ESL Speaking Rubric

A common question that I get from people is how to evaluate an ESL Speaking test. Although there are different ways to conduct ESL speaking tests, I do the 1-1 conversation with a random partner style.

There are also a million and one ways to evaluate speaking tests, but I always prefer the simple way. If you look on the Internet machine, you’ll notice that lots of other people have talked about this before, but most of them are so complicated that I don’t think their students will actually understand them.

I have three categories in my ESL speaking rubric and each one is worth five points.

Grammar and Vocabulary. This does not cover all vocab and grammar possible in the English language, but only what we studied in class up to that point. For example, we’ve been studying passive forms, so I’d expect students to use that, when appropriate for the topic.

We’ve also been studying about laws and punishment, so I’d expect students to use things like jaywalking, shoplifting, life sentence and parole in their answer, if appropriate.

I also include other very simple things that students at their level would be expected to have down cold. For example, high-intermediate students should have a very firm grasp on using the simple past and not make mistakes, even though we may not have explicitly studied it.

Interesting, detailed answers. This means that students should not just give very simple answers to their partner, but should elaborate with one or two extra details. Have they actually thought about the topics and aren’t just giving answers straight out of the textbook. Basically, is it easy to have a conversation with them, or not.

Good questions. This involves actually listening to their partner and asking appropriate follow-up questions in order to keep the conversation going. It also involves thinking of an interesting way to start the conversation, since I just give them very general topics but leave the actual conversation starter up to them.

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