Preschool Language Scales, Fifth Edition (PLS-5)

Preschool Language Scales, Fifth Edition (PLS-5)


Irla Lee Zimmerman, PhD, Violette G. Steiner, BS, Roberta Evatt Pond, MA


PLS™-5 is an interactive assessment of developmental language skills.

Age Range:



Pointing or verbal response to pictures and objects

Scoring Option:

Manual scoring

RTI Tiers:

RTI Levels 2 and 3

Completion Time:

45-60 minutes


Total language, auditory comprehension, expressive communication standard scores, growth scores, percentile ranks, language age equivalents

Publication Date:



New! PLS-5 Norms in 1-Month Increments for Children Ages 2:6 to 2:11.

PLS-5 offers you a comprehensive developmental language assessment, with items that range from pre-verbal, interaction-based skills to emerging language to early literacy! This interactive, play-based assessment provides you with comprehensive, reliable, and trusted information about language skills for children birth through age 7.



Content & Administration

  • Administer PLS-5 to test a full range of language skills across the developmental language spectrum
  • Link the Home Communication Questionnaire items directly to test tasks to serve as a baseline for testing. This frees testing time for observing natural interactions between parents and children from Birth–2:0.
  • Address the needs of children through age 7 who have severe, persistent deficits such as autism or severe developmental delays

Use PLS-5 to:

  • Target interaction, attention, vocal/gestural behaviors, and different levels of play for children from Birth to 2:11
  • Assess preschoolers with new items for letter naming and book handling, and updated school readiness skills
  • Target language skills that tap Theory of Mind and emergent literacy skills for 6- and 7-year-olds
  • Assess children at age 7 with new language tasks such as assessing use of irregular plurals and synonyms, constructing sentences using two or three target words in the sentence, and answering questions about a story

PLS-5 Items: Changes from PLS-4

Features & Benefits

  • NEW! Track progress using Growth Scores to monitor a child’s skills from Birth through age 7:11
  • Address a wider variety of early play behaviors
  • Better elicit target responses due to test item modifications that are based on examiner feedback
  • Minimize transitions between the play and picture pointing tasks now that test items with manipulatives are grouped to streamline administration
  • Engage children with the new Picture Manual featuring large, colorful illustrations
  • Target multiple phonemes within words using the brief Articulation Screener, which now includes picture stimuli
  • Many of the manipulatives are plastic (including Mr. Bear!) so they can be wiped clean after each administration


Psychometric Information

  • 1,400 children participated in the standardization normative sample, collected in more than 45 states in the United States
  • The standardization sample matches U.S. Census figures (March 2008 Update) for region, race/ ethnicity, and level of caregiver education
  • Norms are reported for 3-month intervals for children Birth to 11 months and 6-month intervals for ages 12 months through 7 years, 11 months
  • Clinical studies include a developmental delay study and three language disorder studies (children with receptive language disorder, expressive language disorder, and both receptive and expressive disorder)
  • Case studies include children identified as high risk (environmental risk) and children identified with autism
  • Multiple reviews for bias were conducted throughout the test development. Nationally recognized experts in assessment and bias issues conducted a thorough review of test items and art. An additional sample of African American and Hispanic children were tested to conduct the statistical analysis of bias.
  • Split half reliabilities range from .80 to .97. Sensitivity for the Total Language score is .83; specificity is .80.



In addition to the Examiner’s Manual, Administration Scoring Manual, record Forms, and Home Communication Questionnaire, the following manipulatives are needed for administration**:

Pre-recorded Webinars

  • PLS-5 and CELF Preschool 2: Case Studies

    Presenter: Adam Scheller, PhD

    Using PLS-5 and CELF Preschool-2 case studies, this session provided information for selecting the test most appropriate for assessing language skills of a preschool child. This session reviewed the tests’ purpose and design and differences between the test formats, research samples, and test results. Guidelines were provided for selecting the appropriate test and interpreting score results.

    Date: Dec 07, 2017

    pdf PDF: PLS-5 and CELF Preschool 2: Case Studies

    link Video: PLS-5 and CELF Preschool 2: Case Studies

  • Language Assessment in Early Childhood: CELF Preschool-2 and PLS-5 Case Studies

    Presenter: Adam Scheller, PhD

    The assessment of a child’s language during the preschool years can be complex, not only due to variability in skill development, but also because of the differences between school and early childhood service criteria. By choosing an appropriate assessment battery based on strengths of the instrument, an SLP is often able to overcome the issue of qualifying children with different functional communication levels. During this webinar, participants will review best practice principles for early language assessment and learn how to choose between two widely-used comprehensive language batteries, the PLS-5 and CELF Preschool 2. Examples and analysis of common pre-schooler profiles will be provided through case studies.

    Date: Mar 23, 2017

    pdf PDF: Language Assessment in Early Childhood: CELF Preschool-2 and PLS-5 Case Studies

    link Video: Language Assessment in Early Childhood: CELF Preschool-2 and PLS-5 Case Studies

  • PLS-5 & CELF Preschool-2: Matching Assessment to a Child’s Language Profile

    Presenter: Adam Scheller, Ph.D.

    While the Preschool Language Scale-5 (PLS-5) and CELF Preschool-2 are both used to assess semantics, morphosyntax, pragmatics, and emerging literacy skills in young children, the tests provide different information about a child’s pattern of language strengths and weaknesses. This session will provide clinicians with information about differences in the tests’ purpose and design, guidelines for selecting the appropriate test based on referral concerns, and interpretation of test results. At the end of this session, clinicians will be able to select the appropriate test based on a child’s language ability and correctly interpret test results, enabling clinicians to set targeted programming recommendations for the young children they assess.

    Date: Dec 14, 2016

    pdf PDF: PLS-5 & CELF Preschool-2: Matching Assessment to a Child’s Language Profile

    link Video: PLS-5 & CELF Preschool-2: Matching Assessment to a Child’s Language Profile

  • Accurately Interpreting Test Results When Assessing Young Preschoolers

    Presenter: Adam Scheller, PhD

    This session will provide an overview of PLS-5 and CELF Preschool-2 development to assist clinicians to better understand the test items, research samples, and test results. Guidelines for interpreting test results will be provided so that clinicians can make appropriate programming recommendations for the children they are assessing.

    Learning Outcomes

    At the completion of the webinar, participants will be able to:

    • List at least two procedures conducted to update test items and normative data in a revised edition of a test.
    • Describe at least one reason why test scores can change when norms are updated.
    • Describe at least one reason why PLS-5 test items may appear at the same or at a different developmental age listed for PLS-4.
    • Name at least one reason a PLS-5 standard scores results can be either lower or higher than on other developmental scales or tests.

    Date: Apr 22, 2014

    link Video: Accurately Interpreting Test Results When Assessing Young Preschoolers

  • PLS-5: Administration, Scoring, and Interpretation

    Presenter: Nancy Castilleja, MA CCC-SLP & Chien (Shannon) Wang, MA CCC-SLP

    This webinar will provide current PLS-5 information as well as answers to clinicians’ frequently asked questions about administration, scoring, and interpretation.

    Date: Aug 30, 2012






Frequently asked questions follow. Click on a question to see the response.

PLS-5 Enhancements

  • I like PLS-4. How different is PLS-5?
  • Are there new tasks for children functioning at an infant/toddler level?
  • Are there new tasks for preschoolers?
  • What are the new tasks for older children, especially at age 7?
  • Why do the “Preschool” language scales extend to age 7:11?

Start Points and Age levels

  • I’m confused about the Start Points versus. Developmental Tasks age ranges. What’s the difference?
  • Why are the test items so much harder now on PLS-5? “Responds to speaker by smiling” is now at Ages 0:6 to 0:11. It used to be at 2 months.

