9.1   GENERAL
An effective way of developing the listening skill is through the provision or carefully selected practice material. Such material is in many ways similar to that used for testing listening comprehension. Although the auditory skills are closely linked to the oral skills in normal speech situations, it may sometimes be useful to separate the two skills for teaching and testing, since it is possible to develop listening ability much beyond the range of speaking and writing ability if the practice material is not dependent on spoken responses and written exercises.  
     What is the significance of these features for testing purposes? Firstly, the ability to distinguish between phonemes, however important, does not in itself imply an ability to understand verbal messages. Moreover, occasional confusion over selected pairs of phones does not matter too greatly because in real-life situations listeners rely on all the phonological clues present, they can often afford to miss some of them.
     Secondly, impromptu speech is usually easier to understand than carefully prepared (written) material when the latter is read aloud. Written test generally omit many of the features of redundancy and impart information at a much higher rate than normal speech does. Consequently, it is essential to make provision for restating important points, rewriting and rephrasing them when writing material for aural tests. The length of the segments in each breath group should be limited during delivery, for the longer the segment the greater the amount of information and the greater the strain on the auditory memory. The pauses at the end of each segment should also be lengthened to compensate for lack of redundant features.
     For purposes of convenience, auditory tests are divided here into two broad categories: (i) tests of phoneme discrimination and of sensitivity to stress and intonation, and (ii) tests of listening comprehension.
9.2   Phoneme discrimination tests
Type 1
(a)   This type of discrimination test consists of a picture, accompanied by three or four words spoken by the examiner in person or on tape.
1

2

3

The testees hear:
1. A. pin               B. pen               C. pair              D. pain
2. A. shark           B. sock             C. sack              D. shock
3. A. thin              B. tin                C. fin                D. din
After each group of four words the testees write the letter of the most appropriate word for that picture. For example:
1. A     2. B      3. B
(b)   Conversely, four pictures may be shown and only one word spoken. In this case, it is usually better if the word is spoken twice.
A

B

C

D

The testees hear:
1. pain – pain (= D)
etc.
Type 2
The testees hear three sentences and have to indicate which sentences are the same and which are different.
1. A. There’s a bend in the middle of the road.
    B. There’s a bend in the middle of the road.
    C. There’s a band in the middle of the road.
2. A. Is that sheet over there clean?
    B. Is that seat over there clean?
    C. Is that seat over there clean?
3. A. I’ve just locked the car in the garage.
    B. I’ve just knocked the car in the garage.
    C. I’ve just locked the car in the garage.
(etc.)
Type 3
(a)   In each of these items one word is given on tape while three or four words are printed in the answer booklet. The testees are required to choose the written word which corresponds to the spoken word.
1. Spoken: den
    Written: A. ten              B. den               C. pen              D. Ben
2. Spoken: win
    Written: A. when          B. one               C. wane            D. win
3. Spoken: plays
    Written: A. plays           B. prays             C. pays             D. brays
(etc.)
(b)   This type of item is similar to the previous one; this time, however, the words spoken by the tester occur in sentences. The four options may then be either written or spoken.
1. Spoken:   I’ll threat it for you.
    Written or spoken: A. thread              B. tread             C. threat            D. dread  
2. Spoken:   Did John manage to catch the train?
    Written or spoken: A. drain                B. chain             C. Plain             D. train
3. Spoken:   Put the pan in some hot water.
    Written or spoken: A. pan                  B. pen               C. pin               D. pain
(c)   This item type is similar to type 3 (a): one word is spoken by the tester (preferable twice). However, instead of a choice of four words, testees have in front of them a choice of four definitions. They have thus to select the correct definition for the word they hear.       
1. Spoken:   cot – cot
    Written:    A. stopped and held
                    B. a baby’s bed
                    C. pulled by horses
                    D. a small pet animal covered with fur
2. Spoken:   threw – threw
   Written:    A. made something move through the air
                   B. not false
                   C. some but not many
                   D. made a picture of diagram on paper
3. Spoken:   bud – bud
   Written:    A. part of a tree or a flower
                   B. a creature with wings
                   C. something to sleep on
                   D. not good
     The test items described in this section are all of limited use for diagnostic testing purposes, enabling the teacher to concentrate latter on specific pronunciation difficulties. The items are perhaps more useful when testees have the same first language background and when a contrastive analysis of the mother tongue and the target language can be used. Most of the item types described are short, enabling the tester to cover a wide range of sounds.
     Type 3(c), however, tests not only the ability to discriminate between the different sounds of a language but also a knowledge of vocabulary. A testee who may be able to discriminate accurately will nevertheless find the test very difficult if he or she cannot understand the definitions in the options. Similarly, Type 3 (a) is a test of phoneme discrimination and spelling ability. In Type 3(b) proficiency in grammatical structure will favour the testee. Thus, for example, a testee who cannot discriminate between thread, tread, threat and dread may immediately rule out the distractors threat and dread since they cannot be put in the pattern I’ll …………..it for you.    
9.3   TESTS OF STRESS AND INTONATION
Although features of stress, intonation, rhythm and juncture are generally considered more important in oral communication skills than the ability to discriminate between phonemes, tests of stress and intonation are on the whole less satisfactory than the phoneme discrimination tests treated in the previous section. Most tests are impure in so far as they test other skills at the same time; many are also very artificial, testing the rarer (but more ‘testable’) features.
Type 1   The following item type is designed to test the ability to recognize word stress or sentence stress. The testees listen to a sentence (usually spoken on tape) and are required to indicate the syllable which carries the main stress of the whole structure. They show the main stress by putting a cross in the brackets under the appropriate syllable.
     Spoken:   I’ve just given THREE books to Bill.
     Written:   I’ve just given three books to Bill
        (    )  (   ) ( ) ( )  (  X ) (     )  ( ) (  )
    
