Narrative Summary: 

BEST Plus is a revision of the oral interview section of the Basic English Skills Test (BEST), which discriminates among the levels of English language proficiency described in the Student Performance Levels (SPLs). There are two versions— a computer adaptive version and a semi-adaptive print-based version. The adaptive BEST Plus was developed in response to the need for a new oral assessment in adult English language education. Those needs included the need for a performance assessment that could be given within a short period of time, be given frequently for pre-and post-testing, and that would extend beyond the ceiling of SPL 7, up to SPL 10.

Intended Population: 

Adult English language learners who may or may not have received an education in their native language or in English, but who need to function in day-to-day life in the U.S.


To assess the oral language proficiency of adult English language learners of the type typically found in adult education programs in the U.S. May be used to assess learner progress as well as for program evaluation and accountability.

Skills Measured-Test Content: 

Conversational language skills including speaking and listening.

Range of Skill Levels: 

Scores are reported as student performance levels (SPLs) 1-10; and National Reporting System (NRS) ESL functioning levels, from Beginning ESL Literacy to High Advanced ESL.

Number of Items per Test: 

Up to 25 questions drawn from an item bank, including 6 warm-up questions and 2-4 questions selected from folders (sets of topical questions).

Types of Items: 

Each folder (set of topical questions) contains 7 questions, including: a picture description, an either/or question, a yes/no question and 4 open-ended questions

Development of Items: 

Nationally representative 10-person technical working group (TWG) reviewed and approved initial content areas for test item development. Then, 12 test-writers were trained and prepared items for CAL staff review and approval. A small-scale field test was conducted using a portion of the test items. Based on feedback from this field test, the items were calibrated to produce an initial adaptive version which underwent a reliability study. Based on feedback from the field test and this initial study, item and test specifications were revised by CAL staff and approved by the TWG. Item writers then revised earlier items and completed the item bank. A full-scale field test was developed and administered to 2140 students, with each item in the item bank being administered to a minimum of 100 students. Data collected from this final field test was used to calibrate the difficulty of the items for the computer adaptive BEST Plus. Following a reliability study on the computer adaptive version, the print-based version was produced from items in the item bank and field-tested.

Size of Item Bank: 

258 items


No separately administered subtests

Alternate Test Forms: 

The program underlying the computer-adaptive version ensures that examinees will receive different items each time they take the test. The print-based version consists of 3 equivalent forms. Each form has 3 proficiency levels. The appropriate level to administer is determined by a locator test.

Required / Recommended Administrator Training: 

A six-hour training workshop in administering and scoring the test is required for all test administrators.

Test Administration Procedures: 

In the computer adaptive version, the test administrator asks the examinee items selected by the computer based on an algorithm that follows the ability of examinees as they answer, and the test administrator scores, each item. In the print-based version, the test administrator asks the examine questions from one of three fixed-form levels as determined by an initial short locator test.

Scoring - How: 

Responses to each item are rated on each of three subscales using a 2-point rubric for listening comprehension; a 4-point rubric for language complexity; and a 3-point rubric for communication. Each examinee receives a total score as well as a score on each of the three subscales (listening comprehension, language complexity, and communication).

Scoring - Type: 

Ratings of responses

Scoring - Who: 

Responses are rated by the test administrator.

Scoring - How Long: 

In the computer adaptive version, a score report appears on the screen at the end of the test and may be printed immediately. In the print-based version, a rough estimate of an examinee’s proficiency level may be determined by adding up the scores and using the conversion chart provided in the test booklet. However, in order to obtain a complete score report, the scores must be added into the BEST Plus Score Management Program which comes with the test.

Reporting Procedures: 

The score report may be printed upon completion of the computer adaptive program or following the entering of scores from the print-based version into the BEST Plus Score Management Program. The Score Management Program can be used to maintain the score records of all students administered the test, or the electronic records can be exported for use in another software program.

Time Needed for Assessment: 

The computer-adaptive version takes from 3 to 20 minutes to administer, depending on the examinee’s level of oral proficiency. Higher proficiency speakers (SPL 7-10) usually take longer than lower proficiency speakers do because they are asked more questions and their responses tend to be longer and more complex. The print-based version takes 5 to 20 minutes to administer.

Publisher / Company / Source: 

Center for Applied Linguistics
4646 40th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: 202-362-0700
Fax: 202-362-3740

Versions & Publication Dates: 

BEST Plus is a 2003 revision of the oral interview section of the BEST. It is a computer-adaptive assessment also available in a semi-adaptive print-based version.


Test administrator training is required before materials can be purchased. All necessary materials are provided during the initial training. Test administration prices vary according to the volume purchased. The range is from $1.50 to $1.00 per administration. The minimum number of BEST Plus computer administrations that can be purchased is 20 and all orders must be in multiples of 20 or 50. The print-based version of BEST Plus can only be ordered in packets of 20. Contact CAL for a price quote on training.

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