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Many teachers and students think of the interview as a series of questions and answers. The oral interview goes far beyond that. The oral interview is a carefully structured interaction between the interviewer and the student. Because student and interviewer actually talk, it is the interviewer's responsibility to build rapport with the student. Questions are generated from the answers provided by the student. 

Elicitation techniques are used by the interviewer to create a framework for the interview that builds from simple to increasingly complex usage of grammar. For example, questions build from "yes/no" questions  to information questions; verb tenses build from simple tenses to progressive tenses, perfect aspect; and modals; sentences build from simple sentences to compound-complex structures.

If the interview moves to language usage that is beyond the student's abilities, the interviewer closes it comfortably with a final question that the student will be able to answer, leaving the student with a positive feeling.    

"Come on in, Christina.  Why don't you sit here. Let's see.  As I recall, you come from Brazil. Sao Paulo?"

(The interviewer knowingly gives the wrong city to elicit a response from Cristina, who comes from Santos.)

"Is that a very big place, or is it rather small?"    


"Does your family still live there?"


"When you came to the United States, why did you decide to live in Chicago?"


"Would you tell me about your life in Santos and what did you used to do?"


The oral interview is an excellent technique for entrance and exit evaluation at the opening and close of a school semester.

For purposes of evaluation, the interview should be taped. The student must be advised that the interview is being taped and must consent to the taping.  After the interview, the teacher will listen to the tape and make clear notes of the student's strengths and weaknesses. 

Students should remember that the interview is not a pass/fail test. It is an assessment of abilities and, in the case of the exit interview, progress.