Practical tools, activities, and resources
to guide instruction

Oral Proficiency

Elements of Oral Proficiency

Adult English language learners need to master many elements of spoken language in order to be considered proficient. The following questions address these elements:

  • How well does the student understand spoken English in different settings and on different topics?
  • How often does the student need to hear speech repeated in order to understand the speaker?
  • How often does the student misunderstand what is said?
  • How much detail 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 express his or her thoughts in a coherent way?
  • Does the listener have to guess at what the student is trying to say?
  • Does the student’s pronunciation of key words make it difficult for the listener to understand?

Video Examples

View the clips and think about what differences they demonstrate in the two students’ overall listening and speaking skills. It’s clear that the first student is a beginning English language learner while the second student is much more advanced—but what exactly makes the first student “less proficient” and the second student “more proficient”?

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Video Clip 1:
Car Important

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Video Clip 2:
Opening a Window

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


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