be some kind of punctuation missing if the answer I would put there is the right one.

    But it certainly seems a pretty thorough run through. For local purposes it is perhaps a little too enthusiastic about the subjunctive and not designed to pick up some of the more common Chinese-English errors such as omission of articles and he/she confusion (though I expect that is an error less likely to crop up in written than in spoken contexts/)

  5. ninglun

    March 4, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    The problem with articles usually appears in the written part of my test. It is, as you say, a feature of the English of many East Asian English language learners.It’s not just a spoken English problem either, and is difficult to correct completely. Even very fluent and advanced writers/speakers of English from a Chinese background will miss the odd a/an/the, or add one of them when a zero article is idiomatic.

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