CELF 5: First Impression

Oct 19, 2013 by

CELF 5:  First Impression

The other day I was given a copy of the new CELF 5. As someone who has given the CELF since it was created, I was excited to hear a new update was in the works and even more excited when I found out in September that my administrators had purchased one for every school.

As I pulled the components out of the box and laid them along my dining room table, the main items that interested me were the protocol sheets. I assumed I could get an initial impression about the test just by perusing the protocol sheets. I also flipped through the stimulus books and noted some minor changes but a lot of familiar pictures.

My first impression is that they made some nice changes and adjusting to the changes will not be that challenging. Thank you Pearson and Authors because there was no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Looking at the 5-8 year old protocol sheet:

  1. Subtests are in a slightly different order.
  2. The old Sentence Structure subtest is now called Sentence Comprehension.
  3. The old Concepts and Following Directions subtest has been broken up into two separate subtests Linguistic Concepts and Following Directions but here is the best part both have a discontinue rule of 4 (instead of 7).For all of us who have purchased or made up cheat sheets……all the instructions are in the protocol books. No reason to get whip lash as we swing our heads from the back of the stimulus book to the front as we watch our little ones make their choices or encourage carpel tunnel from holding the cheat sheet and protocol together out of the prying eyes of little ones.
  4. Lots of bold font for general directions and correct answers. I wish the regular font was a little thicker or darker but that’s because of my old eyes.
  5. Quickly comparing the Pragmatic Profiles lots of similarities noted, the differences seem to be in how skills are worded. Perhaps the changes in the language will make it easier for teachers and parents to fill out. I will have to look at that a little more closely
  6. The addition of the Pragmatics Activities Checklist looks like a very good tool to help address manner of performance and some subjective pragmatic skills
  7. Expressive Vocabulary subtest is gone. Which really is ok since most of us use other vocabulary testing. It was small pain to give just to get a composite score but occasionally came in handy. I was actually hoping they would beef up the vocabulary portion to include expressive vocabulary. However, it is nice to use a variety of testing material with students. I think using a variety of tests gives you a better overall profile.
  8. Phonological Awareness and Word Association have been omitted. Never used those much anyway, preferring the CTOPP for PA and only used word association with lower functioning kids.
  9. Number Repetition and Familiar Sequences have also been omitted. I never used those subtests very much since my school psychologist always did similar subtests. Plus we always have the TAPS.
  10. Rapid Automatic Naming has been omitted. Not a big issue with the little ones for me but a big thumbs down for the older kids (see below).

Looking at the 9-21 year old protocol sheet

  1. Subtests are in slightly different order
  2. Concepts and Following Directions is now called Following Directions. All directions are in the protocol sheets. However, I could have used some bold print on the Following Directions. The symbols on the protocol sheet are bigger and limited to circle/square/triangle/X.  I think I like the changes to the wording.
  3. There is more space to write the sentences on the Formulated Sentences Subtest.
  4. The Understand Spoken Paragraphs, paragraphs have changed slightly. There are 1-3 more questions per paragraph. I like that. However, I’ve been running into an interesting pattern with my student’s responses which has been effecting their performance in some cases. Worrying so much about restating the question that they forget the information. (Gee wonder why that is happening?)
  5. Phonological Awareness and Word Association have been omitted. Never used those much anyway, preferring the CTOPP for PA and only used word association with lower functioning kids.
  6. Number Repetition and Familiar Sequences have also been omitted. I never used those subtests very much since my school psychologist always did similar subtests.
  7. Quickly comparing the Pragmatic Profiles lots of similarities noted, the differences seem to be in how skills are worded. Perhaps the changes in the language will make it easier for teachers and parents to fill out
  8. The addition of the Pragmatics Activities Checklist looks like a very good tool to help address manner of performance and some subjective pragmatic skills
  9. Rapid Automatic Naming is gone. I am disappointed with that because I often used that subtest to help confirm word retrieval issues. I will probably continue to use that subtest either for my own information or as part of the report noting that it is outdated.

One thing I did notice is that the Item Analysis for each subtest is listed in the protocol sheet. I think that will be helpful when it comes to writing the narrative for each subtest. However, I hope we are able to plug in the correct and incorrect responses in the Q global scoring system to get a list. I occasionally added item analysis to my reports for the Concepts and Following directions subtest.

Scoring…extremely disappointed that we have to go through Q-global and that a fee is charged for every test. Personally I would rather pay for the software and have it on my computer. Sometimes I don’t do all my scoring and writing at once. It better be user friendly that way. My school system is setting up a system for scoring, which I am glad. I’ll have to set up my own for any private practice or consulting. I hope it is easy to use and we can get similar analysis. Note that many of the discontinue rules for individual subtests have changed, for the better I think.

