Sample Test Questions for English Proficiency

by Teresa Dashwood

English language learners of varying skill levels arrive at educational institutions such as elementary and secondary schools, language schools, and colleges and universities hoping to hone their skills. English proficiency tests place the language learners in programs and courses according to their language skills. You can develop your own test questions or select testing programs by reviewing sample test questions for English proficiency.

Background Queries

Background questions involve assessing whether the language learner can provide basic information in daily situations. Ask the language learners their last names, first names, addresses and phone numbers. Other questions include date of birth, age and nationality. Language learners who have difficulty answering these questions belong in remedial, survival-level English instruction to help them gain the skills they need to navigate everyday situations.

Probe the Past

Ask the English language learners about experiences from their past. Some examples include asking about their schooling, lifestyle and travel memories. These topics necessitate a use of past tense verbs and key words such as "last year" and "yesterday." Assess the language learners' skill levels; for example, talking about the past with present tense verbs, such as "Last year, I move to the United States," indicates that the language learner would benefit from beginning grammar instruction. Consider intermediate to advanced grammar instruction for a language learner who answers in the past tense, but with errors in irregular verbs, such as "I drived with my family."

Focus on the Present

Ask the language learners about their present situations. Listen for the use of simple present and present progressive, along with auxiliary verbs. Novice English language learners typically confuse the grammatical construction of present tenses. It's typical to hear "I am go to the store," or "I going to work." Other confusions involve active and passive constructions. Ask about favorite activities or movies. Descriptions such as "The movie is excited" or "We are exciting at the movie" indicate a language learner ready for more intermediate study.

Reach for the Future

Find out information about future plans for each language learner. The questions give you an opportunity to become acquainted with the language learners' goals and language proficiency. Beginning learners may not have the skills to use future tense verbs. Common construction errors include sentences such as "I will going to college next year" and "I am go to college next year." Ask questions involving two future actions. Note the replies to a sample question such as "How long will you have been in the United States by next year?" A blank stare in reply lets you know this is a beginning or intermediate learner. A correct answer demonstrates advanced proficiency.

About the Author

Teresa Dashwood began writing professionally in 1984. Ye Galleon Press published her book "Warrior of the Mist" in 1996 and 2003. Dashwood completed her Bachelor of Arts in literature and Master of Arts in teaching from Gonzaga University. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing from Eastern Washington University.

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