The Bilingual English Spanish Assessment

We’re very excited to let everyone know that now, after a number of years of development and testing the BESA is available to speech-language pathologists.


My co-authors and I developed the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA) in response to a critical need for valid, reliable instruments to assessment of speech and language ability in Spanish-English bilingual children. It focuses on children (ages 4 years, 0 months through 6 years, 11 months) who have varying levels of Spanish-English bilingualism. BESA was specifically developed to determine if speech and/or language errors observed in some young children were due to limited exposure to English or to a language impairment. We know that with time, children with typical development will learn a second language. But, at the same time, early intervention for children who have speech and language impairment is critical.

The BESA components include:

  • two questionnaires to explore a child’s exposure to, and use of, both languages at home and in preschool, and allow parents and teachers to express areas of concern;
  • one unscored Pragmatic Activity (used to establish rapport before testing starts which allows a direct observation of how a child uses language in conversation, and
  • three subtests (in both Spanish and English) to address morphosyntax, semantics, and phonology.

The BESA components may be used independently, or together as an assessment battery. Subtest raw scores are reported as scaled scores, standard scores, percentile ranks and age-equivalents. The test norms were derived using data from over 600 bilingual children living in the US. We include (in the manual) an extensive exploration of the background issues surrounding the assessment of language acquisition and language impairment in bilingual children.


Spanish speakers are the largest language minority in the US and make up 79 percent of the school age English language learners. Usually, these children learn Spanish at home and English when they start preschool or kindergarten. It is hard to test kids during this period of transition because their first language may be changing because of exposure to a second language, but they do not yet know their second language well.

Bilingual children with speech and language impairment have many of the same difficulties in the domains of speech and language as monolingual children, with difficulties in the area of grammatical morphology and language productivity. At the same time, bilingual children make many of the same errors as monolinguals with speech and language impairment that are associated with learning a second language.

You can use the BESA to test in both Spanish and English. We have a system to combine scores into composites that have very good sensitivity and specificity across the three domains.










Semantics + Morphosyntax Composite






So, all in all we’re happy and very excited. We hope that bilingual clinicians will find this useful.


, , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by Janet Patterson on November 12, 2013 - 9:59 am

    Wonderful news! Congratulations and thanks for persisting to make this much needed tool available.

  2. #2 by Elizabeth D. Peña on November 18, 2013 - 11:08 pm

    Thanks Janet!

  3. #3 by Traci Terpstra on October 5, 2015 - 11:54 am

    any plans to expand the norms to include older students?

  4. #4 by Elizabeth D. Peña on October 5, 2015 - 9:48 pm

    Actually that is currently underway, the upward extension do the test will be for kids 7 to 9;11

  5. #5 by Lisa on November 30, 2015 - 5:03 am

    What tests then do you recommend for older students until yours is available?

  6. #6 by Elizabeth D. Peña on December 2, 2015 - 6:48 pm

    It’s a tough one– the CELF works pretty well I think. I like for adolescents Marilyn Nippold’s approach– tho’ it hasn’t been adapted to other languages– but I think it has great potential

  7. #7 by Lisa on December 2, 2015 - 10:28 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to reply.

  8. #8 by Nathalia McPeak on October 3, 2016 - 8:53 am

    I just used the BESA for the first time and was very excited to! However, my student got a higher scaled score than what I thought he would, his syntax construction and expressive language are seem lower to me than the scaled scores he obtained on the test. I contacted another Bilingual SLP friend who has used the test before and she mentioned that there might’ve been a correction made when converting raw scores to scaled scores. If so, how do I get my hands on this correction?

  9. #9 by Elizabeth D. Peña on October 3, 2016 - 2:58 pm

    we did make some corrections right after the test came out b/c we noticed typos, etc., we also added a more extensive conversion chart. But, we haven’t made any lately, so it will depend on what version you are using. Either way, e-mail me and I can send you all the corrections we’ve made. My e-mail is

  10. #10 by Kathleen on November 9, 2016 - 2:03 pm

    Is there data on the validity of this assessment if administered/scored with an interpreter rather than a bilingual SLP? Thank you!

  11. #11 by Elizabeth D. Peña on November 9, 2016 - 8:58 pm

    Not direct evidence no. But we have taught undergrads in CSD or psychology or teaching to give it and they can give it reliably. The key is practice and learning the rules. Grammar for example needs some instruction have to listen for gender or number or the target form. The tendency is to want to credit an alternative form but if that’s not the target it can’t get credit. So yes I think assistants with some knowledge of Spanish can give it successfully.

  12. #12 by Rebeca Rivera on June 19, 2017 - 12:10 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if the upper extension for the BESA is already out?

  13. #13 by Elizabeth D. Peña on June 20, 2017 - 12:50 pm

    not yet, we’re working on getting the screener our then the upward extension

  14. #14 by Carmen Alverio on August 15, 2017 - 10:10 am

    If we purchase the BESA, will the upward extension be free?

  15. #15 by Elizabeth D. Peña on August 15, 2017 - 1:38 pm

    the upward extension of the BESA, the BESA-ME is essentially a different test, not the same test with extended norms. We found that the items had to be more difficult for older children. So, it’s unlikely that the publisher would be able to release it for free. Though they may decide to do a discount or somehow bundle the two together.

  16. #16 by Valorie Heyduck on August 31, 2017 - 2:17 am

    I like the valuable information you supply for your articles. I will bookmark your blog and take a look at again right here frequently. I’m somewhat certain I will be told lots of new stuff proper right here! Best of luck for the next!|

  17. #17 by Kim Davis on March 29, 2018 - 1:52 pm

    Any idea when the BESA-ME will be released? or the screening?

  18. #18 by Elizabeth D. Peña on March 29, 2018 - 6:36 pm

    we’re working on it. Brookes is publishing the BESA now so one or the other I hope will be the next step.

  19. #19 by Elizabeth D. Peña on April 12, 2018 - 7:35 pm

    thanks for asking– right now we are finishing up the proofs for publishing the BESA with Brookes– I’m hoping soon after we’ll start on the BESOS screeners

  20. #20 by Maria Guillen on September 17, 2018 - 8:48 pm

    Hello, I am an SLP in QC-Canada. Also, curious when the BESA-ME will be released. Gracias

  21. #21 by Elizabeth D. Peña on September 17, 2018 - 10:30 pm

    we are working on it– we’ve talked to the publisher about a strategy for getting it done and rolling it out, so hopefully we’ll know something soon.

  22. #22 by Brittney on November 14, 2022 - 9:51 am

    There is no ceiling or basal, right?

  23. #23 by Elizabeth D. Peña on November 22, 2022 - 4:01 pm

    right, you give all the items

  1. BESA Research | 2 Languages 2 Worlds

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: