About CATs StepCheck

CATs StepCheck tests candidates in a range of skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing, from A1 to C1 on the CEFR.

How the StepCheck test works

Reading & Listening

The reading and listening sections are adaptive. This means that the test responds to the ability of the candidate by offering questions which are progressively easier or more difficult, depending on whether the candidate’s answer to the previous question was right or wrong. This also means the number of questions in the reading and listening sections is not fixed – the reading and listening tests end when the candidate’s ability has been accurately determined.

  • Reading
  • Up to 15 Min
  • Reading includes a combination of shorter and longer texts. Reading questions include:
  • three-option multiple choice questions based on a text
  • completing the missing word from a sentence or words from a passage from a choice of three options or as an open-response
  • true or false questions based on a picture or a text
  • completing the gaps in the spelling of a word by adding the correct letters
  • matching the correct options to a series of pictures or statements
  • Shorter texts include statements, notices, diagrams, signs, labels and messages. Longer texts include emails, letters, emails and articles.
  • Listening
  • Up to 15 Min
  • Listening questions include:
  • Candidates listen to a short audio recording and answer a multiple-choice question about what they hear. Some questions include three visuals options and other questions include three written options.
  • Candidates give one- or two-word answers to each question, or Candidates listen to a longer audio recording and answer a set of short-answer questions about what they hear. Candidates give one or two word answers to each question, or complete a missing word in a sentence based on the audio recording.
  • Candidates hear all audio recordings twice.The questions are in the same order as the recording.

Speaking & Writing

The speaking and writing sections always include the same number of open questions, designed to give learners of all abilities an opportunity to show what they can do.

  • Speaking
  • 5—10 Min (including microphone check)

Candidates answer six questions about themselves, for example ‘What do you like about where you live?’. Candidates also read aloud a short passage of approximately 100 words and answer one question about what they have read.

  • Writing
  • Up to 30 Min
  • Candidates answer two extended writing tasks
  • an approximately 50-word response to a short text, usually an email
  • a longer response to a wider essay-type question

The science behind the adaptive test

The key to accurate measurement is to tailor the test precisely to the ability of the candidate – the better the match between them, the more precise the measurement. All the questions in the CATs StepCheck bank have known difficulty measurements, derived using Item response Theory and Rasch analysis during extensive piloting. The CATs placement test starts at a relatively low difficulty on the scale then increases or decreases in difficulty according to how the candidate responds. In this way the test quickly homes in on the level of the candidate. At the end of the test the learner's score is interpreted in relation to the difficulty of the items administered, and an accurate measurement is achieved, and reported as a CEFR level.

The Science Behind the Auto-Marking Technology

StepCheck auto-marks speaking and writing responses, using state-of-the-art speech recognition and artificial intelligence technologies licensed from Carnegie Mellon University. With years of linguistic research, world-class technology and language tutoring expertise Carnegie Speech is the premier developer of software for assessing spoken and written language skills.

With StepCheck you choose the skills you want to test

There is a separate test section for each skill (listening, reading, speaking and writing) so you choose the combination of skills you want to test. Here are the most common formats for the StepCheck test:

  • StepCheckExpress

    • Listening

    • Reading

    • Speaking

    • Writing

  • Up to 30 Min

  • StepCheck Express with Speaking

    • Listening

    • Reading

    • Speaking

    • Writing

  • Up to 40 Min

  • StepCheck Express Communicator

    • Listening

    • Reading

    • Speaking

    • Writing

  • Up to 65 Min