Preschool Language Scale
Fourth Edition
Sandra R. Gomes
Caldwell College
Assessment Needs
The limitations of preschool assessments
have been well documented (McCauley,
2001). Therefore, reliable and valid
assessments are needed.
Summary of Presentation
Background of Preschool Language Scale
Overview of PLS-4
Test Content & Administration
How to score PLS-4
Research supporting the effectiveness of the PLS-4
Pros and Cons
Background of Preschool
Language Scale (PLS)
Developed by Irla Zimmerman, Violette Steiner,
and Roberta Pond.
Earlier editions
• PLS - Originally developed in 1969 to measure language
development of young children
• PLS-R - Clearer administration & simplified scoring system
• PLS-3 - normative data used to develop standard scores &
percentile ranks; reliability & validity information; additional test
tasks & supplementary test information (1992)
Current edition
• PLS-4 -(2002)
Overview of PLS-4
•Standardized & norm referenced evaluation tool
used to assess receptive & expressive language
•Determines whether deficiencies are primarily
receptive or expressive in nature
•Assesses behaviors considered to be language
Age range
•Birth through 6 years, 11 months
Overview of PLS-4
Test Content
•Core Subscales
•Supplemental Assessments
•Norm referenced test scores
Qualified Users
Overview of PLS-4
Standardization Data
PLS-4 is standardized
Sample included 1564 children
• 39.1% of this sample consists of ethnic minorities
Spanish edition also available with separate norms
Task Analysis Checklist
Ages 2 days to 6 years 11 months
• Within each age level, approximately 50% of the sample was male
and 50% was female.
Test Content
Auditory Comprehension
1. To evaluate how much language a child understands
2. Test tasks on this subscale are considered important
precursors for language development for infants and
Integrative language
Video Examples
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Test Content
Expressive Communication
1. Used to determine how well a child communicates
with others.
Vocal development
Social communication
Integrative language
Video Examples
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Test Content
Language Sample
Caregiver Questionnaire
“What Your Child Understands”
Does your child momentarily look at a person who is talking to him
or her? If yes, who does your child look at?
Does your child look at you for more than 2 seconds? If yes, describe
a situation when your child does this.
Does your child respond to words like “stop” or “wait?”
Does your child put toys in his or her mouth?
Does your child understand words like “in,” “off,” or “out of?”
Administration of PLS-4
Examiner’s Manual
•Administration, scoring, & interpretation procedures
Picture Manual
•Contains picture stimuli
Record Form
•Abbreviated directions for administering, recording,
& scoring test items
•Used to facilitate interactions with the child
Required Manipulatives
Administration of PLS-4
Beginning the test session
• Test environment
• Determine chronological age
Determine starting point
• Basic information about his or her language
• Start at least a year prior to child’s age
Task Administration
• Can start with either subscale
• Generally takes 25-40 minutes, depending on age of the child
and communication skills
Practice Tasks
• Included for a number of items on the (AC) and (EC) subscales
Administration of PLS-4
Modifying Administration for special populations
• Children with severe developmental delays
• Children with severe physical/ hearing/ visual impairments
• Children who communicate using sign language
• Children with autism
• Use as criterion referenced information only
Scoring PLS-4
Scores Reported
• PLS-4 provides age-based
» Standard scores
» Percentile ranks
» Age equivalents
Scoring Codes
• (E)- Elicited (S) - Spontaneous (C ) - Caregiver
Basal and Ceiling Rules
• Basal achieved when child has passed 3 consecutive numbered
tasks (Scores of 1 marked in 3 consecutive boxes)
• Ceiling is achieved when the child has earned a score of 0 on 7
consecutive numbered tasks
Example of correct &
incorrect ceiling
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H.264 decompressor
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Computing Scores
Refer to page 115
Refer to page 117 & 118
Research Supporting
Restrepo et al. (2001)
This study evaluated the validity of the
Spanish edition of the PLS-3
Validity is of increasing importance
•Number of Hispanic children increases in schools
each year; therefore, the need for reliable, valid
measures for this population becomes more urgent
(Restrepo et al., 2001).
Restrepo et al. (2001)
• 37 children (18 boys & 19 girls)
• Mean age of 5 years 6 months
• All children were bilingual
Compared performances of the same participants
on the English and Spanish version of the PLS-3
Concluded that the test was inadequate because it
was based on English rather than Spanish Language
development data.
Research Supporting
Qi et al. (2003)
Study examined the performance of 701 low-income African
American preschoolers (36 to 52 months old)
On average, African American children performed about 1 SD
below the expected means for their ages on both subscales
Independent sample t tests showed no significant differences
between African American children & a comparison sample of
50 European American children.
6 items appeared to be particularly difficult for African American
Findings suggest that the PLS-3 is generally an informative
language test for African American preschoolers.
Research Supporting
Zimmerman et al. (2005)
PLS-3 & PLS-4 administered to the same children,
similar mean and SDs were found which supported
the PLS-4 content.
PLS-4 differentiated between 44 children identified
with autism spectrum disorders and 44 typically
developing children.
Differences ranged from 36-39 standard score
Zimmerman et al. (2005)
Nonverbal children with autism demonstrated
greatest lags on language tasks targeting concepts &
social communication.
Children who were verbal demonstrated significant
difficulties on morphology, syntax, social
communication & integrated language skills.
In summary, PLS-4 proved to be sensitive to
differences in language abilities for children with a
variety of diagnoses, including developmental and
language delays, autism, & hearing impairment.
Pros of Assessment Tool
• Test covers a wide range of
language issues
• Child friendly
• Allows for repeated
administration over the child’s
• Used extensively by researchers
in a broad variety of areas
• Enables clinicians to gain insight
into a child’s underlying deficits
• Administration time is fairly
• Reliable and valid
• Useful tool for evaluating
children with special needs
• Easy to score
Cons of Assessment Tool
• Does not go into great depth
• Not meant to be used alone to
diagnose a language deficit
• Unable to make modifications
• Administration of assessment
Overall, PLS-4 is a well- designed and carefully developed
instrument, meeting a standard of quality substantially above
that of most other commercial tests. A user can be quite
confident of the accuracy of scores and appropriateness of
using PLS-4 scores as indicators of language skills of
preschool children. (Zimmerman et. al, 2005)
It is a useful diagnostic and research tool that can be used to
identify current comprehension and expressive language
skills & can be used to measure changes in language skills
over time.
McCauley, R. (2001). Assessment of language disorders in children. Mahwah, NJ:
Laurence Erlbaum Associates.
Qi, C. H., Kaiser, A. P., Milan, S. E., Yzquierdo, Z., & Hancock, T. B., (2003).
The performance of Low-Income, African American Children on the Preschool
Language Scale-3. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 576590.
Restrepo, M., & Silverman, S. W., (2001). Validity of the Spanish preschool
language scale-3 for use with bilingual children. American Journal of SpeechLanguage Pathology, 10, 382-393.
Zimmerman, I. L., & Castilleja, N. F., (2005). The role of language scale for infant
and preschool assessment. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities,
11, 238-246.
Zimmerman, I. L., Steiner, V. G., & Pond R. E., (2002). Preschool Language Scale,
4th edition. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Preschool Language Scale Fourth Edition