Revised Speaking Test for Michigan Proficiency
The revised speaking test for the Michigan exams should cause no problems for those whose are well prepared. The new speaking test will be conducted in five separate stages with each stage designed with a specific purpose in mind.
The revised speaking test will no longer be the simple interview of times past with one speaker and one examiner. The new format will see the use of two examiners -- one to conduct the interview and one to grade the interview -- along with two examinees, or candidates.
Stage 1: Introduction & 'small talk' (3-5 minutes)
Here you will introduce yourself and make small talk with the examiner and other candidate. The goal is simply to 'get the nerves out' and become comfortable interacting with each other in the revised speaking test.
Stage 2: Summarizing and Recommending (5-7 minutes)
In this stage, you will both be given an information sheet describing two options. You are allowed to keep the information sheet during the test and can take notes on it if you wish. In this stage you will not see the other candidates information sheet. You will be given a couple of minutes to read through the information making notes if you like.
You will then be asked to summarize the descriptions of your two options to the other student. Be sure to summarize the information and NOT just read through the features. You should listen carefully to the other student during their summarization because you will make a recommendation based on their summary afterwards.
After you have presented your oral summary and received a recommendation from the other student, you should choose (at this stage to yourself) one of your own options and think of reasons why that option is best. There are no "correct" answers here, but you should begin to think of reasons why the option you chose is best.
The goal in this Stage is to learn what the options are, make your recommendation, and silently choose which optioin you think is best.
Stage 3: Reaching Consensus (5-7 minutes)
Stage 3 is where you will tell your partner which option you think is best. You should compare and contrast the options you have each chosen noting the advantqages and disadvantages of both. Again, you can NOT see the other candidates paper so good note taking will be beneficial in stage 2 of the exam. The goal of this stage is for you to reach an agreement on one of the options.
Stage 4: Convincing and Persuading (5-7 minutes)
This stage is to present your choice to one of the Examiners -- who will be playing a role related to the choices. For example, if the rubric or option given was to choose a new teacher for your school, then the Examiner may play the role of principal or administrator of the school.
Whatever the situation, you are given 2-3 minutes to collaborate (ie., work with and plan) your presentation to the Examiner with the other student. You are allowed to look at the other student's information page in this section and each candidate should present 2 different reasons as to why they chose that particular option explaining why they think their reasons are important.
Stage 5: Defense and Jusitfication (5-7 minutes)
In stage 5 of this revised speaking test, you are to justify and defend your choices to the Examiner. The Examiner may challenge your choices and you should be able to justify the reasons for your decision.
The goal of this stage is to address the Examiner's challenges and justify the reasons for your decision.
Revised Speaking Test Example
This sample task might be given to candidates at Stage 2 of the test. You will receive more specific instructions during the actual revised speaking test, however it may be similar to the following. Your school needs to hire a new English teacher. Four people have made it to the final selection and each candidate is given information about two of the teachers. You are given 2-3 minutes to read through the information and then you will summarize the descriptions of the two people to each other. You must listen carefully because you will make a recommendation to the other candidate based on the descriptions they give.
Stages 3 through 5 would progress as described above. Don't worry if this sounds confusing now, you will receive explicit instructions at each stage of the test.
Candidate 1 Information Sheet
Hiring A High School English Teacher
The following is a list of some of Mari Larson's personal characteristics plus some comments made by students and teachers.
15 years of experience as an English teacher
Good reputation with students and teachers
Has lost students' tests a few times
Does lots of plays and extra-curricular activities
Organizes many field trips
Creative lesson plans
The following is a list of some of Mr. Jones's personal characteristics plus some comments made by students and teachers.
Recent college graduate
Degree in English Literature / Classics
Familiar with new teaching methods
Imaginative lesson plans
Volunteer assistant volley-ball coach
Gossips about other teachers to students
Candidate 2 Information Sheet
Hiring A High School English Teacher
The following is a list of some of Ms Parker's personal characteristics plus some comments made by students and teachers.
4 years experience as teacher's assistant
Recently graduated with teaching certification
2006 "Assistant of the Year" Award
Good speaking and presentation skills
Experience with new teaching methods and the Internet
No experience with high school students
The following is a list of some of Mr Barney's personal characteristics plus some comments made by students and teachers.
20 years teaching English at your school
Conducts training courses for teachers
Also qualified to teach science
Interesting classroom lessons
Organizes many field trips
Doesn't stay after school to help students
As you can see, it'll take some work to reach a consensus, or agreement. However, by the time you and the other candidate do reach a consensus you should be ready to make your case to the Examnier having already discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
The entire revised speaking test should take about 25-35 minutes with two candidates and slightly more with three candidates. The evaluation of the cadidate will be done by both of the examiners and you will be graded on linguistic ability (ie., grammar, syntax, pronounciation etc.) plus your participation in the exam. So please, don't speak too much or too little. Each student will have ample time to speak during the exam.
For more information about the revised speaking test click on the preceding link. You will go to the University of Michigan's site which has more information regarding the revised speaking test than I have made available here.