Oral Passage Understanding Scale (OPUS™)

Oral Passage Understanding Scale (OPUS™)


Elizabeth Carrow-Woolfolk, PhD, Amber M. Klein, PhD


Assesses listening comprehension, a skill that is essential for classroom learning

Age Range:

5 to 21 years


Individually administered; the examiner reads a passage and related questions aloud from a self-standing easel and the examinee responds orally—no reading or writing required

Completion Time:

10 to 20 minutes


Based on a stratified sample of 1,517 individuals that is representative of the U.S. population in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, parent education level, and geographic region


Age- and grade-based standard scores and percentiles, test-age and grade equivalents

Publication Date:



The Oral Passage Understanding Scale is a new measure of listening (auditory) comprehension. It evaluates a person’s ability to listen to passages that are read aloud and recall information about them. This ability is key to success in the classroom, as well as in social and occupational settings. The OPUS also measures memory skills, which are integral to listening comprehension.

The OPUS shares the same underlying theory as the new Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language, Second Edition (CASL-2) and the Oral and Written Language Scales, Second Edition(OWLS-II). Since all three tests are based on the author’s Integrative Language Theory, they provide a cohesive  evaluation across a broad range of language areas. While the OWLS-II provides an evaluation of oral and written language abilities, the CASL-2 offers a more in-depth picture of 14 spoken language skills. The new OPUS takes this a step further and tells you how well a person can integrate and apply many of these skills. Although it’s an excellent companion test to the CASL-2, you can also use it on its own anytime you need to quickly measure listening comprehension.

Applications and Uses

A versatile instrument, the OPUS can be used by speech–language pathologists and other professionals in a variety of settings, including schools, clinics, hospitals, private practices, and intervention programs When you need to evaluate response to intervention (RTI), you can use the OPUS to track improvement over time. It can also help you answer a variety of referral questions. For example:

  • Can a student sufficiently understand and retain information heard in class?
  • Are listening difficulties contributing to a child’s social skill challenges?
  • Does this college student need someone to take notes in class for him?

The OPUS can be used on its own anytime you need to measure how well an individual understands orally presented information. It provides important evidence for everyone involved in treatment, so you can help children and young adults reach their potential at school, at home, at work, and in the community.

What It Measures

The OPUS is designed to assess the comprehension of spoken language in a natural context, a skill that is fundamental to classroom learning. It evaluates the ability to integrate and apply knowledge in three structural categories of language:

  • Lexical/Semantic: Knowledge and use of words and word combinations
  • Syntactic: Knowledge and use of grammar
  • Supralinguistic: Knowledge and use of language in which meaning is not directly available from the surface lexical and syntactic information

Measuring higher-level comprehension skills, including inference and prediction, yields more detailed information beyond simply whether or not the individual can comprehend. These skills require deeper processing abilities and thus differentiate typically developing individuals from those with language and learning delays or disorders.

The OPUS also measures memory skills, which are integral to listening comprehension. While the CASL-2 attempts to remove memory as much as possible in order to isolate the specific skill being tested, the OPUS includes memory because it’s an important part of listening comprehension in everyday life.

How It Works

The OPUS consists of 17 passages, each with 7 to 10 associated questions. These passages are divided into six Item Sets to allow for a brief administration time of just 10 to 20 minutes. Each Item Set has 5 passages and up to 44 items. Selecting the appropriate Item Set, based on the examinee’s age and ability, ensure that developmentally appropriate items are administered. Please see the table (below) for a visual representation of the overlapping Item Sets and passages.

Item Set Ages Passages
A 5 to 6 1 to 5
B 7 to 8 4 to 8
C 9 to 10 7 to 11
D 11 to 13 9 to 13
E 14 to 16 11 to 15
F 17 to 21 13 to 17

The OPUS Passages are arranged in order of difficultly and are carefully crafted to offer a variety of content and styles. They are taken from published works or were created to reflect the type of material a person is likely to encounter in everyday life. There are enough passages that if a child has difficultly with one, there are still four more in which he or she can succeed.

The OPUS components include a record form, easel, manual, and training audio files. The OPUS Form features Item Analysis Worksheets to identify strengths and areas for improvement and to help you write IEP goals and intervention plans. Because the Item Analysis Worksheet is perforated, you can easily detach it from the form as needed. The self-standing OPUS Easel includes the passages, items, scoring criteria, and samples of correct and incorrect responses. The beginning of each Item Set is tabbed to help you easily find the one you need. Each sample response listed in the easel is assigned a letter that can be used as shorthand for recording responses on the OPUS Form, and if the examinee’s response is not included you can write it in the space provided on the form.

Everything you need to know to use the OPUS, as well as detailed information about its development, standardization, and psychometric properties is included in the OPUS Manual. Training audio files are available at www.wpspublish.com/OPUS that demonstrate the standard pace and intonation for reading the passages. (The audio files are for training only, and should not be used for administration).

Although you can score the items during an administration, if a response is unclear, you have the option of writing the response on the form and later reviewing it and assigning a score. After administration, you add up the passage scores to give you the Item Set Total Raw Score. From here you can easily convert this to age- or grade-based standard scores to describe the examinee’s overall listening comprehension ability.

Technical Information

Standardization for the OPUS is based on a sample of 1,517 individuals ages 5 to 21 years. The sample is stratified to match recent U.S. Census data for gender, race/ethnicity, parents’ education level, and geographic region so you can confidently use the OPUS with a wide range of individuals. The OPUS and CASL-2 are co-normed, supporting the validity of both tests and making them wonderful companions. A clinical validation sample of 204 individuals demonstrates that the CASL-2 can differentiate between typically developing individuals and those with the following diagnoses:

  • Expressive and/or receptive language disorder
  • Hearing impairment
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Social (pragmatic) communication disorder
  • Intellectual cisability
  • Learning disability
  • Developmental delay

The OPUS has strong internal consistency and test-retest and interrater reliability, demonstrating the stability and reliability of results over time and across raters. The OPUS’s validity is also supported by expected standard score correlations with other measures of oral language, including the CASL-2.

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