Spelling tests composed of made-up or pseudowords are a great way to find out what learners do and don't know about spelling, and which spelling patterns they need to learn next.
Sometimes learners with poor segmenting and encoding skills can do fairly well on spelling tests containing real words, especially tests including lots of high-frequency words they've memorised visually, or learnt via mnemonics (e.g. Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants for the word "because").
Pseudoword tests strip this masking effect away, and really let you see how well the nuts and bolts of someone's spelling system are working.
Free, downloadable 100-pseudoword spelling test
If you're time-poor (and who isn't?) there is a free, downloadable 100-pseudoword spelling test in my website shop, click here to get it.
It includes information about which Spelfabet workbooks and other materials target the test spelling patterns, but you could apply the information discovered from the test to selection of other teaching materials.
Longer, video pseudoword spelling tests
My longer, video pseudoword spelling tests are still available, if you want to test in more detail or aren't confident about reading aloud pseudowords correctly. The links in the third column below take you to the spelling test for that level on YouTube. I suggest you do the tests yourself first, to get used to them, before asking anyone else to do them. All you need is a pen and paper. When you're finished, click on "Answers" to check your answers.
|Level||Word type||Administer the test||Check your answers||If problems, what to work on:|
|1||1 syllable, 3 sounds, short vowels, some digraphs||Level 1 test video||L1 answers||L1 words|
|2||1 syllable, 4 sounds, final blends, past tense 'ed'||Level 2 test video||L2 answers||L2 words|
|3||1 syllable, 4 sounds, initial blends||Level 3 test video||L3 answers||L3 words|
|4||1 syllable, "long vowels"||Level 4 test video||L4 answers||L4 words|
|5||1 syllable, other vowels||Level 5 test video||L5 answers||L5 words|
|6||1 syllable, consonant spelling variations||Level 6 test video||L6 answers||L6 words|
|7||2-syllable, unstressed vowels||Level 7 test video||L7 answers||L7 words|
|8||still to come, sorry||L8 words|
|9||still to come, sorry||L9 words|
|10||still to come, sorry||L10 words|
These tests are exploratory in nature, and not a substitute for standardised, professional testing. They can't tell you whether a learner is keeping up or falling behind their peers, so if you are concerned for any reason, please seek a formal assessment.
Most nonsense words mean something to someone e.g. they're rapper slang, a surname, a game character, a technical term or an acronym. Try making up nonsense words then putting them into a search engine, and you'll see what I mean. In these tests I've eliminated words Australian learners are likely to know – for example I had "Sitch", "Pung" and "Cass" in the first version, but removed them because of Australian comedian Rob Sitch, author Alice Pung and politician Moss Cass.
Many of these nonsense words have more than one plausible spelling, so there are no definitive right and wrong answers. However, in general the "yes" column answers are the best ones, the "maybe" column answers are arguable but not likely, and "no" means no. Any answer that does not appear on the relevant answer key should also be assumed to be incorrect, but I'm very happy to revise answer keys in the light of sensible arguments to do so, if you want to email any to me – firstname.lastname@example.org