One of my school German teachers, Bob Tyler, used to say that the best all round test of someone’s language knowledge is a dictation. He was right.
- Your listening needs to be good enough to understand what was read to you (though admittedly in our school settings delivered at a slow pace, and by a non-native speaker).
- Your grammar and vocabulary need to be good enough to decode what was read.
- Your spelling and grammar need to be good enough to write the words accurately.
I had to do dictations at school for O-level (in German, French and Russian) and A-level (in German and French). I also had to do them at Cambridge at the interview stage, and in the first week for German and at the beginning of the second year for Russian. I can’t remember whether I also had to do one at the end of my last year.
Dictations have gone out of favour, though. My daughters didn’t have to do them for GCSE or A-level. It is a pity they have gone. They were a good test and doing practice dictations was useful exercise.