- TSST Level Descriptors
TSST Level Descriptors
The TSST utilizes a nine-level rating scale, based on carefully developed guidelines and benchmarks. Compared to some long-established English speaking tests, the TSST is deliberately designed to measure spoken English ability at the lower levels because it targets English learners.
You can play audio samples of each TSST level.
A Level-1 speaker cannot communicate in English. The speaker may identify him/herself and make simple greetings using memorized phrases. However in most cases, the speaker can only speak in fragments of sentences, basically just listing simple vocabulary such as numbers, days of the week, colors, and so on. He/she can rarely respond to questions, and even when showing some sort of response, it takes a tremendous amount of time doing so. In addition, the pronunciation of a speaker at this level is heavily influenced by his/her native language making it significantly difficult to understand the response.
With a great amount of effort, a level-2 speaker may provide the bare minimum information necessary to maintain communication when answering simple questions regarding his/her everyday life. However, the responses are mainly just a combination of words, phrases, and memorized set expressions. There are long pauses in the responses, and in some cases, we may hear the speaker simply repeat what was heard in the question. The speaker may attempt to create in sentences; however, major errors in grammar and word choices are frequent. Even listeners who are used to hearing non-native English speakers have difficulty understanding a speaker at this level.
In addition to memorized set phrases, a Level-3 speaker, at times, creates simple short sentences to convey his/her thoughts. However, the speaker is only able to do so when the content of the response is very familiar to him/her, and major errors in grammar and word choices impeding comprehension are still present. Since a great amount of effort is required to create, the responses are often slow, thus requiring listeners’ patience. In addition, the pronunciation of a speaker at this level is still influenced by his/her native language and is, at times, difficult to understand without clarification.
A Level-4 speaker can maintain simple communication by talking about familiar topics and asking simple questions. A speaker at this level can connect simple short sentences to convey his/her thoughts, but fluency is disturbed doing so. With effort, the speaker can manage to respond to what has been asked, but he/she still cannot actively interact. The speaker’s pronunciation and word choices may still be influenced by his/her native language, but the impact is insignificant and listeners used to non-native English speakers would not have trouble understanding him/her.
A Level-5 speaker can maintain simple communication by talking about familiar topics, answering and asking simple questions. The speaker can also add extra information and details to his/her responses, but as sentences become longer and more complex, accuracy weakens. For example, the speaker’s grammar control and fluency may weaken, and/or it may require much time for the speaker to complete them. Word choices and pronunciation are still influenced by the speaker’s native language; however, listeners used to non-native English speakers would not have trouble understanding the responses.
A Level-6 speaker can communicate with proficiency necessary to live and survive in English-speaking countries. The speaker can somewhat effortlessly string simple sentences together to express his/her thoughts; however, as the sentences become longer and more complex, fluency and grammar control sometimes weaken. Tense control errors may still often be present. Pronunciation varies from speaker to speaker. Some may sound native-like whereas others’ are still influenced by their native language.
A Level-7 speaker can communicate with proficiency necessary to live and survive in English-speaking countries. He/she is able to deal with complicated situations as well, but effort is required in doing so as grammar/fluency control and speech organization may weaken. Nonetheless, a speaker at this level has noticeable strengths supporting their proficiency such as abundant volume or native-like pronunciation.
A Level-8 speaker can proficiently respond to various topics ranging from familiar ones to those of general interest. He/she is able to deal with unexpected complications most of the time. Though rare, flaws in grammar are still present. Tense control may still weaken in certain cases, and the speaker may have some difficulty in complex sentence construction. The responses are mostly organized but sometimes lack fluency and/or may include minor word choice errors; needless to say, they do not have a significant impact on listeners’ comprehension.
A Level-9 speaker can proficiently respond to any topics ranging from familiar ones to those of general interest. He/she can comfortably speak in any tense, for example, to narrate and describe and can effectively deal with unexpected complications as well. In addition, a speaker at this level can construct his/her response in a logical paragraph-like structure. Though few unconsciously made minor errors in grammar and word choices may be present, such do not impede comprehension at all.
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