Volume 20 (2017) Pages 3-14
The Japanese university entrance exam does not include an oral communication section, and as a result, teachers are often conflicted as to whether they should spend class time on oral communication activities as is mandated by the national curriculum, or time focusing on preparing their students for the entrance exams. In addition, it is unlikely that universities are able to accurately select students with the strongest English abilities when they are not given information about students’ abilities to orally communicate. It would seem obvious that to solve this problem, an oral communication section could simply be included on the exam. However, valid oral communication assessments are immensely challenging to implement in large-scale high stakes contexts. This paper discusses some of the possible approaches that have been used to assess oral communication in large-scale high stakes contexts and their appropriateness for the Japanese entrance exam. It also explores some of the current areas of research that might help to alleviate some of the challenges of including an oral communication section on the Japanese entrance exam. It focuses on three approaches currently used: computer-delivered and computer- scored, computer-delivered and human-scored, and human-delivered and human- scored.