I also noticed that we are going to be able to compare receptive/expressive differences and determine if they are statistically significant. I think that will be a nice addition to the report. I hope the manual give us guidance as how to interpret a difference.
I also have packets for reading and writing supplements. I’m not even going to crack those open yet. At my school the special education teachers tend to take reading and writing on, as they should. If there is a specific issue where we need more data then I will consider giving the reading and writing pieces. Once I get the language pieces of the CELF 5 under my belt then I will look at the reading and writing part of the test more closely. I can’t be all things to all people but I am glad to see it was included but separate.

With all that said my first impression of the CELF 5 is a thumbs up. It should be fairly easy to create a new evaluation template. Hopefully the manual will also give some good information. Once I start using the new CELF 5 and analyze the data a few times, I’ll write another review. It will be interesting to see if the same type of kids are qualifying. I hope and pray the standards have not been lowered. I’d really like to hear from other therapists who are using the CELF 5. What do you think in terms of ease of giving it and overall results? I’m also curious to know how your goals and objectives line up with the CELF 5 and Common Core. Specific examples are welcomed.


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  1. Connie

    I’m VERY unhappy about the Q-Glabal aspect. Not only does it cost $1.00 a child (with limits on how long you can go back in to score additional tests, rescore, etc.), but it means that if the site is down or you don’t have internet access, you can’t use it. I think it’s horrible.

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Connie,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes I am also very dissappointed with this set up. I do a lot of eval only consults. Honestly, it’s not even the cost that bothers me it is other factors such as the site being down, maybe not being able to rescore or add a subtest and time limitations. Hopefully we will get the system to work for us. My school is also setting up the program for use to access. The CELF is not a always a test we give in its entirety. We might give a few subtests, do some other testing then go back. I liked having the scoring system on my computer. If you do a lot of testing, we will need to leave the manuals at home now or carrying them back and forth…..just in case.
      Make sure you go to the Pearson web site and sign up for 10 free scorings.

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Connie
      Just a follow up have you seen my new posts regarding the Q Global scoring. I’ve been in touch with pearson, you might be interested.

  2. Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

    I received this e-mail today. Thought it might be of interest.


    Have you heard any concerns about the CLEF-5 and the pragmatics profile? I have used it for an 8th grader, and the raw score (made up mostly of 2s and 3s translates to a very low scaled score (SS4; 2nd percentile). It just doesn\’t seem accurate to describe this student as having 98/100 students better than he is, socially.

    Thanks, R

    My Response
    Hi R,
    I haven’t had much experience with the new CELF 5 Pragmatic Profile, especially with a student who has real issues. However, I am in the process of that now. I have a lot of middle school experience with the old one which is very similar. I think 2’s and 3’s are really low for an 8th grade student giving them a score between 100 and 150. On the CELF 4 the student probably would not have met criteria. Looking at the scaled score conversion on the 5 a 14year old student scoring between 100-150 would have a scaled score somewhere between 2-5. Thats low.
    You might want to look at the results a little deeper using the item analysis in the protocol sheet and narrow down more specific concerns….say the ones the student received 2’s on or if 2’s clustered in one area. With that said I always put in my narrative that the PP is a subjective test, sometimes (and I don’t think this is proper procedure) I get input from a couple of people working with the student then make my own observation and make a final decision on what they should receive on each item. Sometimes I will also have the parents fill out one and report on the differences in observations.
    While I think I am liking many of the aspects of the CELF 5, I have a little bit of an issue putting a standard score with pragmatic skill development. Data Data Data that’s what it is all about but where pragmatic skills are so subjective and often misunderstood by those making the judgements I liked the met criteria/did not meet criteria scoring better as long as an analysis narrative was provided.
    I would never report to the parents (either in writing or verbally) 98/100 students did better, put a percentile rank in if you feel you must. Most parents don’t understand those anyway. I do add some percentile ranks to my reports but mostly stick to standard scores, I feel they are easier to understand and visualize.
    Hope this helps, any questions let me know.

  3. Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

    I’ve been using the CELF 5 the past month or so and like most of the updates. The Q-global system is not user friendly for the way we work in the public schools. We give our tests in a very fragmented way given the students schedules/our schedules/our time frame. If you need to go in and add anything, another subtest, need more item analysis, adding the info from the pragmatic profile or if you just added wrong, you will be charged another dollar to generate the report. Several SLP’s have called them about this issue. I explained that school SLP’s usually don’t get everything done in one shot or we may want to see how a student does before giving certain subtests. I also pointed out that our testing is done over a 45 day period. The truth is Q-Global will probably not work well for us school SLP’s the way it is set up now. Pearson expressed genuine concern and suggested I send an email outlining our needs to support@pearson.com. If things are not changed this could turn out to be a very expensive proposition for us or the schools we work for. I think Pearson believes most of us are actually using their generated reports instead of just using the scores. Is anyone else feeling the same way?

