The Lindamood-Bell Auditory Conceptualisation Test

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I was looking at my battered copy of the Lindamood Auditory Conceptualisation Test thinking the blocks need a good wash the other day (you can see from the above photo that I don't usually get children to wash their hands before using it) and it occurred to me that I should write a blog post about it.

Why is this test useful?

I find this test of phonemic awareness useful for learners of all ages who are struggling with literacy, for several reasons:

  • It's quick and easy to score and interpret – I can get the whole thing done in about 15 minutes with a cooperative learner.
  • It's a test of phonemic awareness, or awareness of the identity, order and number of individual sounds in words. Many similar tests also include assessment of syllable and rhyme awareness, so that they are tests of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is where the rubber really hits the road in early literacy, so I prefer to focus on this.
  • It can be used with literacy-learners of any age from the start of school to adulthood.
  • It has two different test forms, so it can be administered at the start of therapy and again at the end, without the risk that someone will get a higher score the second time around just because they are repeating the same test items.
  • When parents, integration aides and teachers watch a learner having difficulty on this test, they can easily see that the learner doesn't know much about the identity, order and number of sounds in words. So it can be a good way to make the concept of phonemic awareness more "real" to adults who will be implementing a program targeting it.

How does it work?

The main test materials for the version I use are a little box of coloured blocks. At first the learner is asked to create sequences of blocks such as three blocks the same colour, four blocks that are all different colours, and three blocks with the first two the same colour.

This teaches them to place the blocks as will be required in the test, checks whether they have basic concepts like same and different, and makes sure that they are working from left to right (with learners whose first language is Arabic this can take a few goes).

Next they are asked to show you blocks reflecting the sounds you say, for example if you say "z, z" then they need to show you two blocks the same colour, because you said two sounds that were the same. If you say "p, p, ch" the correct answer is two blocks the same colour, then one that's a different colour. Very few learners make many errors on this part of the test.

Finally, learners are asked to listen to little made-up words and make changes in block sequences to reflect the changes in the words. For example,  "here's ap (showing two different blocks), now make pap". The learner has to add a block to the beginning of the sequence which is the same colour as the last block.

This part of the test quickly separates the phonemic awareness sheep from the goats.

Many children, and even some teenagers, simply add random blocks to the end or beginning of each sequence, because they have no idea what you're talking about once you stop separating the sounds for them, and shmoosh them together as we do in words.

Many others succeed with the early sequences, but when you get to things like "here's asp, now make sasp" they come unstuck.

What does the test mean?

Awareness of sounds in words is a necessary (but not sufficient) skill for good reading and spelling, and this test shows you whether or not it's an area of weakness. There's no need to look up tables when scoring, you just add up the numbers on the form and the expected scores for each primary school grade level are under the scoring box on the form itself. Teenagers and adults are expected to score the same as children in the last year of primary school, i.e. get all or nearly all the test correct.

I find it useful to have an assessment that assesses sounds separately from spellings, as some learners with poor decoding have reasonable phonemic awareness, and their main problem is poor spelling pattern knowledge.

A slow-progress reader/speller with poor phonemic awareness needs some solid work on hearing sounds in words and writing their spellings, starting off with little words, and not skimping on work on consonant blending.

An English syllable can contain up to seven sounds (e.g. s-p-r-i-n-t-s), and often they are hard to hear, for example the "t" and the "th" in "strengths" can both get very lost. The Spelfabet workbooks are designed to provide this type of phonemic awareness practice while introducing spelling patterns in tiny, fast steps, and many other teaching materials listed on this site's phonics resources pages also target this area.

Third Edition

The version of this test I have is an old one, and apparently no longer available, but version 3 is available and the suppliers say it's bigger and better.

Better, sure, but I actually don't want a bigger test – the simplicity and brevity of my version is one of its attractions. I can't comment on the updated version's section on syllables since I haven't tried it.

Tests can be really expensive, but this one was a relatively affordable one when I got it, so I looked up the prices of the new one.

Suppliers in the US seem to sell it for around the $USD230 mark, which my internet currency converter says is $225 Australian dollars.

Pro-Ed Australia has the complete kit for $AUD382. The Australian Council for Educational Research is selling what appears to be the same thing for $AUD694.95. So I guess the moral of that story is: for major purchases, shop around. 🙂


One response to “The Lindamood-Bell Auditory Conceptualisation Test”

  1. Francisco says:

    (CD-ROM) When I first purchased this and took a look at it brefoe I let my four year old granddaughter view it to be honest I thought it looked uninspiring and rather boring for her. But what do I know! She spent three hours on it the first day learning how to navigate through the various activities and books. I was amazed since she is a whirlwind of energy. Since then she views it daily and learns the letters and words and is beginning to pick them out of the hardcover books she has. In the end what matters is that she finds this edition of Reader Rabbit engaging and that she is learning from the activities and the interactive stories.

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