Test Administration

  • Are there guidelines that relate to how often PLS-5 can be administered?

Picture Manual

  • We work in a setting with children who crush or tear the pages. After heavy use, the pages get really dirty and we would really like to see a Picture Manual with pages that we can wipe clean. Was this considered when designing the test?


  • Do I need to buy the manipulatives set or can I collect my own?
  • The administration directions and record form say I need to use a “loud squeaky toy” to administer some items, but the duck that comes with the kit does not have a loud squeak.
  • On page 7 of the Examiner’s Manual, it says I need two cars for administration, “one of which should be blue.” I didn’t receive a blue car in my manipulatives kit!
  • I tried to administer Auditory Comprehension item 27 and found that the blue plastic box that comes in the kit is not large enough to fit both the bear and the pitcher.
  • The plastic blue box in the kit isn’t large enough to fit all the manipulatives!
  • The large blue box isn’t large enough to hold the manipulatives and the manuals. Why wasn’t the kit packaged in a larger kit box or in a tote?
  • I didn’t receive the books that are shown in the catalog. I received one book that is different.
  • I received two level 2 books (“Dog named Sam” and “Three by Sea”), but I test 2 and 3 yr olds, and I need the books that are level 1. Is there a different level of the books that are available?
  • Can I order individual manipulatives separately or do I have to order the whole set?
  • Why does the Upgrade Manipulatives Kit cost so much? I don’t save much if I order a Basic Kit and just the Upgrade Manipulatives kit.


  • Am I able to qualify a child for services using the Auditory Comprehension or Expressive Communication score?
  • Some students I have used the PLS-5 on so far seemed to be scoring higher than on the PLS-4. I am concerned that in some districts with rigid eligibility cutoffs, these children no longer qualify for services.
  • For the children I am working with, PLS-5 scores seem slightly high. Do you have any insights into this?
  • When administering the PLS-5 English to a bilingual student, if the student answers a question correctly however they answer in Spanish, should that be marked correct or incorrect?
  • I found information about how to score when a child has multiple basals [page 11 of the Administration and Scoring Manual], but I don’t see information in the Manual about scoring when the child has a double ceiling. Which one should I use?
  • Is there an error or omission in Appendix E (Dialectical Variations), since we do not offer any dialectical variations for AC item 62 a? Variations are listed for AC 62 b, c, & d.) Is this purposeful, because there are no variations, or is there an error in the manual?
  • A child was tested at the following ages with PLS-4 and PLS-5:

    PLS-4: Age 3-11         Total Language Standard Score 66, 1st percentile
    PLS-4: Age 4-4           Total Language Standard Score 50, 1st percentile
    PLS-5: Age 4-11         Total Language Standard Score 72, 3rd percentile

    The parent indicated that “I have not seen that much improvement,” and is upset about the test results. Are the PLS-5 norms correct?

  • When calculating PLS-5 scores, can I adjust for prematurity? I don’t find anything about this in the Examiner’s Manual.

Recycle Program

  • Can I recycle my old PLS-4 kit?

PLS-5 Spanish

  • When will PLS-5 Spanish be published?
  • How will the test be administered?
  • Can I use the same set of manipulatives for PLS-5 English and PLS-5 Spanish?
  • Can I just translate the PLS-5 English kit to use with my Spanish-speaking children?

PLS-5 Screening and PLS-5 Spanish Screening

  • When was the PLS-5 Screening & PLS-5 Spanish Screening tests published?
  • Can I use the PLS-4 Screening Test and apply those scores to the PLS-5 Screening Test?
  • Can I use the PLS-5 Screening Test and apply those scores to the PLS-5 diagnostic test?
  • Are the English and Spanish PLS-5 Screening Tests different?
  • I see that the PLS-5 Spanish Screening Test has English and Spanish test items. Can I administer the English items on the Spanish test to my English speaking clients?
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