Acquiring Literacy in English:
Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors

Spelling Transfer Test

Author and Date

Andrea Rolla San Francisco, formerly of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Diane August, Center for Applied Linguistics. 2002.


The Spelling Transfer Test was developed to investigate the English spelling development of Spanish-English bilingual children with a particular emphasis on potential cross-linguistic influences.

The test was developed for the research study Transfer of Reading Skills in Bilingual Children, subproject 2 of Acquiring Literacy in English: Crosslinguistic, Intralinguistic, and Developmental Factors.

Age or Grade of Examinees

The assessment was developed to be used with students in first grade.


The test follows a cloze format.  Children are provided with the first letters of a series of pseudowords. The administrator dictates the pseudowords to the children and then asks them to fill in the missing letters on their answer sheets.



Researcher says...

Child sees...














The test is group administered, either by an English/Spanish bilingual administrator or by a pair of administrators consisting of a native English speaker and a native Spanish speaker. The assessment takes approximately 20 minutes to administer.

Reliability and Validity

Reliability and validation data are pending.

Scoring and Interpretation

Responses are coded 0 for unacceptable spelling, 1 for correct spelling in English, and 2 for a correct spelling in Spanish but not in English. Any differences in the coding are discussed further among the three coders until an agreement is reached. The differences among the coders generated criteria for further coding; for example, in order for a spelling pattern to be considered correct, there must be a minimum of three words that use that pattern in the language for which it is being examined. 


The development of the Spelling Transfer Test was informed by the work of Fashola and colleagues.

Fashola, O. S., Drum, P. A., Mayer, R. E., & Kang, S. (1996). A cognitive theory of orthographic transitioning: Predictable errors in how Spanish-speaking children spell English words. American Educational Research Journal, 33(4), 825-843.


The Spelling Transfer Test is available from the Center for Applied Linguistics. To request a copy, complete and submit the Application Form for Use of ALE Researcher-developed Assessment Instruments, available in Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF format.


Researchers using the Spelling Transfer Test should cite it as follows:

Harvard Graduate School of Education and Center for Applied Linguistics. (2002). Spelling Transfer Test. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Return to the list of researcher-developed assessments.