Measuring existing vocabulary knowledge with VocabLevelTest.Org

When delivering a structured course of formal English language acquisition, how does the teacher know which words to focus on, and which words students already know? Of course it’s better not to waste time teaching vocabulary that students have already mastered, but gaining a clear picture of student vocabulary knowledge is not easy without reliable diagnostic tools.

This is where VocabLevelTest.Org can be of use. It allows teachers and researchers to easily create productive and receptive vocabulary levels tests, which can be conveniently administered to students on either desktop or mobile devices.

Teachers can create a test by logging into VocabLevelTest.Org with a Google account, and then clicking on “Create New Test”, and selecting a word list, sample rate, and band size.

VocabLevelTest.Org allows teachers to easily create productive and receptive vocabulary tests by selecting wordlist, band size, and sample rate

For example, the teacher could select the NGSL word list sampled at 30 words per 500 word band. Students will then be tested on 30 words for each selected 500-word band of the NGSL. A 6% sample rate is deemed to be sufficiently representative to be generalizable to the whole 500 words in the band. In this way, teachers can assess student mastery of a given band of a specified wordlist without having to test every word in the band.

In the receptive mode, language learners are required to respond to a prompt in the form of a sentence containing the target word in English. They must then input the translation of the word in their mother language, e.g. Japanese. In order to account for the multitude of ways any given word can be translated, VocabLevelTest.Org accepts a wide range of answers, which have been validated by native speakers of the mother language. What’s more, the range of acceptable answers increases as language learners submit novel but valid responses, and these responses are fed back into the system as correct responses. If a student is able to correctly produce a valid response for a specific word, they are deemed to have receptive knowledge of that word.

In the receptive mode, students type their native language translation of an English word in context

In the productive mode, students are required to produce the canonical English form of their native language translation of the target word. In contrast to the receptive mode, the test stipulates only one acceptable and canonical translation. However, given that there are multiple possible ways to translate words from the student’s native language to English, valid but incorrect answers are taken into consideration, and the student is presented with a warning when such a word is detected. They are then given an additional chance to input the canonical translation of the word. If they are able to do so, they are deemed to have productive knowledge of the specified word.

In the productive mode, students are required to input the English form of their native language translation of the target word

When the test has been completed and submitted by the student, the results are made available to both the student and the teacher in graphical and statistical forms. The teacher can also access a convenient overview of band mastery for an entire class of students.

Results of the vocabulary test are provided in graphical and statistical form

In conclusion, VocabLevelTest.Org provides a convenient and reliable way to measure the existing vocabulary knowledge of English language learners. This allows English language educators to focus on the vocabulary that students have yet to master, and helps them select the appropriate teaching materials to do so.

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