An Oral Exam

practiceenglishcreatively.blogspot.com

practiceenglishcreatively.blogspot.com

During these five days, all students in my school are taking part in the Oral Examination for the second semester. The subjects include Al-Quran, Kutubut-turats, Arabic and English. It is done before they have the written test that is going to be held in two days’ time. They have to study hard as they will be simultaneously assessed by three examiners in the examination room.

In my school, oral examination is considered a ‘real’ test as we can know students’ capacity tangibly. In contrast to written examination, oral test requires the examinees to show their skills face-to-face with the examiners. It will be no cheating or any other dishonesty that is usually occurred in exam. What makes me, as an English teacher, more enthusiastic in taking part in this exam is that I can assess my students’ speaking skill directly

To some experts, speaking skill is considered the most important skill to master especially for the beginners of foreign language learners. Speaking is the most tangible skill among other skills in foreign language study. We usually say that one has mastered English well as he speaks English fluently.

Unfortunately, teaching speaking in Indonesian schools still has many problems. We still have much homework on this. Many surveys show that after learning English for more than six years, most Indonesian students still have low mastery especially in speaking. They are not confident enough to speak English. I believe that whom to blame is Indonesian English teachers who rarely encourage their students practice their English both orally and in written. They use neither effective teaching method nor correct assessment method in foreign language instruction.

Let’s play with example. It’s about my learning experience when I was a student of junior high school. Getting almost perfect marks in English didn’t guarantee me to be able to speak English. In her teaching, my English teacher neither asked me to speak English nor write it. The teaching is so book-focused that I am to answer many written exercises. In the summative test, I was just asked to answer multiple-choice questions which contained reading comprehension and grammar. There had never been either a speaking or a writing test.

In the end of the study in junior high school, I had to take part in national learning evaluation (EBTANAS). Again, it didn’t test both speaking and writing skills. It contained 50 multiple-choice questions mostly assessing students’ reading skill. As the result, although I always got nine in my English test, I had never been able to speak English as well as to write it!

Of course, in this case I don’t mean I deny what my teacher had given to me. What my teachers gave to me is very worthy and invaluable. I believe that they made mistakes because they didn’t know what the right was. Here, I just expose the mistake in order to warn us to not do so.

***

Knowing that speaking is an oral activity, teachers must use both appropriate teaching methods and assessments. There are many methods and techniques in teaching speaking such as role-play, drama, gap information, direct method, etc. I think it’s the time for English teachers to re-read their books about these teaching methods to make their teaching more effective. It’s so pity to see students who have spent their six years in school and they never have chance to speak English.

Assessing speaking skill cannot be done using written multiple-choice questions. It is a waste of time and money, I think. Instead of that, it must employ oral activities such as conversation, role-play, drama, etc. The students must experience the test like they do it in the real life. Through these ways, I believe we can see more students who are able to speak English after having spent their six years in high schools. Amen.

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