BSL Receptive Skills Test

What is it?

This is a test of understanding of grammar in BSL sentences for children. It generates a score indicating BSL grammatical ability for the child's age, and a breakdown of the types of errors made.

What is involved?

This is a 20 minute test. The child watches 40 video clips of BSL sentences produced by deaf native signer, and selects the matching picture from an array. To check that the vocabulary used in the test is familiar to the child, they name some simple pictures. The test becomes progressively more difficult. When the child makes 4 successive errors, the test will automatically stop.

For younger children, it is recommended that the child points to the picture and an adult enters the response.

Two versions of the test are provided, an original version and a parallel version for use when repeating the test with the same child. This helps to maintain interest and reduce the effect of practice. At the moment, raw scores can be obtained for both versions. However, standard scores are only available for the original version. Both versions generate information about the child's command of BSL grammar including subsections for number/distribution; negation; noun/verb distinction; spatial verbs; size and shape specifiers and handling classifiers.

Who is it suitable for?

  • Deaf children aged 3 - 12
  • Older deaf children whose sign language skills are delayed
  • Not suitable for children who use Makaton

What normative data is available?

Deaf children aged 3 - 12

Who should use this test?

  • Educators may use the test to assess a child's sign language development and check progress. If a child is not making good progress, the test can pinpoint areas of sign language for teachers to target.
  • Practitioners e.g. Speech and language therapists and psychologists
  • Researchers
  • Lecturers and BSL teachers for demonstration purposes

Can I use this test to teach sign language?

This test is not designed for teaching BSL to deaf children, however university lecturers may wish to use it to teach students about sign language assessment. Adult educators teaching BSL can use it to demonstrate different aspects of BSL grammar to their students.

Test citation

Herman, R., Holmes, S., & Woll, B. (1998). Design and Standardization of an Assessment of British Sign Language Development for Use with Deaf Children: Final Report, 1998. Manuscript, Department of Language & Communication Science, City University London, UK.

Research using this test

Herman, R. (1998). Issues in Designing an Assessment of British Sign Language Development. Proceedings of the Conference of the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists (pp. 332-337). Liverpool, UK. Download article

Herman, R., & Roy, P. (2006). Evidence from the wider use of the BSL Receptive Skills Test. Deafness and Education International, 8(1), 33-47. doi:10.1002/dei.33. Download article

All instructions are given within the test.

RST Downloads


Data is generated in CSV format for easy import into your preferred data management software

Task data

A separate CSV file is generated for each participant. Each contains the raw data including the order in which the items were presented, the correct answer for each item, the answer chosen by the participant, and the accuracy score (1 or 0) for each item.

Accuracy data

One mark is awarded for each correct answer. The overall maximum raw score for the RST is 40. This consists of subsections for Number/distribution (out of 7) Negation (out of 10) Noun/verb distinction (out of 10) Spatial verbs (out of 18), Size and shape specifiers (out of 3) and Handling classifiers (out of 3).

A total raw score is generated and an age-adjusted standardised score.

Parallel version

Raw scores are available for the parallel version but not an age-adjusted standardised score.

The overall maximum score for the parallel version of the test is 54. This consists of subsections for Number/distribution (out of 8) Negation (out of 12) Noun/verb distinction (out of 3) Spatial verbs (out of 21), Size and shape specifiers (out of 3) and Handling classifiers (out of 4), Manner and location (out of 1), and Complex sentences (out of 12).

For questions related to this test, please contact the task owner, Ros Herman.