Assessing multilingual people

When assessing people who use English as an additional language, whatever their proficiency level, I use ‘Cognitive Assessments for Multilingual Learners’ (CAML) – an assessment tool which I designed specifically for this use.

There are two CAML suites – one for adults (CAML+) and one for younger learners (CAML-yl). They allow us to explore:

  • the person’s background
  • the development of literacy practices (e.g. see the ‘scanning task‘ here)
  • short term and working memory (both auditory and visual)
  • speed of processing
  • phonological processing
CAML assessment

Both CAMLs take English out of the assessment situation, and generate a full cognitive profile to enable us to put appropriate interventions and exam access arrangements in place.


Cognitive Assessments for Multilingual Learners PLUS (CAML+): designed for use with adult learners of English (aged 16 and above), or slightly younger learners with a high level of formal education.


Cognitive Assessments for Multilingual Learners – young learners (CAML-yl): developed specifically for learners aged between 7 and 15, or older learners with very little experience of formal education.

Performances on all tasks must be interpreted in the light of the detailed background information gathered in the first step of the assessment process (just as when we assess English (L1) speakers).
This starts with observation, using an observation schedule to make it more systematic. Then questionnaires can be used to gather more information, before we sit down and have a chat with the person (a ‘screening conversation‘).

Key features of the CAML suites include:

  • Engaging tasks that people of all ages enjoy completing;
  • Full instructions (including videos) of how to use the tasks and interpret the findings;
  • Assessment material available to download from the website, as often as required;
  • Coverage of co-occurring SpLDs, apart from dyslexia, with more information about how they can manifest and affect learning;
  • Some tasks suitable for small group assessment, as well as 1:1;
  • Advice on how to give feedback and explain SpLDs to learners from different cultural backgrounds.

“As an authority we have found the [CAML] materials extremely useful and they are used across many of our primary and secondary schools. Our area SENCOs also really rate their validity and help in assessing EAL learners.“
– EAL advisory teacher