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Testing, testing 1, 2, 3

Photo by Tim Napier on Unsplash

A couple of Saturdays ago I sat down to take my first official German test. It was a hot day and one of the examiners was using a little wooden fan to keep cool. It was that or open a window and that wasn’t going to happen since first up was the listening test, which demands absolute silence. I knew the drill: write my name on the answer sheet, don’t open the question book, don’t speak. I sat there waiting patiently, staring by turns at the clock high on the wall in front of me and the standard-issue pencil supplied to each candidate by the test centre.

One of the odd things about me is that I’ve always liked tests. Other people feel sick and get sweaty palms. Not me. I don’t know what it is about exams that makes me feel both relaxed and energized. Maybe it’s the quiet and feeling of solitude that I get from being in my own little bubble, sitting at my own individual desk with no interruptions to my thoughts. Me time. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally competitive and thrive on opportunities to show what I know. (Since the first option is more pleasant, I'll go with that ...)

However, in my role as teacher I have a very different view on tests, an opinion shared by many teachers: I hate them! Not because I have to mark them (though this is true) or because it is boring to conduct tests (also true), but because tests often become more important than the learning that takes place. Often students get so focused on preparing for the test that they forget to learn. I was reminded of this as I studied for my own exam. Instead of spending time really trying to understand how to use German language structures and practising them, I was quickly ‘covering’ items that I thought would be useful for the test.

Tests are a good measuring stick, a guide, but they are not conclusive evidence of your language abilities. How many times have you crammed for a test and achieved a good result but forgot all the information you ‘learnt’ within a few weeks? Or how about when you studied for weeks and months, and you still remember the information to this day, but on the day of the test you got so nervous that you blanked? Was your result really a good indicator of what you knew?

Now that my test is over I’m returning to my books to spend more time on the language I previously overlooked. But I’ll still be tested every day. For me there’s no better test than a real conversation!

Article aid

a fan  an object you hold with one hand and move back and forth to create a breeze
know the drill  know the procedure of an event
odd  strange, but not as negative
palm  the inside of your hand (we don’t pronounce the ‘l’)
be in my own little bubble  a feeling of being unaware of reality
thrive on something  be encouraged by or develop because of something
take place  happen, occur
covering  here it means to do something in a superficial way so that you can say it’s done
cram for (a test)  start studying just a short time before the test e.g. the night before
to this day  today, now (after many years)
blanked  completely forgot everything you knew

overlooked  ignored


Some words just like to hang out together and they hang out together a lot. That’s what ‘a collocation’ is. In this text there are a few examples of words that normally hang together. Here’s a few:


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