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The dictation test is a hybrid between a listening exercise and a writing test.  If prepared and administered correctly, the test can provide a wealth of information about a student's ability to process and produce English. The dictated material should be appropriate for the level of the student. Students should be provided with pens or sharp pencils and lined paper.   

Some sub-skills which can be tested in a dictation test are:

  1. the correct verb form
  2. the correct verb tense
  3. punctuation errors
  4. capitalization errors
  5. correct spelling
  6. sentence boundaries
  7. phonemic/graphemic confusion (confusion between sounds and letters)

Hints for planning and taking a dictation test

  1. Tests are planned carefully so that the level of comprehension and production of language is appropriate for the level of the students. 
  2. The teacher should plan stops or breathing points at natural places in the dictation every few words. 
  3. The speed of dictation should be slow enough for the students to manage the writing. 
  4. The dictation should never be repeated.   
  5. One point should be deducted for each error, including spelling, capitalization, missed words, and punctuation errors. A good evaluation will list the number of errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, missed words, and capitalization separately. This will provide the student with an indication of his/her weak and strong points.    

A sample dictation story for high intermediate students

The house painter lived in an apartment in New York. The beautiful house where the mayor of the city lived was in the same neighborhood, but the house painter had never met the mayor.  

One day, the house painter was asked to paint a room in the mayor's house. As he was entering the mayor's home, he met the mayor. The house painter bowed to the mayor, and the mayor stopped to talk to him. They talked for a half-hour. The house painter told the mayor that he lived in an apartment nearby.  

From that time on, they became the best of friends.  




A sample dictation sequence for beginners




the pen

a pen





The pen is on the table.

The pen is under the table.

The pen is on the floor. 

The pens are on the table.

The pencils are on the floor.