Make your own free website on
Hatsushiba Hashimoto High School - International English Program
Speaking Test Guidelines
Course Coordinator Guidelines
Slow ESL Learner Teaching Strategies
Speaking Test Guidelines
Teaching of Speaking Guidelines
Discipline Guidelines
English Teacher Work Guidelines
General Teaching Guidelines
Teaching of Listening Guidelines
Paper Test Guidelines
Teaching of Vocabulary Guidelines
Video Guidelines
Official Advertisement for the ESL Teacher Position


Be aware that the first few students tend to be more difficult to score so you should reconsider your scoring for these speaking tests.  It is a good idea to compare all your scores and adjust scores which seem too high or low with regard to the rest of the others.


All questions and speaking tasks used for the test should be agreed upon by the participating teachers as fair content based on past classroom content.  This should be done at least 1 week in advance of the review class. Typically, 5 or 6 questions are the norm. If for some reason the cooperating teacher has not seen the test yet with 2 or 3 days to go before the exam, please tell the director.  It is normally a good idea to have students select question prompts out of 8 to 12 cards, each set being roughly equivalent.  This arrangement will increase the fairness of the test and while reducing the possibility of students cheating. You should also pair up students so that high-ability and low-ability students are not paired together, as well as pairs of students who frequently misbehave.


Some possible speaking test formats include: random group sets classified by difficulty and topic, set conversation scripts written by the students themselves, and role-play of a single communicative function, or a complete conversation, based on given prompts.  For script presentations, have 2 sets of students taken in for each testing segment, with one set presenting while another listens and then has to answer questions about what the students were talking about.


The questions should be sequenced from easiest to most difficult.  Within this principle, another recommendation is to group some of the questions according to topic to provide more coherence and conversation-simulation.  Some questions such as (What does he look like? [picture] or How can I get to the post office? [map]) may require 2 or 3 sentences for a complete answer.  Such questions should be the last questions asked, and normally be considered double in terms of scoring and the time needed to ask and answer it (40 seconds instead of 20).


For senior classes (and some higher P-junior classes), especially from the first-year, second semester onward, a better test should have students making questions from picture and word prompts.  There should be at least 3 times the number of prompts needed, randomly selected but equivalent in difficulty, to discourage students from informing their classmates of the test’s content.  Make sure that within each random group of questions, there are not cases where the degree of difficulty is more than one-half level in ability.


There should be some kind of written work provided for students who are in their homeroom waiting for the test. Write a chart on the blackboard showing the student number, room and teacher for each student taking the test.  For junior classes especially, it is a good idea to seat them according to a seating chart (their normal testing arrangement, for example), so that they will be in a more academic frame of mind.  Take attendance and make any necessary changes to your scheduling of student speaking test.  Students can still be allowed (especially the seniors) to do their own work, but it is very important that students not be allowed to talk during the test so as to NOT allow any opportunity for students to discuss what is being asked on the test so thereby gain an unfair advantage. For junior classes, it is strongly recommended some kind of work or study puzzle be provided so as to minimize distractions.  Deductions (up to 20%) on speaking test scores are feasible for students who persist in chatting or being disruptive at this time, or who fail to work on assigned tasks for this time.  Be sure to write the names of these students on the blackboard with their accruing deductions, so that it is clear to all that disruptive behavior is punished.  Record the same also on your own student list.


While S-junior classes are never required to have a speaking test, one in the second semester or third semesters can be effectively scheduled, especially for students of higher ability and / or motivation.


When planning for this oral exam, be sure to clearly decide how much time can be allocated per pair of students based on the allotted testing time, and allow a little cushion for unexpected contingencies.  When calculating how many questions each interview will likely cover, you should figure about 30 to 40 seconds for the asking and answering of a question.  The testing for a pair of students should be around 5 to 8 minutes.  Four questions is the minimum number of questions but it would be better to have at least five or six. Role-plays can be considered as 2 or 3 questions.


Use both holistic and analytical evaluation for scoring the test.


