My final exams: A struggle at best!

How do you test at the end of the year? I am in a school where students who miss less than 3 days in the semester do not have to take exams as Jrs and Srs and where all sophomores and freshmen are required to sit for them.  I am in a dual credit situation in which my students have to take one exam (but they take the fall one ) with reading, writing, listening, and speaking and the other can be at my discretion.  I am in a CI department.  We don’t do isolated vocabulary or grammar so the multiple choice, easy to grade option is out.  What do I do to really show what they’ve learned this year??

Well… Here is attempt 24 at finding that out.  I’ve never used the same test twice and I assume there will be 10 more tries before I retire to watch my birds at the feeder full time. 🙂

I don’t teach Spanish I this year so I can’t speak for what they’re doing but my 2s are reading a cultural reading and responding to questions about it and then taking this writing assessment based on our semester worth of units Spanish2 exam2 2018. They will have finished their unit on Lucha Libre with the last speaking assessment of the year and I am very confident that I know what I need to know about them without adding speaking to the exam.

In Spanish 3 and 4 we are reading one of the cultural readings, an extension of my Mar de plástico resources and we are doing these writing assessments based on our semester worth of units Spanish 3 exam 2 2018  Spanish 4 exam 2 2018.

This is the Grading Rubric I’ll use for each of their writings.  Spanish 4 will be shooting for the Intermediate High range (I only have 2 who are required to test) and Spanish 3 for the Intermediate Mid range (I only have 7 who are required to test). Finally, Spanish 2 will be shooting for that Intermediate Low mark on all topics. The points at the top of this rubric will slide down so that the 5 is at the top of the target column.  It leaves me some room to mark what they did that went beyond my expectations and what they did that needs improvement.  In 2 and 3 they’ll write on 5 topics but in 4 they’ll only write on 3 because they’ve spent the year learning to add detail and looking at mentor texts… they don’t have time for more than 3!

I hope this helps as you’re trying to get a handle on what to do this year.  I’ve tried so many things but I am always happy with the results when I do things that give them the choice to really show what they know!


  1. This is really interesting and helpful! How much (word count?) do you expect students will be writing? It seems that is always the first question: “How long does it have to be?”

  2. The best part about really teaching with the proficiency descriptors is that I don’t get that question any more. They know that if they want to score in the intermediate low category they have to have a lot of detail and textual evidence. They should have evidence of the vocabulary and grammatical structure required to talk about that topic. At mid, they’re really using good paragraph structure, I’m seeing more consistency in use of tense, more connecting words (and richer ones), and even some rhetorical questioning! At the high level, they are organized with an introduction and conclusion and strong supports in their body paragraphs. They are even more consistent with tense than before, and it is something that I could send to a native speaker who wasn’t used to students and there would be little to misunderstand. Not error free, but very very comprehensible. Since they know these goals well, they don’t have to ask how many words, they know it is about quantity and evidence! 🙂 . I hope this helps! It has definitely been a process getting them to this place!

    • I commend you for getting them there! That is a great place for them to be! Thanks for taking the time to answer so thoroughly.

    • I’m new to learning about teaching with CI and am very curious about the writing process. Do you have a blog post on that or do you know a place I could find more information? Thanks for sharing. All of this is very inspiring!

    • I do all modes at the end of each unit and so few take the final that I probably still wouldn’t test all in that one day! I have collected that same info other times so I feel confident looking just at output this time! Great question!

  3. I can’t say THANK YOU enough for all your resources. I have been pouring over your scope and sequence pages (I also teach 1, 2, 3 & 4), your store and now your blog (this article was so helpful!). Exams are my ever present struggle! Do you have any thoughts on what you might do for a placement test say if you wanted to have a students skip a level or find out where they come in as a transfer student? For example, I know I couldn’t ask them about el sindicato or Oscar Romero when I know they didn’t cover that – should I just ask them to tell me about topics they would know (What did you do this summer, etc.?). I have a student with a scheduling conflict and I want to put her in 4 rather (skipping 3 instead of no Spanish class this year) because she is a strong student I think those levels are somewhat interchangeable but I need to give her a placement test… Thanks in advance!

    • I think that would be a GREAT placement test! For me, Spanish 3 and 4 are also somewhat interchangeable. We study different topics but I think either level could handle those topics… And I think your strongest students deserve exactly what you want to do! The opportunity to continue their study. Why don’t you create a placement test that a proficiency based rubric at the top… the rubric could have some descriptors from the target level of proficiency for each prompt. If students know the target they’re shooting for, you’ll likely be able to determine quickly whether they’re close or not! It could be very general topics that allow for a lot of room to add detail that students have language to include! It might also help you see where they’ll need a little support as they’re absorbed into your group!

      Maybe some questions like: Tell me everything about who you are. What are some of the things you like and dislike about our school?

  4. Thank you for posting this! My tests are different every year as well. I went for making grammar videos (pre CI) to thinking this year everything will be proficiency-based. It’s exciting! How do you think I can better my training for identifying what different proficiency levels look / sound like? I feel like I have a “feeling” for it, but I want to be able to better defend myself. Gracias!

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