A careful selection, or sampling, of lexical items for inclusion in a test is generally a most exciting task. Many of the more traditional types of vocabulary tests are designed in such a way that they test a knowledge of words which, though frequently found in many English textbooks, are rarely used in ordinary speech.
The first task for the writer of a vocabulary test is to determine the degree to which he or she wishes to concentrate on testing the students’ active or passive vocabulary. The next task is decide whether the lexical items in the test should be taken from the spoken or the written language. Selection of vocabulary can thus be thought of as falling into the following rough divisions according to the four major language skills:
 Listening:  passive/spoken
  Reading:  passive/written.
Speaking:  active/spoken
   Writing:  active/written
The test constructor’s task is made much easier if all the students have followed a particular syllabus. Lexical items can then be selected from;
          the syllabus (including a word frequency list if available);
          the students’ textbook (provided the items appropriate to those used in natural speech situations).
          the students’ reading material (e.g. simplified readers, literary texts); and
          lexical errors taken form students’ free-written work (or from students’ incorrect answers in a cloze test).
The following error, however, may be one of verb patterning or simply the wrong choice of verb:
       Is the government going to contribute the new industry?
If an error of verb patterning, the correct version would be
       Is the government going to contribute  to the new industry?
If caused by the wrong choice of verb, it would be
        Is the government going to subsidize the new industry?
     Moreover, according to the findings of research conducted into the effectiveness of distractors in multiple-choice vocabulary tests, those distractors based on students’ incorrect answers in cloze tests (though moderately useful) were found to be less powerful than
(a)    the use of false synonyms (i.e. words with equivalent meanings to the key word underlined or shown in italics in the sentence but inappropriate in the particular context):
I’d like to book two ………………… in the circle, please.
seats = correct word
chairs = false synonym
(b)   contextually relevant items (i.e. words related to the context but different in meaning to the key word in the sentence):
‘How much is a …………… to Tokyo, please?’
‘Nine hundred yen, and a return is sixteen hundred yen’
single = correct word
ticket = contextually relevant
     Test of vocabulary should avoid grammatical structures which the students may find difficult to comprehend. Similarly, tests of grammar should contain only those lexical items which present no difficulty to the students.
Group A  Choose the letter of the word which is the nearest in meaning  to the word in italics.
He’s been very feeble since his illness.
A. unwell     B. thin              C. foolish          D. weak
Group B  Choose the letter of the correct or best word to complete each sentence.
  Have you heard the planning committee’s ……… for solving the city’s traffic problems?
  A. theory      B. design           C. proposal       D. purpose
     This section concentrates on Group A items and the next section on Group B. the following item types are examples of four vocabulary recognition items which fall within the first group.
Type 1  in this type of recognition  item the stem is replaced by a picture. The testees see the picture and have to select the most appropriate word relating to the picture from four or five options. This type of item is clearly very appropriate at the elementary stages.

                  A.      running
                  B.      jumping
                  C.      standing
                  D.     kicking
Type 2  Here the stem consists of a definition: the testees have to select the correct option to which the definition refers.
       A person who receives and pays out money in a bank
       A. broker               B. accountant                C. creditor         D. cashier
Type 3  The stem consists of a lexical item: the testees have to select the best synonym of definition.
       A. support             B. advise           C. contradict     D. damage
       A. growing gradually larger              C. showing care and effort
       B. slow in getting done                   D. heavy with drops of water.
Type 4  The stem here consists of a sentence. Hence, this type of recognition item is generally to be preferred to the previous three types in so far as the ‘problem’ word appears in context. Vocabulary is much more usefully tested in context since it is the context that gives specific meaning and relevance in the circumstances.
        It’s rained continuously for two whole days.
        A. without stopping                      C. regularly
        B. heavily                                      D. at odd moments
     Since subtle shades of meaning are, often determined only by the specific context in which  a particular word appears, it is generally advisable to provide fairly full contexts for vocabulary testing, especially at an advanced level. The fuller the context, however, the more difficult it sometimes can prove to find plausible distractors. Few good distractors, for example, can be found for the following item:
       We’ve had to put off the meeting until next week. (postpone)
            Synonyms are not always interchangeable in a context (without altering the meaning). However, where a word may be replaced by another in a particular context, testees may easily be misled into regarding synonyms as being generally interchangeable.