  4. Betty

    I have not purchased CELF-5 yet. (It’s terribly expensive!) After reading your informative blog (thank you) about the test, I am concerned about the Q-global system. It’s bad enough that the test price keeps going up but to pay for scoring each test?! That’s ridiculous! I would rather to score the test manually and gain the information I get from looking at the responses. Do we still have the option of scoring manually? Thanks.

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      I do like the using the new CELF 5. Yes you can score by hand and it is very similar to the CELF 4. The only downfall to the CELF 5 is that the RAN has been taken out. I will eventually have a blog post on that. Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog.

  5. Maureen Perry

    I am not happy that Semantic Relationships was included at the 9 – 12 year old level. I don’t see how it’s a functional measure of receptive language skills.

  6. Maggie Griffin

    Scoring: I was wondering if the scoring ages have improved. My one concern with the CELF-4 is that a 7:0 age has the same scaled score as 7:11 year old, and the 8:0 has the same as 8:11 and so on. I am more comfortable with 3-4 month change is scaled score and no more than 6 months as in the 5 and 6 year old scores.

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Maggie,
      I did check the manual before I left school for the year. The scoring ranges are still a year. I see the issue but I don’t consider it too much of a problem. If I have a child on the young side or perhaps immature in other ways I might interpret a lower score differently based on my clinical judgement. What I have seen happen is when kids go for an outside evaluation, the outside evaluators do not explain low average very well to the parents and the parents come in with guns blazing wanting intensive services. Not sure if breaking norms down to bi or tri-monthly increments would make this situation better or worse. Imagine what they would have charged for the CELF if they had to standardize it with 4 different groups at each age.

      • Judy

        Thanks for the detailed review! I’m a speech therapist in private practice and i think it’s time for me to upgrade to the CELF-5. I waited for a year to have time to see other therapist’s reviews and feedback, but it’s been hard to get information. I’m also trying to decide if I should get the print version (most likely) or go digital. Any insight?

        • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

          Hi Judy,
          If I had all the resources and time in the world I would really like to try the digital versions of the CELF, PPVT and EVT. I haven’t looked into the CELF on the iPad format. The PPVT and EVT had some free trials going on a few months back so I did look into that(you should see if that is still going). The minute I realized I needed 2 iPads for the testing I knew it would be impossible for me to participate.
          I would also seriously have to consider the population I most often test. If you test a lot of kids that are older or have good self control, such as a middle school or high school population a digital format might be more efficient . I can only draw from my conclusions using the iPad with my k-5 population (apps). So many time when I let these little folks use the iPad in a structured manner they are impulsive, move from screen to screen, hit other controls or buttons. So I would really want to use the digital format first before buying it. At this point I would be concerned about the accuracy and validity while using the digital format.
          This is the only example I can give. I have purchased many of the “Super Duper” card sets as apps. I do like having them at my fingertips, however, I don’t have nearly as much control to modify the activity to make it more challenging, if they skip over something they have to go back which sometimes is easy and sometime its not, impulsively hit different buttons and sometimes have to start over, can’t really leave out ones I find too challenging unless I have time to preprogram, move on too quickly and the teaching moment is lost. This experience makes me hesitant to run out and purchase the digital format for anything. I am very careful about what apps I purchase and try to find out usability and what educational/therapeutic value apps have before purchasing.
          I do think it would be fun to give the digital version a try. I could see using it with a handful of kids on my caseload. I could also see still needing the paper version for some. Another concern I would have would be if you have to do out of range testing. With my low kids I’ve often hand picked a few subtests just to gather some data. Will the digital form allow that or even make that easy.
          Have you read my articles on Q-global? Not thrilled that they are charging for electronic scoring. However, I worked with the developer to explain what we needed and they did make some changes. If you do choose to go to a computer format, please let me know how it is. Thanks for taking a look at my blog.
          Teresa Sadowski

  7. Donna Shank

    I’m wondering what does the average SLP charge for the CELF-5 evaluation?

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Donna
      I don’t think I’ve ever given just the CELF. I usually supplement with at least vocabulary testing. Charge for an eval is going to depend on what state you live in and what the hospitals charge. To price yourself start with your hourly rate (I have two one when taxes are taken out and when they are not) Then I multiply that by the time it takes me to assess and write up. Write-up take a long time and more involved kids take longer to test. Last year I consulted to a school system and they wanted a flat rate so I averaged everything out, making sure I didn’t price myself right out of the market. I might cut the rate a little more if I’m guaranteed a lot of work. If they want me to attend the meeting and present I charged separate for that because you never know how long meetings will last. In my old age I’m careful not to give away too many services. However, while in the school I’m often pulled by the sped director and provided a lot of pro-bono trouble shooting. I won’t necessary bill for that.
      Assessing privately for families is another story.

