Time for Reassessment?

Language students in their thousands will no doubt be delighted to hear that their test has been cancelled this year, courtesy of Covid-19. The level of a student's foreign language acumen has long been assessed by means of a daunting summative speaking test. The reason for their glee is obvious: the tests are a mild form of torture, carefully designed to weaken the resolve of any student foolhardy enough to contemplate enrolling on a foreign language course. The ordeal tends to be a series of rather wooden exercises, such as a monologue learnt verbatim by the student and a phony role-play exercise. Typically, after a sleepless night of worry, the quivering candidate is required to attend an alienating examination room strewn with the serpentine paraphernalia of a recording studio. The torture is not confined to the student. The presiding teacher, examiner or proctor is under considerable pressure. He must satisfy the requirements of the awarding body. If he fails, there will be dire consequences, not excluding deep shame.