1   If the problem area being tested is located in the options (as in type 2). The stem should be kept simple. If, however, the problem area is included in the stem (as in type 3 and 4), the options themselves should be simple in so far as they should contain only those vocabulary items which the testees can understand.
2   Each option should belong to the same word class as the word in the stem. Particularly when the word appears in the context of a sentence. If this rule is observed, there will be less danger of the context providing important grammatical clues for the testees. For example, although the first of the following test item is usable, option A, B and C in the second item would be grammatically incorrect when put in the context.   
A. deep in thought                                    C. self satisfied
B. without  sense of humor                       D. scornful
Ian was contemptuous of the efforts of his friends to raise some money for the charity
A. deep in thought                                    C. self satisfied
B. without  sense of humor                       D. scornful
3   The correct option and the distractors should be approximately the same level of difficulty. If the correct option is more difficult than the distractors, the testees will arrive at the correct answer by process of elimination. Thus, the test may have a negative effect on the testees; i.e. they will select the correct option not because they know it is correct but only because they know the other options are wrong. The following item measures the testees’ knowledge of distractors rather than their familiarity with the correct option:
A. angry               B. histrionic       C. proud           D. foolish
     The converse also holds good. If the distractors are more difficult than the correct option, the item may be equally unreliable. In such a case, there will usually be a tendency for the more able students to think that the correct option is too easy and therefore wrong; they are thus tricked into selecting one of the more difficult options:
A. be adequate                  B. harass           C. acquiesce       D. be contrite
4   There is some disagreement concerning the relationship of the options to the problem area being tested. Some test writers argue that the options should be related to the same general topic or area, while others prefer as wide a range of associations as possible. Unless the vocabulary item being tested has a very low frequency count (i.e. is very rarely used), however, the item writer is advised to limit the options to the same general area of activity where possible.
Item 1                                          Item 2
apparition                                       apparition
A. skeleton                                   A. scenery
B. ghost                                       B. ghost
C. nightmare                                C. magician
D. corpse                                     D. castle
If item 2 were set in a test, students who had read a few ghost stories would probably select option B because they would associate apparition with the stories they had read. In item 1, however, students are required to show a much greater control over vocabulary.         
5   All the options should be approximately the same length. There is a temptation both in vocabulary and in reading comprehension tests to make the correct option much longer than the distractors. This is particularly true in a vocabulary test item in which the options take the form of definitions: the item-writer tends to take great pains to ensure that the option is absolutely correct, qualifying it at great length. However, the item-writer rarely takes such trouble over the distractors, since they are deliberately wrong and need not be qualified in any way.
a hitch-hiker
A. a man who makes ropes
B. a person who travels about by asking motorists to give him free rides
C. an old-fashioned sailor
D. a boy who walks long distances
Any students who did not know the meaning of hitch-hiker would clearly choose option B – and would be correct in doing so. Consequently, if it is ever necessary to qualify a definition at some length, either one distractor or all three or four distractors should be made equally long. In this way, the correct option will be disguised a little more effectively.
            It is advisable to avoid using a pair of synonyms as distractors; if the testees recognize the synonyms, they may realize immediately that neither is the correct option, since there can be only one correct answer.
The old woman was  always courteous when anyone spoke to her.
A. polite               B. glad              C. kind             D. pleased
     Even such synonyms as glad and pleased are sufficient to indicate to intelligent students that the choice must be between polite and kind, since if glad were correct, pleased would also probably be correct. 
     If it is  also dangerous to ‘pair off options by providing an antonym as a distractor. Options A and C in the following vocabulary item immediately stand out; again, clever students will be able to narrow their choice down to two options once they realize that A means the opposite of C.
A. go up              B. talk               C. come down              D. fetch
In certain ways, the items shown in this section are more difficult to construct than those in the previous section. The problem is chiefly one of context: too little context is insufficient to establish any meaningful situation, while too much context may provide too many clues (both grammatical and semantic).