  8. Dawn


    Many SLP’s in our school district are finding kids are no longer qualifying on the new CELF-5. Is anyone else having this same experience?

    Dawn M. Brown, M.A., CCC-SLP
    Midland Public Schools

    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Dawn,
      This hasn’t been my experience so far. I’ve given the CELF 5 about 30 times now. Thinking about it, perhaps we’re seeing the fence kids doing a little better on the CELF? I’m going to pose this as a question on a blog post. Let’s see what we get for a response. Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog.

      • Dawn

        I will keep watching and see what other SLP’s are finding.


        • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

          Just curious at what composite score do you qualify a student?

          • Dawn

            7-13 scaled score is the average range (85-115 Standard Score). We may be moving to MSHA’s guidelines of 1 1/3 standard deviations from the mean, but we haven’t officially switched yet.

          • sinead

            @Dawn – scaled score of 7 is considered borderline. 8-12 are average. There has always been confusion over subtest scores so the CELF5 have clarified. Similarly a score of 85 is considered marginal / borderline / mild

    • Anna

      Kids age 9+ are scoring much higher on the CELF5. I am concerned the scores over estimate the student’s skills.

      • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

        I’m going to pay a lot more attention to that. Anyone else out there feeling the same way? This might be worth a bigger discussion. My gut feeling is that with the changes in curriculum over the past 10 years kids just are not as bright or swift as they use to be. It’s possible the population the tests was standardized on lowered the bar. Based on what I am observing I don’t think that is so far fetched.

    • eileen

      I have also noticed that students I have tested are not qualifying based on their scores but their performances in the classroom indicate continued need for language services. I have been trying to do some research but have not seen anything on the CELF-5.

      • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

        I’ve heard this several times. I know I tested a few students that may have fallen into that category. Overall, I believe we are seeing this not because of the CELF but because of the changes in curriculum the past few years. My feeling is kids are developing gaps in language skills and general knowledge, not general delays. Problem solving is not being taught.


    • Caroline

      My colleague and I are also noticing that the CELF5 appears to be giving students at least a 5+ Index score boost. I am new to this CELF5 so I had always thought that the CELFIV was harder than the TOLD P-4. I tell the teachers that the student received an overall overage score ( without any major discrepancy between receptive and expressive) and they say the student is not functioning in the classroom.
      I would be interested to find also if other SLP’s are noting the same.


      • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

        I have heard this from many other therapists. After giving the CELF 5 myself, I do believe the fence kids are clearly not qualifying whereas before they leaned more toward below average. However, with that said, I think the problem of not functioning in the classroom is because of the current curriculum out there. Younger kids are not given the opportunity to learn and more important practice the underlying skills to be successful. So if you get a late bloomer or a kid who just isn’t the swiftest, those kids are just not going to pick up thing naturally/quickly. Kids work very little on memory and problem solving. They are not being taught or expected to listen for critical information. Everything is always repeated for them. Automaticity of many skills is lacking. The topper is that curriculum is not based on child development to a lot of information and concepts are introduced too early. I’m seeing more gaps in development and learning than disabilities. Another question to ask are they really not functioning in class or is the teacher worried they won’t pass the mandated testing? So the new CELF might be a little flawed but the real problem lies elsewhere. Teresa

  9. Maja Kinnear


    Any insight into why the Core Language Score and the Language Structure are made up of the same subtests? It seems super redundant….


    • Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

      Hi Maja
      I made a point of noticing that last time I scored one of my younger kids…I’ll look into it.

  10. Teresa Sadowski MA/SLP-ccc

    Hi Dawn
    I too use the the “average range” guidelines recommended by the test. I think it’s awful that schools want to take it upon themselves to lower qualifying standards. Why do they need or want to do this. That’s easy caseload numbers are too high. So then the question should be why are so many kids qualifying and what can we do about it not how can we get fewer kids to qualify for speech services. I’ve been using the same evaluations tools (with updates) for years. If so many kids are qualifying what’s missing in the students educational or life experiences. Schools should think carefully and only do this with significant SLP input and agreement. I would hope some support programs are in development to fill the gap for the kids that might not qualify.

  11. Barb

    Hi all,

    Does anyone feel that the questions in the Understanding Paragraphs subtest are not challenging enough?? I have test a number of students (ages 9-14) and many of them have tested moderately-low/low, yet their Scaled Scores on USP is 12+.



  1. CELF-5 Results? | The School Speech Therapist - […] CELF-5 First Impression […]

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