I put some pseudoword spelling tests up on my website ages ago, hoping they would help people work out which of my workbooks and other materials might best meet their needs.
What is a pseudoword?
A pseudoword is a potential word in a given language, as it has allowable sound and spelling combinations, for example, "flernish" is an English pseudoword, but "wstoepfteg" is not. It doesn't sound or look remotely English.
Pseudowords are great for testing encoding skills/spelling, because they eliminate the possibility that the test words have been memorised as wholes, and require learners to sound out (i.e. use their phonemic awareness and knowledge of phoneme-grapheme correspondences) to spell all the words.
For young children and older ones who haven't been able to build their vocabularies through reading, most of the words in English are pseudowords. In fact, none of us know every word in the language – think of how many words are allowed in Scrabble that you've never heard of. So learners are not phased by being asked to write pseudowords. From their perspective, they have to do it all the time. When you google pseudowords, you find that most of them really do mean something to someone, somewhere. "Google", "blog" and the ubiquitous "selfie" were all pseudowords not long ago.
An abbreviated, 100 word spelling test
I haven't had much feedback about the spelling tests currently on my website, so I don't think they are being used much. Perhaps this is because they are far too long (I don't even use them in full these days) and in video form, requiring internet access. It's not easy to print them off and only use parts of them, or control the rate of presentation of words.
Below is an abbreviated, 100 word spelling test (or the printable version can be downloaded here) – on which I'd love your feedback.
There are no norms for this test, it's just intended as a tool to explore what a learner does and doesn't know about spelling. I usually try a two or three words from each section and then if it's clearly too easy, skip up to the next section, till I find a group of words that contain spellings which are clearly too difficult.
Before we do this test, I usually tell kids that I'm going to ask them to write some alien names and words from an alien language written in English. Sometimes I draw a few aliens – four eyes, six tentacles, some slime etc, and since my drawing skills are atrocious, kids laugh, which helps make the task seem less formal and stressful. Then off we go. No need for special equipment or expensive test forms, just pencils and paper, plus a way to block the view of other people's work for anyone inclined to copy.
I start with just one letter = one sound in three-sound words (CVCs or Consonant-Vowel-Consonant words):
If a child can't do these, and is going to use the Spelfabet workbooks, they should start at the beginning of workbook 1.
If they can spell the above words, try these words with consonant digraphs:
16. coth or maybe koth
17. fung or perhaps phung
Four sound words
If they can't do these, start from p 25 in Workbook 1. But if they can do all these, then try these words with CVCC word structure:
31. rax, as in "I bought at new rax" (they should not write "racks", as this is a singular noun not a plural or 3rd person verb, as in "sacks").
Kids who can't do these should start at the beginning of workbook 2. If they can do these, try some past tense words:
32. These aliens like to vick. Have you ever vicked before? Vicked (rhymes with ticked)
33. On Fridays they like to yeg. They have yegged every Friday for 2 years. Yegged.
34. They also like gopping so they gopped along the street. Gopped.
If these words cause a problem, start at page 31 in workbook 2. But if the above past tense words are written correctly, try some CCVCs:
If these are a problem, try Workbook 3. But if they can spell CCVCs, try some "long" vowel spellings in both open and closed syllables.
