ESL Assessments


With learning English, students are expected to be able to write the Roman alphabet. Regardless of age or other abilities, the students may still need help learning to write the letters. The assessment is therefor, imitative writing: forming letters, words, and simple sentences. First, students need to learn to produce the letters and then build from there. They start with tasks in hand - writing letters, words, and punctuation, then spelling tasks and detecting phoneme-grapheme correspondences.

Tasks in hand - writing letters, words, and punctuation
1. copying
2. listening cloze selection tasks
3. picture-cued tasks
4. form completion tasks
5. converting numbers and abbreviations to words

Spelling tasks and detecting phoneme-grapheme correspondences
1. spelling tests
2. picture-cued tasks
3. multiple-choice techniques
4. matching phonetic

Practice Writing

This is a great way for students to understand the spacing of letters and differentiate between where one letter begins and ends. This is a formal assessment that is authentic. The words may be changed frequently to help students writing more authentic words, or practice vocabulary words.

Directions: Practice writing the following emotions.  Write each emotion two times.  Write one letter per space.  The first one has been done for you.
Ex) Sad
    _s_ _a_ _d_
    _s_ _a_ _d

1)    Happy
___ ___ ___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___ ___ ___

2)    Glad
___ ___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___ ___

3)    Angry
___ ___ ___ ___ ___
    ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

4)    Scared
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

5)    Bored
___ ___ ___ ___ ___   
___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Here's Your Sign

This is an especially authentic task as students will need to recognize signs like these. Students could be aided by having a word box to choose from. This is a formal assessment for them to complete and can be returned to them after it is graded. If the students are able to review their answers, then washback can occur. It is incorporate different signs if this assessment is going to be used more than once.

Write the meaning for each of the signs below on the line, your answer may be simply one or two words.


This is also known as Controlled Writing, or form-focused writing, grammar writing, or guided writing. Intensive contains mostly display writing rather than real writing, meaning that students are to produce writing that shows a students is able to utilize grammar, vocabulary, or sentence formation rather than creating meaning. It is a process of combining words correctly, which does not mean the student is using original thought for the content or that the product will be authentic writing. New information is not passed. Some examples include dictation and dicto-comp, grammatical transformation tasks, picture-cued tasks, vocabulary assessment tasks, ordering tasks, short-answer and sentence-completion tasks.

Picture-cued tasks
1. short sentences
2. picture description
3. picture sequence description

Forming Sentences

Through this assessment, students must not only know the definition of the words, but also which ones have similar contexts and could be used together. This is a great way to practice word association and sentence formation. This is a formal assessment that can be adapted to be more authentic for language learning.

Have students write complete sentences using a pair of words from the list in each sentence. The sentences have to make sense and be grammatically correct, but open yourself to all possibilities when correcting, since you should look for correct use of the words, not sense per se.

Example vocabulary:

  1. chambers
  2. speculate
  3. ruined
  4. sequence
  5. moles
  6. skunk
  7. thin
  8. recurring
  9. endorsement
  10. huge
Example sentence:

  • The Police speculated the time of the crime by looking at the clocks in the husband and wife's chambers. 

Put together the Pieces

This assessment lacks authenticity, but allows students a chance to practice parts of speech. This is important, but many native speakers are able to speak the language without this metalinguistic knowledge. Also, this is an informal assessment, and may be difficult to attribute successes or failings to one student during the activity. I would not use this in my classroom.
  1. Illustrate known tenses with tense clue words, for example:
    - Habit/truth = present simple
    - Now = present continuous
    - Experience = present perfect
    - Plan = going to
    - Yesterday = past simple

  2. Select a range of verbs.

  3. Divide the class into teams.

  4. Give the same verb and tense clue word to each team.

  5. The idea is for each team to make the longest and hopefully perfectly contructed sentence. Count up the words from each team's sentence and score on the board. Students of all ages like healthy competition, and the cleverer ones will realise that by adding lists to their sentences they will score more points! eg. Yesterday I swam quickly across the deep blue river with my brother, my sister, my sister's boyfriend, my fat black dog etc.

