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Assessing British Sign Language Development Receptive Skills Test

  • The assessment consists a vocabulary check and a video-based receptive skills Test.
  • This assessment was originally developed on deaf and hearing children from deaf families where BSL was the first language, then standardised on native signers and children from hearing families on established bilingual or Total Communication programmes from an early age.
  • The vocabulary check is designed to ensure that children understand the vocabulary used in the Receptive Skills Test. Children complete a simple picture-naming task which identifies any signs in their lexicon which vary from those used in the test. Children are required to name pictures so that the assessor can check whether their version of the sign corresponds to the one used in the test. This is particularly important for languages such as BSL where there is much regional variation of signs.

Age range

3–13 years

Who can use it?

Someone with a Level 2 BSL qualification, and experience in testing. Native BSL signers preferred if possible.

How is it used?

  • The child completes the test online by watching a film of a BSL user signing short phrases and sentences. The child then needs to choose the correct picture out of a choice of four possibilities to go with each phrase signed. There are 40 items in total.
  • There’s a vocabulary screen that can be used to check that the child does understand all of the basic vocabulary used in the assessment. This is necessary to be sure that any items failed reflect the child’s understanding of grammar and not vocabulary.

What does it tell us?

This assessment is very useful for looking at discrepancies between a child’s BSL and English (or other language) skills. It can therefore inform teaching programmes about where the child’s strengths are and where further teaching is needed.


  • Many children love watching a DVD.
  • Beneficial to children who use BSL as the assessment is in their first language.
  • This is currently the only standardised assessment of understanding of BSL skills and therefore gives valuable information on the child’s true linguistic skills for non-BSL users.
  • Based on empirical data and robust psychometric properties.
  • Can be used to measure progress.
  • It has also been adapted for French, Danish, Italian, Australian, American, German, Japanese, and Polish sign languages.


  • This assessment aims to assess grammatical features and therefore only includes short phrases and basic vocabulary – it does not look at communicative competence. Other assessment is necessary to inform these other aspects of the understanding of BSL. This assessment also does not require the child to deduce any information.
  • This assessment can only be used to assess BSL. It is not appropriate to ‘translate’ it into Sign Supported English or any spoken language.

Is there a cost? 


Where can I access it?

You can access the assessment on the DCAL assessment portal. More information available from: [email protected].