Practical tools, activities, and resources
to guide instruction

Assessment - Language Complexity

Components of Language Complexity

Men discussing blueprintsIn the BEST Plus assessment framework, language complexity refers to how the student organizes and elaborates his or her speech. Language complexity varies according to the topic of discussion. Sometimes one word or phrase is appropriate (e.g., to a question like What languages do you speak?); sometimes sentences, strings of sentences, or more complex language is needed (e.g., to a question like Do you think it’s important to keep up with the news? Why/Why not?).

Oral language proficiency takes into account what a speaker can talk about (content) and how they talk about it (complexity). When measuring a speaker’s linguistic complexity, it is important to consider questions such as: How much detail and elaboration is the student able to provide? How precise is the student’s use of vocabulary? Does the student use a variety of sentence structures? Can the student organize his or her thoughts in a coherent way?

Video Examples

The videos below feature English language students demonstrating different levels of language complexity in their conversational responses. As you watch the videos, keep in mind the questions described above and consider the level of language complexity of each speaker’s response.

Video icon

Video Clip 5:
What do you like to do?

This clip features a student who demonstrates a lower level of language complexity.

Video icon

Video Clip 6:
Working as part of a team or alone

This clip features a student who demonstrates a higher level of language complexity.

Note: These video clips were filmed during live administrations of the BEST Plus oral English language proficiency assessment and are used with permission of the examinees and test administrators.

Back to top

Back arrowHome iconNext arrow