INDIVIDUAL VS. PAIRED FORMATS OF ORAL PROFICIENCY EXAM: DOES IT MATTER IN TERMS OF SCORES AND PREFERENCE?
The purpose of this preliminary study is to examine whether there is a relationship between the achievement scores and two different test formats used in speaking assessment – paired or individual. The study also attempts to explore the test takers’ preferences pertaining to the test formats employed and the reasons behind. The participants of this study are 25 freshman students studying in the English Language Teaching department of a well-known state university in Turkey. The data used in the quantitative analysis comes from the grades scored by the same cohort of students in two oral proficiency exams conducted within the scope of course assessment during the regular exam period of the program. Secondly, the qualitative data was obtained from the semi structured interviews carried out with 14 of the 25 students immediately after the paired speaking test. The interview questions specifically sought to reveal how the participants felt about the paired format of speaking test, how they would compare this format to the individual format, and if they were given the chance which format they would prefer and why. We have come to see that students got better scores in the paired speaking test format that we designed in the form of paired discussion in comparison to the individual format where the test takers’ interlocutor is the course lecturer. The difference in the mean scores obtained in the two different formatted exams was found statistically significant. Our qualitative findings showed that the majority of the students liked and supported the practice of being paired.