The possible correct answers multiply here because each sound has several spellings:
45. prave (as in save) or praive (as in waive)
46. chay (as in day) or chey (as in they)
47. zite (as in bite) or zyte (as in byte) or zight (as in fight)
48. ji (as in hi) or jy (as in my) or jie (as in pie) or jigh (as in high) or jye (as in bye)
49. spode (as in node) or spoad (as in toad) or spowed (as in showed)
50. trow (as in slow) or troe (as in toe) or tro (as in fro)
51. froo (as in moo) or frew (as in chew) or frue (as in blue)
52. woon (as in hoon) or wune (as in June) or wewn (as in strewn)
53. thewt (as in newt) or thute (as in cute)
54. sheeb (as in dweeb) or sheab (as in reap) or shebe (as in grebe) or perhaps shieb (as in chief)
55. dwee (as in free) or dwe (as in we) or perhaps dwea (as in sea) or even duee (as in duane)
56. Someone got graked (as in faked) or graiked (as in grained)
57. Someone got trimed (as in timed) or trymed (as in rhymed)
58. Someone got choned (as in throned) or choaned (as in moaned)
59. Someone got prooped (as in drooped) or pruped (as in duped) or perhaps prouped (as in souped-up)
60. Someone got treeced (as in fleeced) or treased (as in creased) or treaced (as in peaced)
Problems here suggest that work is needed on the patterns in Workbook 4. But if these are mostly in the ballpark, other vowels might be the problem, as in:
61. clarp (as in tarp)
62. quer (as in her) or quir (as in stir) or querr (as in err) or quirr (as in whirr)
63. plaw (as in claw) or plore (as in more) or plor (as in for) or ploor (as in poor) or ploar (as in roar) or plaur (as in dinosaur)
64. prall (as in fall) or prawl (as in crawl) or praul (as in Paul) or maybe prorl (as in whorl)
65. jow (as in cow) or maybe jowe (as in Lord Howe Island)
66. glound (as in ground) or glowned (as in clowned)
67. proy (as in boy)
68. sploil (as in boil)
69. zair (as in hair) or zare (as in care)
70. slear (as in hear) or sleer (as in beer) or slier (as in tier) or slere (as in here)
If these are the problem, these patterns are tackled in Workbook 5. If not, try:
71. jance (as in dance)
72. twerse (as in verse) or twirse (as in twirl) or twurse (as in purse)
73. vause (as in pause) or vauze (as in gauze) or maybe vawse (as in hawse, a part of the bow of a ship)
74. glonze (as in bronze) or glonse (as in flense)
75. zounge (as in lounge)
76. boothe (as in smoothe) or maybe buthe or bewthe (but I can't think of any similar words)
These final consonant spellings are tackled in Workbook 6, along with a lot of homophones and spelling overlaps.
If your learner can make a reasonable fist of all of the above, she or he is probably needing to mostly work on multisyllable words, which you can check with these pseudowords:
77. A thing that flots is a flotter
78. Let's all go glonking
79. Let's all go vuzing (as in US fuzing) or voozing (as in snoozing) or vusing (as in using)
80. Let's all go clepping or klepping (as in stepping)
81. I found two thritches (as in witches) or maybe thriches (as in riches)
82. Don't touch it, it blexes (as in flexes)
83. I found a yoaf/yofe, and then another one, so now I have two yoaves (as in loaves) or yoves (as in cloves)
84. Do you think it's getting sharter lately? Sharter.
85. That is the breenest (as in greenest) / breanest (as in cleanest) thing I ever saw in my life. Breenest or breanest
86. We have to wait for it to drappen before we pick it. Drappen (as in happen)
87. I bought a new truttle (as in bottle) or possibly truttel (as in chattel).
88. We had a squessful day (as in stressful)
89. They started to gatter him, and he didn't like being gattered (as in shattered)
90. Look at that kire (as in fire) or kyre (as in tyre) or kyer (as in dryer)
91. Look at that ture (as in cure) or kewer (as in skewer)
92. They were felling rotchy (as in blotchy) or wrotchy (as in wrong) or rhotchy (as in rhotic)
93. That's the slarchiest thing I ever heard
94. They found two medloys
95. It was very grellow (as in yellow) or maybe grelloh
96. They went frining (as in dining) or phrining or perhaps friening or phriening
97. They went frinning (as in grinning) or phrinning or perhaps frynning or phrynning
98. Nobody was drairing (as in chairing) or draring (as in caring)
99. Its zame (as in fame) or zaim (as in aim) was extraordinary, it was very zamous (as in famous) or zaimous
100. They started to dwerry (as in berry) and they dwerried for two hours.
These patterns and others like them are tackled in Workbook 7. A student who gets these mostly right but still makes a lot of mistakes on vowels in long words might find Workbook 8 useful.
I'm still trying to finish workbooks 9 and 10! One school holidays when other priorities are out of the way, it'll happen.
Once again, the downloadable, pdf version of this test is now in the freebies section of my website shop, click here
to get it.
I'd love your feedback on this 100 word spelling test, so if you use it, please tell me what you think/discover, and especially anything you think could be improved.
P.S. On 10/6/15: Many thanks to Kristie Smith and Andrea Burt for pointing out a couple of errors in the original version, I have now fixed them.