     Spoken:   My FAther will help you do it
     Written:   My father will help you do it.
                     (   ) (X)( ) (  )  (    )  (  ) (  ) ( )
Unfortunately, their test lacks context and is very artificial. It tests only recognition of stress and is of limited use for ear-training purposes.
Type 2   The examiner makes an utterance and testees have to select the appropriate description to indicate whether they have understood the original utterance. The utterance is spoken once only, but the test is based on the principle that the same utterance may be spoken in several different tone-patterns indicating a plain statement, a question, sarcasm, surprise, annoyance, etc.
     Spoken:  Tom’s a fine goalkeeper.
    Written:   Tom’s a fine goalkeeper.
                    The speaker is
A.      making a straightforward statement
B.      being very sarcastic
C.      asking a question
     Spoken:   You will send me a couple of tickets.
     Written:   You will send me a couple of tickets.
                     This is probably
A.      a request
B.      a command
C.      an expression of belief
     This type of test item is sometimes difficult to construct. Since the context must be neutral, it is often hard to avoid ambiguity. There is also a meanings: e.g. sarcasm, irony, incredulity. Moreover, it can be argued that the item tests vocabulary and reading comprehension in addition to sensitivity to stress and intonation.
9.4        STATEMENTS AND DIALOGUES
These items are designed to measure how well students can understand short samples of speech and deal with a variety of signals on the lexical and grammatical levels of phonology. They are very suitable for use in tests administered in the language laboratory but they do not resemble natural discourse. The spontaneity, redundancy, hesitations, false starts and ungrammatical forms, all of which constitute such an important part of real-life speech, are generally absent from these types of items simply because they have been prepared primarily as written language to be read aloud.
Type 1   This item type may be included in a test of grammar, a test of reading comprehension or a test of listening comprehension, depending on whether the item is  written or spoken. It tests the ability to understand both the grammatical and lexical features of  a short utterance. The testees hear a statement (usually on tape) and then choose the best option from four written paraphrases.
     Spoken:   I wish you’d done it when I told you.
     Written:   A. I told you and you did it then.
                     B. I didn’t tell you but you did it then.
                     C. I told you but you didn’t do it then.
                     D. I didn’t tell you and you didn’t do it then.
     When constructing these items, it is advisable to keep the grammatical difficulties in the stem, leaving the written options free of such problems and at a lower level of grammatical and lexical difficulty than the spoken stimulus.
Type 2   These item types are more satisfactory than Type 1 insofar as they are an attempt to stimulate speech situations. The testees listen to a short question and have to select the correct response from a choice of four printed ones.
     Spoken:   Why are you going home?
     Written:    A. At six o’clock.
                     B. Yes, I am.
                     C. To help my mother.
                     D. By bus.
Each option should be so constructed as to appear correct in some way to the testee who has not recognized the correct signals in the question. The question types should be varied as much as possible and Yes/No questions included as well as Wh-questions.
     Spoken:   Does Alison mind you playing the piano?
     Written:    A. Yes, she’s always thinking about it.
                     B. No, she rather likes it.
                     C. No, she doesn’t play the piano.
                     D. Yes, she must be careful.
In this item two of the distractors (A and D) are based on confusion relating to mind in order to tempt any testee who has failed to understand the question accurately. Distractor C has been included to attract any testee who has generally misunderstood the question and thinks it is about Alison playing the piano.
9.5   TESTING COMPREHENSION THROUGH VISUAL MATERIALS
Type 1   In this item type a picture  is used in conjunction with spoken statements. The statements are about the picture but some are correct and others incorrect. The testees have to pick out the true (i.e. correct) statements and write T (or put  a tick √ ) at the side of the appropriate numbers. They write F (or put a cross X) at the side of the numbers of the false (i.e. incorrect) statements.


  Spoken:
1.       The students are busy in the library.
2.       The librarian is helping a student.
3.       a girl is standing and looking for a book.
4.       a boy student is standing and reading a book.
5.       Two girl students are sitting and reading.
6.       There isn’t anything on the librarian’s table.
7.       A boy student is sitting and writing.
8.      the students are wearing  school uniforms.
     Written:
     1.     2.     3.     4.    
     5.     6.     7.     8.