Members area



Don't have a login?

Join us

Become a member

  • Connect with others through events, workshops, campaigns and our NEW online forum, Your Community
  • Discover information and insights in our resource hub and receive the latest updates via email and Families magazine
  • Access one-to-one support and tailored services which help reduce barriers for deaf children
  • Borrow technology and devices which support deaf children’s communication and independence
Menu Open mobile desktop menu

The British Picture Vocabulary Scale, Third Edition (BPVS-3)

  • A test of receptive (hearing) vocabulary - single words that a child can understand.
  • There are two previous editions to this assessment and the BPVS-2 is still in use. The new, fully revised edition features full-colour pictures and improved presentation in a larger format.
  • The questions broadly sample words that represent a range of content areas such as actions, animals, toys and emotions and parts of speech such as nouns, verbs or attributes, across all levels of difficulty.
  • The test samples words that have been learnt incidentally.

Age range

3–16 years

Who can use it?

Speech and language therapists or any relevant professional, using the manual.

How is it used?

  • The manual gives very specific instructions for carrying out the test. The tester says a word and the child responds by selecting the picture (from four options) that best illustrates the word’s meaning.
  • Guidelines are given on the testing sheet for starting points with hearing children but when carrying out the test with a deaf child think about their general language level not their chronological age.
  • If the child makes more than one error in the first set of items, then the previous set must be administered. You have to keep going backwards until there is no more than one error. This is the ‘basal set’.
  • Testing is discontinued once the child has eight or more errors in a set. This is called the ‘ceiling set’.
  • You should give equal praise for correct and incorrect responses, for example, saying ‘good’, or ‘you’re doing well’. The child shouldn’t be able to tell whether they answer they gave is correct or not - except on the four practice items where you’re allowed to give feedback.

What can it tell us?

  • The test gives a standard score, percentile rank and age equivalent for the child’s level of receptive vocabulary. This means that the child’s score can be compared with hearing children the same age.
  • As it’s designed to assess the incidental vocabulary the child’s learned, any temptation to ‘teach to the test’ invalidates the score.
  • Can be used in conjunction with an expressive vocabulary assessment in order to establish whether a child has difficulty with word-finding.


  • This assessment is well standardised.
  • It can be used to measure progress over time.
  • Doesn’t require extensive verbal interaction between the tester and child.
  • Because no spoken response is required, BPVS-3 may be carried out with pupils with autism and other related communication difficulties.
  • The illustrations have black outlines and the colours are vivid to help pupils who are colour blind.
  • You may repeat the test word as many times as needed – it’s not restricted.
  • Quick and easy to carry out and score. The test is not timed so vocabulary is tested, not the speed of response.
  • No reading or written response is required so it’s suitable for those with difficulties in reading and writing and speech and language.


  • Only measures receptive vocabulary and not any other language skills.
  • For deaf children, sometimes their errors arise because of difficulties with speech perception rather than not having understood the word given, for example mixing ‘food’ and ‘fruit’. This shows how important it is to create the best possible listening conditions for that child.
  • The assessment is not standardised for use with items in the written form or when signed. If the test is given in such a way, then the standardisation information is invalid.
  • You can’t compare scores with previous assessments completed using BPVS-2, as this applies a different standardisation. GL Assessments recommend you continue to use BPVS-2 on existing pupils and use BPVS-3 on children new to the assessment.

Is there a cost? 


Where can I access it?

You can access the assessment on the GL Assessments website.