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Entries Tagged With: CELF-4

When to use CELF Preschool 2 or CELF-4


I am a speech pathologist currently working in a preschool/kindergarten building. I often use the CELF-Preschool 2 or the CELF-4 to evaluate their communication skills. I would like this question directed to the authors of these assessment tools. Since both of these tests cover the 5-6 year age range, which test would they recommend we use at the kindergarten level?

Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhDAnswer:

In general, the CELF Preschool-2 is your best option for children in Kindergarten–the formats in the test are more supportive and child-friendly for young children. This is especially the case if a child is a young five year old (e.g., 5:0 through 5:5) and has had little preschool experience, and limited verbal ability. There is more in-depth content coverage for younger children in CELF Preschool-2 than you will find on CELF-4, which covers content for mostly older children (ages 5-8).

Keep in mind that if the children you are testing in Kindergarten are five years old, have enough preschool experience that they are comfortable and familiar with school types of tasks, and express themselves well in social situations, you will be able to obtain accurate test results using the CELF-4. Your choice of assessment really depends on the maturity of the child, previous preschool experiences, social verbal ability, and his or her experiences with standardized assessment tools.

Score Discrepancies on CELF-4


I have an 8 year 3 month old 2nd grade boy whose overall profile falls between 5 and 6 standard scores with Formulated Sentences at 8 and Expressive Vocabulary at 7 [On the CELF-4]. Working Memory subtests standard scores as follows: Number Rep Fwd 6, Number Rep Backward 5, Familiar Sequences 10. This is huge discrepancy. No inattentive behaviors noted. Any help?

-Beth M.

Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD

Dr. Elisabeth Wiig’s Answer:
To begin, take a look at page 121 of the Examiner’s Manual. As you will see, both the Number Repetition subtests and the Familiar Sequences subtests place a heavy demand on attention, concentration, and auditory or verbal working memory. If you examine the content in the test items on the Record Form , you will see that the first 7 items in the Familiar Sequences subtest are relatively easy in comparison to items 8-12—the context includes “familiar sequences” such as the letters of the alphabet and the days of the week, not the long random sequences of numbers in the Number Repetition task. There is a great deal of automaticity in producing those sequences (and they are a closed set!) compared to the Number Repetition subtest. The score discrepancy this student exhibited is a red flag that there may be some working memory issues operating with this child and that further assessment is warranted. Consult with your school psychologist who can conduct a more thorough assessment of the student’s skills memory and attention skills.

You might want to administer the CELF-4 Rapid Automatic Naming subtest. It probes attention, visual working memory and set shifting. If the boy uses significantly longer time to name the color-form combinations, this can serve as validation since color-form naming requires adequate bilateral temporal-parietal, subcortical and hippocampal functioning. In other words,significantly impaired performance on that subtest can point to an underlying neuropsychological/neurological deficit involving the attention-working memory and cognitive

CELF-4: Question About the Following Directions Subtest


(via Tanya Coyle, M.Sc., S-LP(C), Reg. CASLPO)

“I have a question about the Following Directions subtest of the CELF-4.  Last year I was reassessing a student and during the FD subtest my gut told me he was doing MUCH better than the year before and had made great improvements.  I also felt that he was probably age appropriate or possibly mildly delayed, based on his performance.  When I scored him and checked the norms, he came out as only a SS of 4 and I was shocked that he could have done that poorly.  I rarely look up age equivalents, since they are problematic, but checked and his score described him as 8:2.  He was 9:0 with a raw score of 41.  This did not follow, as performing similarly to an 8 year-old didn’t seem all that bad for a just-turned 9 year-old (certainly not severely delayed).

I did some more checking and have concerns about the ‘age leap’ norms for Following Directions just at the 9 year-old level.  I realize that you are suddenly giving a 23 point credit to 9 year-olds that the 8 year-olds don’t get, but even if my student had made an error on 9 of the 23 items a week before I had tested him, when he was still 8:11, he would have come out as a SS of 7; a rather large difference from a SS of 4!  The difference between low average-mild and severely delayed is rather stark.  I did give him the first part, for goal writing purposes, and he made errors on 4 of the first 23 items.

I am wondering if there is a normative data mistake or problem in the jump from 5-8 and 9-21 for FD? Is there an explanation for what happened with my student?”

Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD

Elisabeth H. Wiig, PhD

Dr. Wiig’s Answer:

You are indeed correct when you noted that there is a large bump in scores at age 9. The same raw score at age 8 would result in a standard score of 9-10 and at age 9 the same raw score is a standard score of 4. To perform in the average range at age 8, the student would have had to receive a raw score 46 or higher (5-7 additional raw score points.) When you look at the raw score means in Table 6.12 in the Examiner’s Manual, you’ll see that there was a big jump in the mean performance for the children in the standardization sample on the this subtest between ages 5:0 and 5:6 (6 standard score points), 6:0 and 6:6 (5 standard score points), 6:6 to 7:0 (5 standard scores points) and ages 8 and 9 (a 7 point jump). Improvement in these skills levels off after that. The norms for age 9 include children from 9 years, 0 months, 0 days to 9 years 11 months, 30 days. When you test a student who is at the very bottom of an age range, you are comparing that child to children who are mostly older than he or she is, and there is obviously a great deal of growth that occurs at this pivotal age.

CELF-4: 31 Point Difference Between Language Content and Working Memory


I have a student who received the following index scores







Language Content


Language Memory


Working Memory


There is a 31 point difference between Language Content and Working Memory. I used Tables 3.5 and 3.6 to get the Critical Value, and Prevalence. However, I am not sure I understand well enough to explain this to someone else. Could [you] describe this in a way that will help me better understand the importance of the 31 point difference?

Dr. Wiig’s Answer:

My first question would be, “How old is the student?”  Working memory deficits are reflected more and more as the student moves into adolescence. In the case you describe, the intra-personal weakness in working memory (Index score 94) as compared to the level of language content may not assume significance if the semantic aspects of language and communication are strong or exceptional, as in this case. The acquisition of vocabulary, word meanings and concepts is not as dependent on working memory as other aspects of language and communication such as creating meaningful communication when several aspects need to be integrated.

Answering Tough Questions in CELF-4 Diagnosis and Interpretation

CELF-4: Discrepancy between LCI and LMI

“I have a particular question in regards to a discrepancy between LCI and LMI.  There was a +22 point difference, which is unusual.  The Core language and RLI, ELI, LCI and LMI were all in the average range, with LC being the highest at 110 and LM being the lowest at 88. This is why the difference is unusual.  What does this mean?  The child is 9-5  and was referred for a full eval due to problems with written and narrative expression.”
Dr. Wiig’s Answer:
This profile points to the need for evaluating the child’s working memory abilities with the memory subtests of CELF-4 and to assess retrieval of word associations (Word Associations subtest) and the speed of retrieval and naming (RAN subtest). The results of these subtests, together, should be able to identify if there is evidence of executive function disorders (e.g., working memory, word retrieval, and processing speed deficits). RAN processing speed for color-form combinations is associated with executive attention, working memory for visual input and cognitive shifting  (temporal-parietal functions) and deficits are often reflected in inadequate reading fleuncy and reading comprehension.  Word Associations probe frontal lobe executive functions associated with conscious retrieval from memory store, and inadequacies can be reflected in word finding difficulties when speaking and writing.
The Working Memory Index probes for inadequacies in immediate memory (digits forward) and working memory (digits backwards) and sequential learning through the internalization of familiar sequences to a point where these have become automatic.

CELF-4: How Should I Interpret A Scatter of Standard Scores Within The Index?


How do you interpret a scatter of standard scores within the index itself?  If there is scatter, you wouldn’t want to go further and combine them to get the index, right?

Dr. Wiig’s Answer:

I would combine the subtest scores into an Index score because the Index score has greater reliability than each of the subtest sores. I would also calculate the difference between each subtest standard score and the mean standard score for the index. If the difference is greater than 3 SSs, it reflects either an intra-personal weakness (-3) or strength (+3).

CELF-4: Discrepancy Between Language Content and Language Structure Index


Can you please go into more depth about what a significant discrepancy between the language content and the language structure index means in terms of remediation and simpler explanations to the parents?  I work in a pediatric clinic, not in the school system.

Dr. Wiig’s Answer:

In short, this pattern indicates that the child is significantly better at acquiring word meanings than at acquiring the linguistic rules for sentence structure. In this case, my recommendation for intervention would be to develop knowledge and use of sentence structure rules in, for example, parallel sentence production paradigms and in interactive narrative experiences. I would also make sure that word and concept knowledge remains a strength. Interactive narrative experiences should strengthen both content and structure knowledge and use.