Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The John Test for speaking

By Joe Sciacca, Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction, Univ. of Illinois, USA

The John Test was used for placement purposes as part of the refugee resettlement language training component (ESL) in Illinois. It is primarily a test of verbal ability and to a lesser extent listening comprehension.

Advantages: very quick and very easy to administer.

Disadvantages: does not discriminate fine differences in ability. The test consists of a series of 7 line drawings showing "John" in various settings during a typical day from waking up to going to bed. The administrator shows each picture in turn to the student and asks from one to three predetermined questions for each picture (a total of 12 questions).

These are "factual" questions that the student is expected to be able to answer from looking at the picture (atypival question is "Whose dog is under the bed? ", to which the student would answer, "John's dog is under the bed.")

In this part of the test the questions concentrate on tense structures such as Present Simple and Present Continuous. The tester scores each response with a 0, 1 or 2, depending on whether the student cannot answer at all, can answer with grammatical errors, or without

After working through the series of pictures, the student is shown all the pictures at once and asked to tell the whole story of "John's" day in his own words in the past tense. The scoring of the test as a whole is relatively subjective, espectially the part in which the student tells the story about John.

In this part of the test, the tester assigns a score for fluency and for structure on a scale of 0 to 14. In the refugee ESL context the John Test was used to make rough placement decisions for incoming students at the "beginner", "intermediate" or "advanced" levels.

It takes approximately fifteen minutes to administer and score the test. According to my wife who has used both this test and the "BEST" Test (an ESL test developed by the Center for Applied Linguistics), the John Test provides as much information about the subject's verbal ability as the BEST Test which takes much longer to administer.

There are apparently at least two versions of the John Test. The above comments are based on the "New, Shortened Version, 1975". As far as contact information is concerned, the administrator's manual states that the test is free from the Adult Education Resource Center, Jersey City State College, Jersey City, New Jersey. The phone number is(201) 547-3101.

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