Authentic Cooking Experience

This is an authentic task as it teaches students about food labels and instructions. By incorporating an at home element, it becomes more of a formal assessment that can provide feedback and positive washback. This is a great activity for students to learn more about product labels and decode information that is not easily understood. I would use this in my classroom, but depending on the age, I may vary the activity and foods a little.

Level: Elementary and lower-intermediate
Target Learners: Teens and adults
Language: Imperatives used for instructions; vocabulary for food and cooking; adverbs of sequence (first, then, etc.)
Authenticity: Directions from packages
Comprehensibility: Bilingual instructions

Materials: Instant noodles, canned soup, jelly or pudding powder, popcorn, pancake mixture, cocoa drink, etc; cooking utensils; home science lab

Introduction & Aim
An English exam question given to my son sparks off the idea of an EFL lesson based on authentic, practical language use. My son did not write a single word on the answer sheet, and upon my inquiry, he confessed that he did not know how to attempt the question. First, he did not understand what instructions were and the language required of him. Second, he had no hands-on experience in baking a cake or cooking noodles, which was more of an excuse than the fact.

The purpose of this lesson is to teach authentic language use and provide hands-on experience, catering for learners with different intelligence profiles, namely bodily-kinesthetic and interpersonal talents. It also opens avenues to cross-discipline cooperation between EFL and home science. An added benefit is cultural awareness of western styled food and meal.

In Class
Briefly introduce the theme and objectives. Teacher presents common instant or easy-to-prepare food products. Point out western-style ones. Ask if learners like them. Students are to share their favourites and cooking experience, if any. Draw their attention to vocabulary. Pick one exemplary item. Two learners come forward, one being the reader and the other writer. Open the package and copy the preparation instructions on to the chalkboard. Remind them to replace the brands with the generic name of the food item. Check class comprehension. Introduce adverbs of sequence, and add them in the right place. Students pair up and are assigned different food products. They are to work out the meaning of instructions and prepare the food items. The class share among themselves the final products and elect the 'best cook'.

Home assignment: Learners pick their favourite easy-to-prepare recipe and write up the preparation directions. Additional credit will be given if they demonstrate mastery of imperatives and adverbs of sequence.
Next session: Pairs agree on a recipe to prepare. Bring their own ingredients and present their method of preparation. Extra credits are given for pooling of effort to prepare a 3- or 4-course meal with starter, soup, main dish, desert and/or drink.

Lesson Plan Highlights
Involvement. Most of the time, learners are busy working out the language themselves. Scaffolding. The lesson is structured with language explanation, demonstration, pairwork and bilingual package instructions. Hands-on experience. Projection effect. Learners are directed to pay attention to names of food, preparation instructions, simple recipe, courses of meal, package descriptions (ingredients, expiry date, weight and serving size, storage instructions, nutrition information, etc.)

Contributor: Connie Chow


These allow more creative responses to prompts that give the student more choices in what vocabulary, grammar, and discourse they produce. They are responsible to answer the question, and some genres include
    short reports
    responses to the reading of an article or story
    summaries of articles or stories
    brief narratives or descriptions
    interpretations of graphs, tables, and charts

Typical Day

Typical Day is the perfect assessment for students to write about something familiar to them and something that they are able to provide large amounts of detail about. The teacher can issue this as a formal assessment, that is authentic in nature, and provide great feedback for them ot consider when writing in the future. It is important that the students be able to see their graded assignment, otherwise they will not know where they made errors.

Practises: writing, present simple

A student describes a typical day. This can be his/her own day, or that of a filmstar, famous politian, friend etc.

Good for all levels, especially beginners.

Lots of present simple: "I get up at midday. My hairdresser arrives at 2pm."

These written narrations can then be shared to practice their speaking as well.

Mystery Profession (adapted)

Students are given a profession and an opportunity to role play. They are to write a job description based either on previous knowledge or research done. It would be a great extension assessment, if they were to interview someone in that profession. This is difficult to teach to because the vocabulary for each profession would be difficult. Another extension to the assignment, could be to have the students read what they write and practice speaking. By sharing their writing, more students will learn about the various professions. This is an authentic task in having them learn about potential careers. If possible, it may be nice if the teacher is able to professions with English as their L2.