1. I saw a nasty ……between two cars this morning.
    A. happening               B. danger          C. damage         D. accident
2. I was speaking to Cathy on the phone when suddenly we were ……
   A. hung up                    B. run out         C. broken down            D. cut off
3. I should have returned this book last Tuesday: it is now five days ……
   A. postponed                B. excessive       C. overdue        D. delayed
4. Nothing had been organized and confusion seemed ……..
   A. inevident                   B. inefficient      C. ineligible       D. inevitable
5. Tom always tries to help people, but recently he has been ….. kind and generous.
   A. chiefly                       B. especially       C. principally     D. fundamentally
     Many multiple-choice vocabulary test items of the type being dealt with in this section rely on the context itself to provide grammatical clues which are useful on many respects but may possibly belong more to tests of grammar and structure rather than to vocabulary. Nevertheless, there can be little objection to introducing, say, a few items on verb patterning in a test of vocabulary.
6. I’m ….. of a new job. I don’t like my present one.
   A. contemplating           B. thinking        C. desiring        D. hoping
7. Ann …… me of a girl I used to know.
   A. recalls                       B. reminds        C. remembers   D. recollects
It is sometimes argued that many multiple-choice vocabulary tests consist largely of items such as the following and that these test only a knowledge of collocation.
8. The television station was ……… with letters and phone calls after the announcement.
   A. drowned                   B. stormed        C. remembers               D. absorbed
Since this item ignores the ability to create unexpected collocations, it can also be argued  that an imaginative use of the language is discouraged. Although there maybe some truth in this argument, unexpected collocations result from a creative and intuitive handling of the language, which in turn demands an implicit understanding of everyday collocations. It is usually the writer’s very awareness of the degree of incongruity which makes a new collocation vigorous and meaningful.
     Although the collocations in such items as the following may be tested equally well without a context, it is usually advisable to test them in sentences.
9. Dr Heston charges a high ……. For his services.
    A. free B. profit            C. salary                        D. payment
(Collocations being tested here, for example, are: charge a fee/ make a profit/ receive a salary/ make or receive a payment – although it is possible to charge a payment to account.)
10. I don’t believe you: I think you’re ……lies.
    A. saying          B. talking           C. speaking       D. telling
11. Iron will eventually ………if grease is not applied.
     A. wear           B. corrode         C. damage         D. corrupt
12. My driving license ……..at the end of this month.
     A. expires        B. passes out     C. retires           D. concludes
If separated from such contexts as the preceding ones, these test items would read:
9. charge a fee/profit/salary/payment
10. say/talk/speak/tell lies
11. iron wears/corrodes/damages/corrupts
12. a license expires/passes out/retires/concludes
     In this type of items, however, each context requires a ‘normal’ reaction and takes no account of cultural differences. For example, in the following item B or D would be correct in certain societies since it is impolite to accept a gift without first vehemently refusing it.
Emma cried out with …………at the beautiful present Mrs White gave her.
A. delight                         B. horror          C. dismay          D. anger
Many of the difficulties arising from the testing of collocations are avoided by the testing of word sets. In such tests the students’ familiarity with a range of associations is measured.
Type 1: Recognition
Read each of the following lists of four words. One word does not belong in each list. Put a circle round the odd word in each list.
son                      happy               arrive
father                   married             depart
boy                      engaged            go away
brother                single                leave
Type 2: Production
Each group of words is related to a particular subject. Write down the particular subject which is connected with each group of words.
hand                    theatre              volume                         nursery
wrist                    sister                 track                             lift
dial                      bed                   head                             slope
face                     ward                 spool                            snow
(- watch)              (-hospital)         (-tape recorder)              (-skiing)
Type 1 of the following test items suffers from testing lexical items from different word classes, while type 2 tests a mixed bag of tense forms, etc.
Type 1
Write the correct word from the following list at the side of each number on your answer sheet. Use each word once only.
Road                   accident            traveling            turned               side
Broken                know                knocked            middle              looked
Lorry                   policeman         pavement          running             hurt
Lying                   crossed             left                    forgot               talked
Poor Tom Wright was (1) down by a (2) last week when he was crossing the (3). He was quite badly (4) and he had to go into hospital for a few days. His left leg was (5) and both his arms were cut. While he was (6) in bed in the hospital, a (7) came to (8) to him.
‘Was the lorry (9) very quickly?’ he asked Tom.
Tom told him all about the  (10). ‘I was (11) home from school and I (12) the road. (13) right but I (14) to look (15). In the (16) of the road I suddenly saw a lorry. I didn’t (17) what to do, so I began to run to the other (18) of the road. The lorry (19) but it hit me when I was near the (20).’
Type 2
Complete the following sentences with the most suitable verb phrase from the list.
