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Should language be tested by discrete points or by integrative testing?

Traditionally, language test have been constructed on the assumption that: language can be broken down into its component and those component parts are duly tested. What is discrete point? Language is segmented into many small linguistic points and the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Test questions are designed to test these skills and linguistic points. A discrete point test consists of many questions on a large number of linguistic points, but each question tests only one linguistic point. Examples of Discrete point test are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Phoneme recognition. Yes/No, True/ False answers. Spelling. Word completion. Grammar items. Multiple choice tests.

Such tests have a down side in that they take language out of context and usually bear no relationship to the concept or use of whole language. Discrete point test met with some criticism, particularly in the view of more recent trends toward viewing the units of language and its communicative nature and purpose, and viewing language as the arithmetic sum of all its parts. That is why John Oller (1976) introduced INTEGRATIVE TESTING. According to him language competence is a unified set of interacting abilities which cannot be separated apart and tested adequately. Oller (1979:37) Whereas discrete items attempt to test knowledge of language one bit at a time, integrative tests attempt to assess a learner's capacity to use many bits all at the same time, and possibly while exercising several presumed components of a grammatical system, and perhaps more than one of the traditional skills or aspects of skills. Therefore, communicative competence is so global and requires such integration for its pragmatic use in the real world that it cannot be captured in additive tests of grammar or reading or vocabulary and other discrete points of language. This emphasizes the simultaneous testing of the testee's multiple linguistic competence from various perspectives. Examples of integrative test are:

Cloze tests


Dictation Translation Essays and other coherent writing tasks Oral interviews and conversation Reading, or other extended samples of real text





Oller (1979:38) has refined the integrative concept further by proposing what he calls pragmatic test. A pragmatic test is ... any procedure or task that causes the learner to process sequences of elements in a language that conform to the normal contextual constraints of that language and which requires learner to relate sequences of linguistics elements via pragmatic mappings to extra linguistic contexts. A step in a positive direction would be to concentrate on tests of communicative competence. The recent direction of linguistic study has been toward viewing language as an integrated and pragmatic skill, we cannot be certain that a test like a cloze test meets the criterion of predicting or assessing a unified and integrated underlying linguistic competence we must be cautious in selecting and constructing test of language. There is nothing wrong to use the traditional tests of discrete points of language especially in achievement and other classroom-oriented testing in which certain discrete points are very important. References:



A Statistical Analysis of Different Instruments to Measure Short-term In an L2 Immersion Program1. by Kyle Perkins Southern Illinois University at Carbondale U.S.A.

Prepared by: Ibaez, Alex P. Manzano, Lloyd Conrad Dela Rosa, Neil Ryan Espejo, Krsitine Mae G. Vinluan, Ruth D.