Your study level

We've preselected "All levels" for you, but you can change your study level at any time by choosing one of the options on this menu. Changing your study level will return you to the beginning of the module.

Testing comprehension
A girl sitting opposite her teacher smiles
                  during an assessment

Here we focus on the pupil's comprehension of the first hundred or so words that children
typically learn.


Both the design of vocabulary tests and the language used by teachers have to be carefully considered. Teaching and assessment should proceed using structured but interesting activities. The instructions for the pupil should be clear and give them only the information they need to respond appropriately.

Controlled presentation
A girl sitting opposite her teacher inspects
                  a plastic brick

Presentation needs to be carefully controlled, especially in tests which involve the selection of one item from a display of two or more items. These situations potentially allow chance responses
to be correct.


Each item should be presented alongside differing items on several different occasions. To 'pass' on a particular item, the pupil might be expected to obtain a total score of, say, three out of four
correct responses.

An assessment example

In this video a teaching assistant uses simple, objective tests to assess a child's knowledge of vocabulary for objects. What are the key skills and strategies being used? Can you see this testing being done easily in the context of a regular teaching activity?


After you have watched the video,
read the commentary.


Video commentary

  • Poster
Assessing understanding and
use of vocabulary
A teacher shows a boy two different objects

Read the following paper. In particular consider the caveats expressed about designing effective vocabulary testing.


Teaching Understanding and Use of Early Vocabulary


Non-verbal cues and rewards have their place in teaching. Can, or even should, they be incorporated into the assessment processes?


Read the following document.


Assess Understanding and Use of Early Vocabulary

Devising tests

What are the main considerations when devising tests?


Consider the following:

  • How will you ensure that the objects and experiences you choose will be familiar to the pupil? What evidence would you need to ensure that this is the case?
  • What are the abilities of the pupils and are there implications for the selection of an appropriate instruction or instructions? What kind of responses do you want?
  • How can you ensure that you do not provide inappropriate non-verbal clues?
  • How can you repeatedly test knowledge of words to rule out being correct by chance?
  • How many items will be presented and in what manner?

Work with a colleague and try to agree this process as a pair. Use each other's knowledge and skills. Consider the usefulness of this approach and highlight any issues raised in terms of team working
and consistency.