Provide all teachers (scorers / invigilators) with a scoring chart with the names of all students as arranged in the pairs or groups you plan them to be in.  On this form, allow for columns for scoring each item (question / answer) reading questions aloud, attitude, total points, percentage, and comments.


One or two days before the test, extra speaking test practice for students can be provided at lunch time, between classes, or after school. These may be reserved times for willing students, or, simply walking into the classroom and asking if anyone would like a bit of practice.  As always, do not use the same test questions for practice but rather a random selection of questions for throughout the term.    


Before the Interview


Set up the exam (test questions, test visual materials, clocks / watches, scoring forms, desks, recording equipment) area 15 minutes before the exam’s starting time.  Make sure the teacher in the written exam classroom understands any necessary procedures. 


Before the interview test starts, greet the student in a friendly manner, and ask students an easy warm-up question (How are you? / What’s your name?). Remind students to relax, to speak as much as they can, using complete sentences, but not to speak Japanese, or their scores will be reduced.



Scoring an oral exam will always be a somewhat subjective process.  Recording the conversation and scoring it later may be useful at times.  Consistently following a set of scoring guidelines (such as below) will help make oral exam scoring more objective.  Once the tests are scored, it is a good idea for scoring teachers to: (1) calculate the final score for each of the students whom they scored, and then compare their test scores in order to help confirm that the scores are accurate, and (2) compare test scores of other test groups for the same reason.  After making score comparisons, adjust the scores for students as needed. The fact that one group of students scored higher than another does NOT mean the tests were necessarily scored too high.  However if the scores are much higher (or much lower)  than what you would expect for a class as a whole, then the possibility of adjusting these scores should be discussed. It is suggested that the speaking tests be recorded in case there is later some question concerning the scoring.  It is also recommended that explanatory notes be taken for students with unusually high or low scores.


In any case, it is usually better to err on the side of slightly too high of a score, since (1) students will generally not perform as well as they would in their regular classrooms (due to the pressure); and (2) students will develop more confidence with a slightly higher result. 


The bottom-line is that the negative atmosphere (fear of failure) of an oral exam needs to be reduced as much as possible for the students.  Therefore don’t forget to look at what the student is saying correctly rather than just at what the student is saying (or hearing) incorrectly.  In line with this, don’t show disappointment or frustration with a student who has given a poor answer.  Remain upbeat throughout the test so that students will be more able to maintain a positive attitude themselves.  


There are three formats for the test:

(1)                   The teacher interviews the students, or asks them about a picture;

(2)                   The students read the questions aloud from prompting cards;

(3)                   The students make the questions from a word / phrase “prompt” or a picture.

(4)                   The students recite a prepared conversation or speech.


Scoring Answers and Questions


Score a typical student’s short answer as worth 5 points.  Questions which are made by students based on a word or picture or topic prompt are also worth 5 points. In cases where students simply read one another a question, you may still score how well students read all of their questions as worth 4 to 6 total points.  You may also have a category for student attitude during the exam (4 to 6 total points).


If the student pauses more than 5 to 10 seconds, gives a clear look of incomprehension, OR gives a completely wrong answer, the interviewer should repeat the question (up to 2 times). Deduct one-half point  for the scoring of that answer.  A repeated question may be asked more slowly. The interviewer should not restate the question, just repeat it, and should not use any physical cues other than the assigned picture or visual for that question.  The interviewer should not correct the student’s answer even if they are making the same mistake again and again.  It is quite OK to remind students to use complete sentences.


What follows is a exam scoring rubricon which can be used for 5 point questions and answers.  If students are required to give more than 1 or 2 clause answers (such as giving directions from one location to another), then multiply the values based on how long a complete answer should be, most likely 2 to 3 times higher in value.


Where senior students have sub-40 percent test scores and yet still pass when their Term Tests and Class

Participation Scores are averaged, put their actual test score on the Grade Sheet, and the Overall Term Score on the Grade Sheet as well. Junior students always get their actual grades.




Keep careful track of students who did and did not take the test due to an absence.  Reschedule a “retake for these students after school, during lunch, during the revision [hand-back] classes, or during an independent study day [jishu]. If this is not feasible, do a calculated score instead.


