Agony Aunt/Uncle - Letter 1 (Help! My ESOL students struggle with tests...)


Dear Agony Aunt

I have an issue and was looking for thoughts and advice as I’m sure you will have come across this.  I’m marking a terms test from a postgrad contact course and all the students with English as a second language have struggled, not on content but on time.  Clearly they ran out of time, one student managed to still get over 50% and only answered 3 out of the 5 questions! 

How is it best to deal with this? Obviously I can just run off the raw scores (that’s easy enough) but part of me wonders that if the test is trying to ascertain the student’s level of knowledge then the raw scores for these students aren’t a true reflection. 

At 4:00pm on a Friday I just can’t seem to make a call…

Perplexed paper coordinator


Hi ‘perplexed’

Give them extra time. You are assessing understanding. It is not a race.

Agony Uncle No.1


Dear ‘perplexed’

Quick response as at this time on a Friday there’s a bottle of wine calling out to me from the cupboard at home I think...

I teach lots of ESL students so I’m sympathetic to their situation, while still absolutely believing that have to demonstrate that they’ve made the grade...thus I’d be considering, have we constructed the assessment in a way which allows them to show if they’ve made the grade or not?

Medium term solution: reconsider this assessment mechanism and build in more time if that’s the only problem with it.

Short term solution: if it’s worth a lot % wise and these ESL students have been disadvantaged I’d talk to my HoD/HoS about the options.  If it’s a small piece of assessment, I’d give them the results and communicate to them that you’re aware they ran out of time, and that you’ll be trying to ensure there is sufficient time for all other assessments in the course.

Best wishes

Agony Aunt No.1

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