VTest English – Speaking assessment – Listen and Repeat task (elicited imitation)
At first glance, this may seem like a simple memory task, but it actually requires a strong ability in the language. The process is rooted in cognitive science. Here’s how it works: the average person can only retain about few pieces of unrelated information in their short-term memory.
For a beginner, each individual sound is a fragment. Therefore, he or she can only listen and repeat a few words. As a learner progresses through the language and learns more vocabulary and grammar, he or she can use words and sentences as chunks instead of just sounds. Instead of being able to retain only x sounds in their short-term memory, they can now retain x words or short phrases
Keywords: VTest English, VTest auto-marker system, VTest Speaking, Task type
The VTest English Listen and Repeat task
The VTest English Speaking test uses a task called Listen and Repeat as part of its battery of speaking tasks. The task involves listening to sentences spoken in English and repeating them. As the task progresses, the sentences become longer, and therefore naturally more difficult to repeat correctly. The task becomes especially more difficult if the words or grammatical structures used are unfamiliar to the listener. It is thus a useful measure of candidates’ overall spoken fluency, pronunciation, articulation, and the correct use of word stress.
What does the VTest English Listen and Repeat task assess?
The Listen and Repeat task is known more formally in the language testing, linguistics, and cognitive science communities as elicited imitation (EI), and has been used successfully in language testing for more than 50 years (Vinther, 2002, p. 54).
The essential idea underlying the EI task is that the more of the target language you know (words, grammatical patterns, and so on), the more able you are to repeat sentences in the target language. As Jensen and Vinther (2003) point out, if “subjects understand the stimulus sentence, they will be able to render its meaning, albeit not necessarily in exactly identical form, and, on the other hand, […] subjects cannot imitate a sentence correctly if they have not understood it in the first place.”
The VTest English version of the EI task, called Listen and Repeat, is used to assess candidates’ spoken fluency, pronunciation, articulation, and use of word stress.
How are the VTest English Listen and Repeat tasks scored?
Candidates are first asked to listen to a sentence and then to repeat back what they have heard. Candidates hear and then repeat six individual sentences. Each of the candidate’s individual responses is recorded and assessed using a proprietary computer scoring algorithm. The computer’s scoring criteria include correct text transcript, pronunciation, articulation, intonation, and rate of speech. The computer’s scoring engine compares the words in each recording against a vast corpus of spoken words, analyzing each syllable spoken by the candidate to determine whether what was said is matches the given sentence. The scores for all six sentences are averaged to produce a final score for the task.
How are the VTest English Listen and Repeat tasks developed?
The VTest English Listen and Repeat task is composed of six individual sentences. The sentences are arranged in three sets of two sentences: each set of sentences targets a specific range of the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR) scale. The first set targets the A1-A2 range of the CEFR, and both sentences are each 10 words long. The second set targets the B1-B2 range of the CEFR; these sentences are both 14 words long. The final set of sentences targets the C1-C2 range of the CEFR, and uses more complex grammar than the other levels, and contains a higher proportion of B2-C1 words overall; both of these sentences are 16 words long.
All six Listen and Repeat sentences are constructed such that no words are repeated within a sentence – every word within a sentence is unique.
What can I do to prepare for the VTest Listen and repeat task?
Listen to short video or audio clips online. Practice repeating what you hear. You can record yourself repeating on your phone or other device. To “score” yourself, play back your recording using the voice-to-text feature of Google translate or a transcribe service. Does the text match what you said? Of course this method is not perfect, but it should give you some valuable feedback.
Jensen, E. D., & Vinther, T. (2003, September). Exact Repetition as Input Enhancement in Second Language Acquisition. Language Learning, 53(3), 373–428.
Vinther, T. (2002). Elicited imitation: a brief overview. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 12(1), 54-72.