Accuracy:   Grammar, Vocabulary, Content



advanced grammar, vocabulary, AND content beyond what is standard or was taught for this class



advanced in at least one area: grammar, vocabulary, or content, beyond what is standard or was taught for this class



a complete sentence which completely and correctly answers the question.


a complete sentence was given with only a few minor errors OR

an answer which is NOT a complete sentence but has no errors



an incomplete answer OR

a complete answer given with many minor errors OR

1 or more serious errors OR

answer is for a totally different question



no response OR intentionally incorrect response




Fluency:      Pronunciation, Speed, Intonation



great in all 3 categories of fluency.



good or great for an ‘A’ student in at least 2 categories                     



OK for a student in all categories


OK in 1 category but  poor in 1 of the categories



poor in 2 to 3 of the categories


no response OR intentionally incorrect response



Deduct 0.5 points each time you have g to repeat a question, but do not deduct if the question was poorly read or posed by a student.  Be ready to repeat the question clearly in such cases. Do not repeat the question more than 2 times to a student.
















no response OR intentionally incorrect response.

major errors, very little output.

1 major error, OR numerous

minor errors.

Minor errors only

Virtually no errors, full use of target language

Advanced proficiency, clearly beyond course target language.








Originality — Content







Accuracy — Memory







Fluency — Speed







Pronunciation — Intonation







Grammar — Vocabulary









For speeches,  scripted or role-play Speaking Tests, or speeches, follow the above scoring rubricon:

Scores can be given in point-five increments as well: 2.5, 3.5.  Each script should have criterion on how long it should be, for example, 5 turns for each student, 1- to 5-minutes speaking in length, by each student.  Deduct marks to the same ration as that of any deficient length requirements. Loss in memory can affect all scores all across the board.



For speeches,  scripted or role-play Speaking Tests, or speeches, follow the above scoring rubricon:

Scores can be given in point-five increments as well: 2.5, 3.5.  Each script should have criterion on how long it should be, for example, 5 turns for each student, 1- to 5-minutes speaking in length, by each student.  Deduct marks to the same ration as that of any deficient length requirements. Loss in memory can affect all scores all across the board.


Listening tasks for observing students can be created, and is a good testing strategy, since it involves students into their performances more fully.  Suggested tasks are evaluations of the speakers in general, or 1 or 2 content questions per audience students.  Scores on these collected written answers can be scored as a part of student overall attitude, or be scored in a separate category, worth around 5 to 10 percent of the overall score..


If students falter in recalling a part of the speech or conversation, supply them with the next word or words, so that he or she may finish.  Deduct for each instance. If students completely forget the remainder of the speech or conversation, they will receive a very low score for their memory points, and depending on how much they have forgotten, and other areas may also be deducted as well, such as in fluency.  Nevertheless, in cases of speeches, do not penalize memory significantly if student was able to get in 3-minutes  of real recitation.  Otherwise, another good way to handle this is to tell the students to go to the next part of the speech that they can recall. Naturally, the more they skip, the lower their final score will be.  


Speech or Presentation Procedure

1.                      Arrange desks in regular classroom formation, rectangular 3 x 4, facing the window.  Set up presentation or speech area with desks and WB (for their notes or posters) and CD player (for background songs).

2.                      Hand out Listening Reports (each student should have 1 report for every student they will listen to) to students and go over what the questions mean.

3.                      Tell students may write short answers but higher scores are awarded for complete sentences.

4.                      Remind students they are not to speak in Japanese at any time, nor to talk or interrupt a presenter in any way, or their test score will be reduced. 

5.                      Students may go in random order or volunteer when ready.

6.                      Students may NOT read from their presentation script. They may only look at the highlight point phrases.

7.                      Allow students a minute or 2 to finish up each listening report.

8.                      Score each student’s speech or presentation on the scoring sheet.  Score their posters or written work as well. You may put in comments to describe what the student is or is not doing well.  You do not have to add up scores. 

9.                      Keep each student’s listening reports together.  Collect all of them after everyone has given their speech or presentation. You will not mark the listening reports. Simply give these and your scoring sheets to the course coordinator.