Students are given a profession. They are to write a brief description of the job include a typical, education needed, experience, and other specifics for the job. The teacher can choose jobs that would be familiar to them, or may gauge these so that students are forced to use certain vocabulary. It is possible to make this a little more in depth by having students talk to someone with this profession or to do some research.

Students should be encouraged to think of the usual question words (where do I work? when do I work? why? who? how? how much? etc) and to formulate appropriate yes/no questions to obtain the required information.

Some suggested "professions":

  • lion-tamer
  • top model
  • brain surgeon
  • president
  • hypnotist
  • lavatory attendant
  • astronaut
  • actor/actress
  • bodyguard
  • trapeze artist
  • fireman
  • priest
  • garbage man
  • table tennis player
  • librarian
  • chef
  • magician
  • clown
  • English teacher


Is also known as "free writing" which allows students to express their own thoughts and produce writing in response to their ideas. Generally, there are guidelines or principles for this response that gives them a direction based on a given question or prompt. Some include full-length essays, term papers, project reports, and theses/disserations. There is more freedom of expression as the writer is able to answer the question in a variety of ways and choose the content and format for their writing. Some writings may be more strict and allow the students less leeway in their writing.

However, this makes the evaluation of responsive and extensive assessments more difficult as they are questioned in authenticity, scoring, and time.

Essay Composition

This assessment is an extension writing assessment because students are asked to compose a much longer peice. Also, this assessment is very specific to the book Hatchet, so if the students have not read it then this assessment would not be applicable. However, the concept would still work for other novels. This is a formal assessment that could provide feedback if the teacher grades it and hands it back to the students.

Students will write a two-page essay in which they respond to 2 major events in the novel Hatchet.  Students will describe two experiences that Brian went through in the Canadian wilderness, and will comment on whether they believe Brian did the right thing or not.  Students will also offer their ideas on what Brian could have done in those situations. 
Students will be guided through the creation of this essay as follows:
Day 1: Introduction to opinion papers  introduction to assignment, defining “opinion,” looking at examples from previous years, creating a list of characteristics of opinion papers, example starter expressions “I feel that…” “If I were Brian, I would have… “ etc. Creation of large “Characteristics of Opinion Writing” chart to be posted at the front of the room.
Day 2: Beginning concept map  Students will create a concept map where they map out the events from the story they would like to give their opinions on, what happened in those events that they agree/do not agree with, why they agree/do not agree, and alternatives to Brian’s actions.  Students will be in small groups to discuss their concept maps.
Day 3: Beginning rough draft  Students will begin to create a rough draft, sketching out introductions and conclusions, and some possible ideas and phrases they want to include in the body of their text.  Students should refer to the “Characteristics of Opinion Writing” paper that was created on Day 1. Students can finish at home if they need to.
Day 4: Peer-editing  Students will peer-edit 2 other student’s papers, looking for the characteristics of opinion writing.  Students will make corrections/additions to rough draft based on this feedback, creating a more complete rough draft.  Make a copy and give to teacher.
Day 5: Feedback from teacher, begin second draft  Teacher will read and make comments on students’ rough drafts.  Students will begin creating their second drafts based on peer and teacher feedbacks.  Teacher available for additional conferences with students whose drafts need more help and for more detailed feedback.  Students finish second draft over weekend if necessary
Day 6: Peer-review, begin final draft Students will peer-review 2 students’ papers, looking for grammar and spelling errors.  When finished, students begin writing their final draft.  All drafts and final paper due on Day 8.

Book Cover

This is a great assessment that can be used for any book, but as an extensive assessment would need to be a longer book and require a greater amount of writing. It is a great activity to do with students who have all just finished different books, that way it allows for greater variety in their responses. I would definitely use this in my classroom, and would potentially adapt it for younger students.

Students create a book cover for their favourite chapter of a book read in class or independently.

  • Step 1: Front cover
    Choose chapter and prepare front cover for the chapter using a drawing made with any art materials. Can include a scene from the chapter, title, author etc. (Creativity)
  • Step 2: Inside front cover
    Write summary of the chosen chapter. (Comprehension)
  • Step 3: Inside back cover
    Write short biography of the author. (Accuracy)
  • Step 4: Back cover
    Interview four different students or make up four different reviews using fictitious names. (Opinion)
Project rubric can vary depending on the weight given to each component.