Score Guide


Score Bands

Descriptors of Oral Communication Effectiveness and Comprehensibility

Level 1


(280 - 300)



Test-takers at this sub-level can use English accurately and fluently and are full partners in conversations on different concrete and abstract topics in both informal and formal situations. They are able to discuss issues in their academic fields, explain and support their opinions in a structured argument, and to hypothesize and explore alternative solutions.  They generally use extended discourse when appropriate, often with no hesitation, but their language production may sometimes be influenced by the language patterns of their native language.  They are able to effectively use prosodic features and to employ different syntactic and lexical devices. They generally demonstrate no pattern of error, although they may make some sporadic errors particularly in low-frequency structures, but those do not distract from of interfere with communication.

Very Strong

(250 - 270)

Test-takers at this sub-level can use English mostly accurately and fluently and are full partners in conversations on different topics, but cannot sustain performance with the functions of the upper-band of Level 1. When asked to perform a more complicated task, for instance to hypothesize, they may not effectively achieve that or may even simplify it to description or narration. They may be able to handle abstract topics, but are more comfortable with concrete topics. They show very good fluency, their use of vocabulary is precise, and their prosody is appropriate for the expression of intended meaning. Some patterns of error appear in their performance, but they are able to compensate for some limitations by paraphrasing, circumlocution, illustration, and other strategies.


(230 - 240)

Test-takers at this sub-level can use English with ease and confidence and are equal partners in most informal and formal conversations. They are able to speak with clarity and precision on a wide range of concrete topics of limited personal relevance (e.g., community, work, study, recreation, current social/public events, etc.) They can effectively use tense/aspect frames as well as supporting evidence to discuss or narrate in connected, paragraph-length discourse.  Their vocabulary use is rich, but mostly generic (except for areas of personal specialization or interest). When asked to perform a more complicated task, for instance to defend an opinion, their linguistic production weakens in quality and they may resort to narration, description, explanation, anecdote and other strategies.

Level 2


(210 - 220)

Test-takers at this level can use English fluently, although halting a times, and are sufficiently clear and accurate in conversations on different concrete topics of personal relevance that go beyond self (e.g., work, school, home, recreation, leisure, etc.) in most informal and a few formal situations. Their speech is somewhat fluent, but strained and tentative, typically produced in short paragraphs, with noticeable use of false cognates, literal translations, and self-corrections.  They can use different language functions and time frames, but control of aspect and some grammatical structures may be weak. They can effectively use sentences to create paragraph length discourse, but when asked to perform higher level functions their production reduces to minimal discourse and weakens both in quality and quantity.

Level 3


(190 - 200)

Test-takers at this sub-level English appropriately to address the requirements of the task. Their response is limited in content and coherence and their utterances may be unintelligible at times. They can use English with some ease when conversing about familiar, basic and concrete topics of personal relevance such as work, home, family, leisure, etc. in informal and a limited range of formal situations. They can perform some functions of the Adequate Level, but to a lesser extent without being able to sustain performance. They exhibit more breakdowns and more hesitations as well as some problematic error patterns in delivery, coherence, and expression of intended meaning. They fail to maintain appropriate use of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.  Code-switching, false cognates, literal translations, and other signs of their native language are frequent, and gaps in communication may occur.

Very Limited

(170 - 180)

Test-takers at this sub-level make reactive and limited use of English and may minimally address the requirements of the task. Their response contains many inaccuracies in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation as well as long and frequent pauses and self-corrections while searching for adequate lexical and grammatical forms. Their response exhibits frequent breakdowns as well as consistent error patterns in all competencies, because of which parts of the response may be unintelligible. They can maintain conversation in simple social situations on concrete and predictable topics related to self, family, home, daily activities, personal interests as well as to their social needs (e.g., food, shopping, travel, lodging, etc.) They can combine and re-combine known elements to generate sentence-length utterances, but their response is reactive in nature. They are able to ask a variety of questions to elicit simple information. When asked to perform a higher level function or topic, they experience obvious difficulty expressing and linking ideas and using appropriate verb tenses.

Level 4


(120 - 160)

Test-takers at this sub-level can make very limited use of English in a few uncomplicated social situations related to surviving in the target language culture such as exchanges of basic personal information and immediate needs. They are able to address topics on common and discrete aspects of self in daily life and to list basic objects, body parts, situations, colors, clothing, foods, etc. They produce primarily reactive language in the form of high-frequency, formulaic, mostly memorized expressions and show little to no functional ability, being able to only ask a few questions and struggling to answer requests for information. Their speech consists of known and heard elements combined and re-combined into short utterances that are filled with hesitations, pauses, self-corrections, and ineffective reformulations. The influence of the native language is very prominent in their pronunciation, vocabulary, and syntax, which greatly impedes intelligibility ad comprehensibility.

  Not Competent

(0 - 110)

Test-takers at this sub-level cannot use English to participate in social situations. They display very little linguistic competency, with poor listening and speaking abilitiesThey may remain mostly silent when prompted to speak, or they may utter only a few words at a time and resort to long pauses and frequent repetition, false-starts, and recycling of the interlocutor’s words. Their pronunciation and other competencies may be so severe that the listener cannot understand the meaning they are trying to convey. Even when the listener makes a great effort, s/he can only comprehend isolated words or utterances.