Came about         pull through      broken out        falling out
Running into        brought up        get away            out off
1. ‘Did the prisoner manage to ……?’ ‘Yes, the police are still looking for him.’
2. The doctor thought Mr Benson would ……after the operation.
3. The couple are always …….and causing a disturbance.
4. And so it …….that we eventually parted.
It is much more efficient to test words from the same word class (e.g. nouns only in type 1), or parallel tense forms (e.g. the past simple tense in Type 2). Thus the Type 2 item could be rewritten as follows:
came about          ran into             pulled through               got away
1. ‘I hear the prisoner …………. yesterday and the police are still looking for him.’
2. ‘We were all relieved that  Mr Benson ……..after the operation.’
Type 3
From the list of words given, choose the one which is most suitable for each blank. Write only the letter of the correct word after each number on your answer sheet. (Use each word once only)
A. completely                   C. busily                        E. quickly
B. politely                         D. carefully                    F. angrily
‘Write (1) …….. ‘the teacher shouted (2) …………., ‘but don’t waste time. You must get used to working (3) ………’ ‘Please, sir,’ a student said (4) ………, ‘I’ve finished.’ ‘No, you haven’t, ‘answered the teacher ‘You haven’t (5) ……….. until you’ve ruled a line at the end. ‘Meanwhile, the boy sitting next to him was (6) ……….engaged in drawing a map. 
Type 4
The most useful type of matching item is undoubtedly that based on a reading comprehension passage. The students are given a list of words at the end of the passage and required to find words of similar meaning in the passage. Since a detailed context is provided by the passage and little additional material is required, this is an economical method of testing vocabulary. The chief risk here, however,  is the duplication of questions: if one of the reading comprehension questions depends for its answer on a knowledge of the meaning of a particular word, care must be exercised not to test that word again in the vocabulary section.
     In the following example candidates in the test are instructed to replace the words listed below with the appropriate words contained in the passage without changing the meaning.
Group                             …………….
Owned                            ……………
Specific                            ……………
Made up                          ……………
Chief                               ……………
Knowledge                      ……………
Similarly                           ……………
Close to each other           ……………
Were inclined                   ……………
Work together                  ……………
The Tehuelches lived in a band – usually of between fifty and a hundred people. Each band had exclusive rights to a particular hunting area and no other band was able to hunt there without permission. Each band was composed of families related through the male line and the man who led them was the hunter who had the greatest experience of the hunting groups. Each man married a woman from another band and his sister would also marry men outside his band. In this way bands in a neighborhood were linked by ties of marriage and so tended to co-operate with each other in hunting and other tasks. 
The following types of completion items can be used for the testing of vocabulary. Tests which present such items in a context are generally preferable to those which rely on single words or on definitions.
Type 1
Read through the following passage containing a number of incomplete words. Write each completed word on your answer sheet at the side of the appropriate number. (Each dash represents one letter.)
     Snakes are ones of the (1) d – m – n – – t groups of (2) r – pt –    – -: there are at least 2,000 different (3) sp – c – – s of snakes (4) sc –  – – – – d over a wide area of the earth. Not all snakes are (5) p – – s – n – – s: in fact, the (6) m – j – – – – y are quite harmless. Contrary to (7) p – p – l – – believe, a snake’s (8) f – – k – d tongue is not (9) d – ng – – – – – to human beings: it is merely for touching and smelling (10) s – bs – -n – – s. Snakes (11) in – – ct poison into their (12) vi – – – -‘s body by (13) b – t – – g him with their (14) f – – gs.
Type 2
(a)   Complete each blank with the most appropriate word to replace each number in the text.
    Rosnah: What’s the (1) today?                                                   (1) ……….
Mohamed: It’s the seventh.
    Rosnah: At what (2) does the concert start?                                (2) ……….
Mohamed: Seven o’clock, I think. Just a moment.
                  I make a note of it in my (3)                                        (3) ……….
    Rosnah: How long do you think it will (4)?                                 (4) ……….
Mohamed: It finishes about ten.
    Rosnah: That’s quite a long (5), isn’t it?                                       (5) ……….
Mohamed: I suppose so. It’s three hours.

Note the range of possible answers, especially with 3,4 and 5 (e.g. 3: diary, notebook, exercise book; 4: last, take; 5: time, concert, performance).