Assessment Ideas for Listening and Writing

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Part 1: Study Notes on BICS and CALP and Cummins’ Quadrant A, B, C, D Model

Dr. Cummins says that BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills while CALP stands for Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (West Middle School, 2016). Further, he says that the main difference between the two is that while BICS is useful in the assessment of fluency or the capability of fluency, CALP is mostly used in the assessment of academic performance like reading skills. He says that a situation may arise where a leaner may perform well in language fluency while being very poor in reading skills. When a case like this happens, teachers may wrongly judge that the learner has some learning disability of the language or that the learner has a pressing need while actually they are in their normal development stage of learning the new language.

Additionally, Dr. Cummins says that when the teacher understands these different forms of components of assessing the academic language proficiency like reading, writing skills and vocabulary knowledge, he or she shall be capable of administering cognitive tests in languages to students without the bias of whether they are natives speakers or learners.

Figure 1. Cummins’ Quadrant A, B, C, D Model

As represented by fig.1, the scaffolding shows the degree of support a required by a learner to help them participate well in lessons taught in English. At maximum scaffolding, which marks the end of the continuum, the language becomes very familiar to the learner, and the learners can communicate fluently while incorporating facial cues, visual cues, their hands, they can link to past knowledge, they have ease of the language mastery and can are very competent with comprehension tasks.

At cognitive demand, the learner’s basic demands are placed in the thinking process of the student while at cognitively undemanding, the language becomes simple to the learner, and he/she can easily understand information presented in the English language.

At quadrant A (comfort zone), learners are presented with engaging but less demanding tasks. At quadrant B, (learning/engagement zone) students are presented with tasks that are highly demanding academically. At quadrant C (zone of increased autonomy), the learner has presented with more challenging tasks academically. At quadrant D (boredom zone), there is a zone where the learner understands nothing about the language derailing the process of academic language development.

Part 2: Assessment Ideas for Writing and Listening

Writing Assessment Ideas

Firstly, identify the level of difficulty, writing of the student.

Assess their difference in knowledge between writing and reading skills.

Determine the student’s time of stay in the new country if he/she is an immigrant; those with 5-7 years in an English speaking language are expected to have basic knowledge of the English language.

Assess their writing skills and vocabulary knowledge.

Match their capability with their stage of development in language learning to know the nature of assistance required.

Address any special requirements if writing capability does not match the stage of development.

Listening Assessment Ideas

Identify the time the learner has been in the new country.

Determine the learner’s level of understanding of the vocabulary in the English language.

Determine if the student is fluent in speaking English or if he/she has any difficulties with writing it.

Determine the learner’s stage of English learning using the Cummins’s Quadrant A, B, C, and D Model.

Place the student in the appropriate quadrant and offer him/her the required listening skills.

Address any special needs the learner may require if he/she performs lower than it is required at their quadrant.


Coelho, E. (2004). Chapter 13. Planning instruction and assessment. In E. Coelho, Adding English: A guide to teaching in multilingual classrooms (pp.280-299). Toronto, Ontario: Pippin Publishing Corporation.

Gibbons, P. (2002). Chapter 7. Developing an integrated curriculum. In P. Gibbons, Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning: Teaching second language learners in the mainstream classroom (pp.206-232). London, UK: Heineman.

West Middle School. (2016, October 19). Dr. Jim Cummins explains the differences between BICS and CALP. [Video file] Retrieved from

August 21, 2023



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