BEST/BEST Plus Discussion

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The following excerpt was taken from the NIFL-Assessment Listserv; it is posted by Carol Van Duzer, Researcher at CAL; it focuses on the transition from BEST to BEST Plus in 2006.

Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004
From: "Carol Van Duzer" <>
Subject: Transition from BEST to BEST Plus

It has been a while since Marie asked me to address the question about how long the Center for Applied Linguistics would continue to supportthe BEST Oral Interview. The announcment about the transition has just been released so I am posting it below. If you have any questions, please contact or

Carol H. Van Duzer
Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)
Center for Applied Linguistics
4646 40th St., NW
Washington, DC 20026
Tel 202 362 0700

Important Information About the Basic English Skills Test (BEST) Oral Interview

For the past 20 years, the Basic English Skills Test (BEST), developed by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), has served as a reliable assessment of English language proficiency for adult education programs in the United States. The BEST has been widely used by adult ESL programs across the country for accountability purposes under the National Reporting System (NRS).

In 2003, CAL significantly updated and improved the oral interview section of the BEST with the creation of a new assessment called BEST Plus. Like the oral interview section of the BEST, BEST Plus is administered as a face-to-face oral interview. BEST Plus, however, assesses a wider range of proficiency than the BEST and is available in two formats: a computer-adaptive version on CD and a semi-adaptive print-based version.

Many programs that have been using the BEST are now adopting BEST Plus as their assessment tool for NRS reporting. CAL is encouraging all programs that are currently using the BEST oral interview to transition to BEST Plus by September 30, 2006. At that time, CAL will discontinue distribution of materials for the BEST oral interview: interviewer's booklet, picture cue book, interview scoring sheets, and training video and guide.

The BEST literacy skills section and BEST test manual will continue to be available beyond 2006.

Between now and September 2006, CAL will work with programs using the BEST oral interview to help them make the transition to BEST Plus. To learn more about BEST Plus, programs are encouraged to visit our Web site at or call us toll free at 1-866-845-BEST.

Features of BEST Plus

  • BEST Plus assesses interpersonal communication using everyday language.
  • BEST Plus assesses English language proficiency from Student Performance Levels 0 to 10 and from NRS Beginning ESL Literacy to High Advanced. This is a wider range of proficiency than can be measured by the original BEST.
  • BEST Plus integrates current knowledge in the assessment of speaking and listening skills with the latest knowledge and practice in educational measurement.
  • A computer-adaptive version and a semi-adaptive print-based version allow the delivery of questions targeted to the English proficiency level of the examinee. Examinees receive different questions each time they take the test, which minimizes the possibility that they will memorize test questions.
  • Test administration time is between 5 and 20 minutes.
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