How to Assess Speaking Skills in the ESL Classroom

After all you have done in the classroom, you need to assess whether students can communicate or not.

The big question is how do you evaluate their progress? You either speak or you don’t, right? It’s either good or it isn’t.

Today we are going to learn how to assess speaking skills, the challenges and the type of activities you can do.

Placement Test Before Starting a Speaking Course

A placement test should applied before starting any language course in which speaking is a priority.

The test must aim to determine how well the learners are doing in this speaking skills.

You could use some of these forms of assessment to obtain those results:

  • A short and informal chat
  • A description of an image
  • A series of questions about an specific topic.

Challenges When Assessing Speaking

Learning how to teach and assess speaking skills is probably one of the biggest challenges compared to the other three language skills because you have to pay attention to aspects such as:

  • Fluency:  This means speaking easily, reasonably quickly and without having to stop and pause a lot.
  • Pronunciation: The act or result of producing the sounds of speech, including articulation, stress, and intonation.
  • Vocabulary: The body of words used in a particular language.
  • Accuracy: This refers to how correct learners’ use of the language system is, including their use of grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.
  • Interaction:  This refers to the ability to interact with others during communicative tasks.
  • Communication: This refers to the students’ ability to transmit her/his ideas.

5 Type of Activities to Assess Speaking Skills

Now that you know the aspects that you have to pay attention to, it is time to cover some of the different types of speaking activities that you can use to evaluate speaking skills.

There are five types of activities to assess speaking skills:

  • Intensive Speaking
  • Responsive Speaking
  • Interactive Speaking
  • Extensive Speaking
  • Imitative Speaking

Now we are going to explore a little bit about each one of them

Intensive Speaking

A read aloud Task: Teacher listen to a recording and evaluate the students in a series of phonological factors and fluency.  

Some variations of this task are:

  • reading a scripted dialogue with someone else
  • reading  sentences containing minimal pairs
  • reading information from a table chart

Sentence/ dialogue completion task: Students read through the dialogue so he can think about proper lines to fill in. The teacher produces one part orally and the students responds

Picture cued Tasks: The picture-cued requires a description from the test taker

Responsive Speaking

These are some of the task which can be used when using Responsive Speaking Tasks

  • Question  and answer: Students respond questions that the test administrator asks
  • Giving Instructions and Directions: The test-taker is asked to give directions or instructions
  • Paraphrasing: The test-taker is asked to paraphrase in two or three sentences what he heard or read.

Interactive Speaking

These are some of the most common interactive speaking tasks

  • Interview: It is a face-to-face exchange between test administrator and test taker. The  stages of an interview are warm-up, level Check, probe and wind-down
  • Role play is a common pedagogical activities used in communicative English classes
  • Discussions and Conversations: These two speaking tasks provide a level of authenticity and spontaneity that other assessment techniques may not provide
  • Games are an informal assessment task but they are not commonly used.

Extensive Speaking

These are some of the most common extensive speaking tasks that you can use to assess speaking.

  • Oral Presentations  are the most common task for evaluating extensive speaking, these are evaluated based on content and delivery.
  • Picture-cued story telling:  Students describe a story based on series of pictures that they previously saw.
  • Re-Telling a story, News Event: Students are asked to tell a story of a new of something they heard or read.

Imitative speaking

Imitative speaking tasks are based on repetition. You just need to repeat a sentence you hear.

Examples include directed response tasks, reading aloud, sentence and dialogue completion, limited picture-cued tasks

I hope that you have found these information useful and that you can check other similar resources available in the blog.

More Teaching Articles

These are some posts related to teaching listening:

  1. Stages for Teaching Listening
  2. Best Pre-Listening Activities
  3. Best While-Listening Activities
  4. Best Post-Listening Activities
  5. What Types of Listening are there?

These are some posts for teaching methodology:

  1. Presentation, Practice and Production Framework
  2. Teacher-Centered Instruction
  3. Student-Centered Instruction
  4. Tips to Reduce Teacher Talking Time

These are some assessment related posts

  1. How to Assess Reading Skills
  2. How to Assess Speaking Skills
  3. How to Assess Writing Skills
  4. How to Assess Reading Skills
Manuel Campos, English Professor

Manuel Campos

I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of, a blog whose mission is to share lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English