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CBSE Proficiency Test for English

Proficiency Test for English

The test is text independent i.e. it is not based on a set text or syllabus. As a Proficiency Test, it tests both skills and knowledge. There is a balance between key aspects of language – as, for instance, reading skills, involving language knowledge as well as ability to process meanings through inference, analysis, comparison and evaluation; knowledge of grammar and vocabulary to the extent that is required for general communicative tasks. Specific skills involved in writing are also important e.g. awareness of the structure of simple written texts, how they are organized, and the kinds of formats that are used – in letters, for instance.

Reading is given 30 marks as it is the basis for grammar & writing and because it is important in further studies which students have to undertake in their later academic work. One passage of reading is of narrative type, (it may be an extract from a story) and tests candidates’ understanding of events, characters, descriptions and also the perception of meanings which are implicit in the details of the story. One passage is a non-fictional text containing information, argument, opinion, facts and ideas. Reading of this kind is focused on ability to arrive at the gist of an idea/argument, to
correctly separate opinions from facts (which implies some ability to analyse), to be able to distinguish main ideas from subordinate ones, to understand the tone or viewpoint e.g. humorous, ironic, serious etc. The third passage is a short poem, around 20 lines. This is to test if candidates can understand language which is composed differently – it is not linear, has hidden meanings, unusual expressions and uses sound effects (e.g. rhyme), simile and metaphor which conveys meaning indirectly rather than directly.

Vocabulary is given 20 marks as:

  1. Vocabulary is central in reading comprehension, where it is essential in meaning.
  2. It is also tested separately in order to test range of knowledge of words.

It is to be kept in mind that the level of vocabulary is such that is commonly found in texts that are prescribed in the school readers at class 9 and 10.

Grammar + Writing (30 +20) The MCQ format does not allow testing of writing skills as writing is integrative of other skills and needs to be tested through production. However, it is felt that the awareness of the components of writing can be tested here – e.g. format of letters, paragraph organization, linkage between sentences etc. These are also part of language knowledge.

Cloze Test has been included as it is a test which is the most global and comprehensive test of language. It consists of a passage where the first sentence sets the context of the passage and subsequently there are blanks at regular intervals. Filling these blanks requires an overall understanding of meaning and of the language items that will fit into the particular context of the sentences. For example, when the use of articles is explained in isolation, a user cannot understand where a certain article needs to be used/omitted. It is only in context that a decision regarding the use of an article is made. Therefore a cloze test is the best way to know if a student can infer from the context whether that article is to be used or not. The same applies to other items like prepositions, conjunctions etc.

The format and break-up of parts of the test is as follows:
Maximum Marks: 100
Time: 2.30 Hours

The question paper contains 100 questions. All questions are compulsory.
The questions are divided into the following parts:
(Reading 3 passages)

  • Unseen Passage (Narrative type)                                   Q. 1-10
  • Unseen passage (Informative type)                              Q. 11-20
  • Poem                                                                              Q. 21-30
  • Vocabulary                                                                     Q. 31-50
  • Grammar                                                                        Q. 51-65
  • Writing                                                                           Q. 66-85
  • Cloze                                                                             Q. 86-100
  • Each Multiple Choice Question has four options out of which only ONE option is correct. Each correct answer earns a credit of 1 mark.
  • A wrong answer carries a penalty of -% mark.
  • An unanswered question earns no mark.


This is being given in order to define the levels of proficiency that correlate with the marks obtained in the test. It helps the candidate to see which areas need more attention for the development of higher levels of proficiency.

5. Good User- Has operational command of the language. Generally handles complex language
well and understands detailed reasoning, reflective of a certain degree of analytical and
interpretative skills. Has a range of vocabulary and can understand complex structures. Is
aware of the structure of organization and coherence in texts. This user will be able to score
very well in all parts of the test, particularly in reading comprehension and cloze exercise.
(80% and above)

4. Competent User- Has generally adequate command of the language despite some
inaccuracies and misunderstandings. Understands some conventions in writing, and can
interpret a text, knows the structures, but may not have a range. This user will be able to
score fairly well, may score better in some parts of the test. Performance in the cloze
exercise may make a difference – better performance in this part brings the candidate
towards the higher end at this level. (60-79%)

3. Modest User- Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most
situations, though is likely to make many mistakes in interpretation and in understanding
structures and writing conventions. Should be able to handle basic communication
reflected in some knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. This user will manage an average
score in all parts of the test. (between 40-59%)

2. Limited User- Basic competence is limited. Has frequent problems in understanding non-
factual information (this will show up in reading comprehension) and will not be able to
exercise skills needing inference and interpretation. Is not able to use & understand
complex language. This user will score low in reading as well as grammar and cloze (will not
understand the overall coherence of the passage) and may not be able to answer questions
pertaining to text organization. (20-39%)

1. Extremely Limited User- Can understand only isolated words. Has great difficulty in understanding structures, but may give some correct responses to questions of a simpler kind. May not attempt to answer many of the questions. Comprehension level is very low even for simple texts. (0-19%)