The qBank feature is a data-base of question items for exercising and drilling specific points of grammar. The software that this site provides makes it possible to
> produce quickly and easily grammar exercises for your students
> adapt these closely to your students' needs, by...
> ... selecting the precise grammar point required, and...
> ... choosing the appropriate level of difficulty (Basic or Middling or Advanced)
Those levels of difficulty - Basic, Middling, Advanced - are more classified by the lesser or greater complexity of the task than by an notion of the inherent complexity of the grammar rules themselves. After all, many grammar rules in English are not that complicated in themselves - it's deciding when and how that they should be applied that is tricky! However, here's roughly how the levels may be defined, in terms of the kind of decisions the question requires the student to make:-
Basic - usually, a single decision to be made, checking on whether the fundamental idea of the rule has been understood
Middling - commonly, two or three decisions have to be made, often comparing and contrasting related grammar rules
Advanced - several decisions have to be made, usually by writing in a number of different answers, requiring a thorough knowledge of the grammar rule in question
The exercises and drills can be made available to the students in either an online version or as a print-out. Each format has specific advantages :-
Online : individual students can be given access to particular exercises, to do at the their own pace and in their own time. They can check their own success; and are given advice about how each language item works. This approach is best for targeting individual students' weaknesses and recurrent errors: e.g. the student who has a very good command of sophisticated language, but has never got the hang of when to use articles!
Online projection : you could project an exercise on a smartboard, and go through the items as a whole-class activity ... ask for answers, check them, and then discuss why one option is wrong and another option is right. Useful for introducing a grammar element to a whole class, and for stimulating general awareness of the use of grammar.
Printout : advisable if you want to check the results of each exercise, used as grammar tests - in other words, you give out the exercise, get the student(s) to do the text in class, collect in the sheets and mark them, following up with discussion and counselling for each student.
Handling the qBank system
... On the Home page, in the top left hand corner, go to 'My account' ... and then 'qBank'
... Click on 'Help', which provides you with 'qBank Overview' - this gives a clear and detailed description of all the essential features of the system
... In the same area of the Home page, look at 'My Student Groups' - online versions are available to students through this system, so you would do well to familiarise yourself with how this works, too.
Using the qBank
1. You will be able to compose exercises with the following ingredients :
Question types - specifically, Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and Text gaps
MCQs - best for introducing the basic elements of a given structure or language elements - and for rapid follow-up practice to grammar presented in class
Text gaps - best for more considered and complex exercises, getting the students to use structures actively, easily and thoughtfully
'Topics' - which means the specific language elements, as shown under 'Common flaws listed' below
Levels of difficulty - which, for simplicity considering the vast possible range of 'difficulty' for our students, is currently defined mainly in terms of the question types used :-
Basic - generally MCQ, because this usually involves one simple basic decision, in a relatively straightforward context
Middling - usually Text gaps, normally involving 3-5 decisions and requiring some thoughtful reading of the context
Advanced - Text gaps, involving 5+ decisions, considered understanding of context, and often some initiative in constructing the correct answer
2. You should decide what size of exercise is best for the particular purpose you have in mind. Consider the following factors :-
> It would be best to do several small exercises, with two or three days in between, rather than one or two mammoth exercises. Students will remember better if they re-visit the idea regularly.
> Smaller exercises will mean that students will be less likely to be given questions that they have seen before - the qBank's resources are not infinite, and so, with random selection of items, an exercise will be likely to repeat previously-selected items. This is not a problem initially because you can reject items (which are then automatically replaced with new ones), but in the end you're going to run out of un-used ones. However ...
> ... repeating questions/items is not at all a bad idea, necessarily. For one thing, students are not usually going to remember the small details of a question they did three days ago ... and anyway, you want them to remember the target language items!
3. Above all, use the qBank as a means of helping students to remember the key elements of language which they need. Think of these exercises not as a testing mechanism, but rather as a gymnasium in which they make their handling of the language ever more accurate, natural and easy.
From this introductory page, you can link to the two main areas of the qBank, which support the two main areas of this Language System section of the site.
qBank - basics & common flaws ... supporting the Key Language Issues section
qBank - transferable academic language ... supporting the Language of Instruction section