The Keating-Manis Phoneme Deletion Test


Patricia A. Keating (UCLA Linguistics Dept.)

Frank Manis (USC Psychology Dept.)


This test was prepared under NIH grant R01 HD29891, "Perceptual, Linguistic, and Computational Bases of Dyslexia", to Frank Manis.   Here we give information for test-users, including classroom teachers.

A sound file for each section of the test is available in .wav and .mp3 formats:  realword.wav, realword.mp3, nonword.wav, nonword.mp3

1. Introduction

            The Keating-Manis Phoneme Deletion Test  is a new deletion and elision test of phonemic awareness.  Phoneme deletion tests go back to at least Rosner (1974, in The Reading Teacher).  Our test differs from other phoneme deletion tests in that the test items were constructed systematically, in accord with discussions of linguistic difficulty by Yopp (1988, in the Reading Research Quarterly, and more particularly by Stahl and Murray (1994, in the Journal of Educational Psychology), and other linguistic considerations.  Also, our test is administered via a tape recording, so that every child hears the test items pronounced the same way.  The teacher does not have to pronounce any isolated phonemes.

            The items in the test are in order of increasing difficulty, based on errors made by children in a pilot study. 


2. Instructions to the test-giver 

First part of test: real word items

1) The test should be administered using headphones if at all possible.  This is better for the child; however it means that you will not be able to hear the test items unless you have a "splitter" for the tape recorder output so that two headphones can be used together.  If you use a loudspeaker, be sure the area of the room used for the test is reasonably quiet.  (That is, can you yourself hear the tape well?)  Adjust the playback volume if necessary.

2) Tell the child that this is a game about turning one word into another word.  For each item, first the talker asks the child to repeat a word.  There is a short pause on the tape for this.  Then the talker asks the child to say the word but leaving out part of it (which makes a different word).  There is another pause on the tape for this.  Play the practice items on the tape.  Give instructions again and/or repeat practice items if necessary.

3) Play the test items.  If the child hesitates before repeating a word, pause the tape.  If the child repeats a test word incorrectly, stop the tape and ask the child to listen more carefully.  Then rewind and repeat.  (It's important, for the test to be meaningful, that the child have heard the test word correctly; that's why we have the child repeat the word, so that you can check this.)

4) When the child gives the deletion response, mark score sheet as right or wrong.  If the child self-corrects, score the last response.  If the child cannot respond to an item, mark it wrong.

5) Stop the test if the child makes 5 errors in a row.


Second part of test: nonsense word items

(You may decide not to give this part of the test if the child completes only a few of the items in the first part.)  The instructions for this part of the test are the same as above, except here, the game is to turn one space-alien word into another space-alien word.

3. Test items and answers (make copies of this page and next to use for scoring)


Some words as pronounced here can correspond to more than one written word.  These are indicated here.  They are given only for your information; since this is an oral test, the spellings of the test words and answers are not part of the test.  For example, in item 3, you won't know whether the child is thinking about the word "buy" or the word "by" -- and it doesn't matter.  In 3 items, however, the pronunciation of English permits alternative right answers, and these are marked "either is right".



First part: Real-word items


Practice items:

            SAY:                             delete:                         correct answer:

            a.  baby                         bay                             bee

            b.  picnic                        nic                              pick

            c.  meal                          /m/                              eel

            d.  beam                        /m/                              bee


Test items:

            1. mat                            /m/                              at        

            2. shone/shown              /sh/                             own     

            3. bike                           /k/                               by/buy

            4. trade                          /tr/                              aid

            5. boil                            /b/                               oil       


            6. same                          /m/                              say    

            7. float                           /fl/                               oat      

            8. pile                            /l/                                pie      

            9. steal/steel                   /st/                              eel

            10. wild                         /ld/                              why/Y             


            11. film                          /m/                              fill       

            12. snow                        /s/                               no/know                         

            13. wind (long i)             /d/                               wine/whine

            14. steer                        /s/                               tear/dear (either is right)

            15. blue                         /l/                                boo


            16. mist/missed              /t/                                miss

            17. act                           /k/                               at        

            18. first                          /st/                              fur/fir

            19. locks                        /ks/                             law/la

            20. fly                            /f/                                lie       


(cont. on next page)

            21. sneeze                      /n/                               sees/seas     

            22. sweat                       /w/                              set                              

            23. bring                        /b/                               ring

            24. roast                        /s/                               wrote/road (either is right)

            25. field                         /l/                                feed




Second part: Nonsense items


Practice items:

            a. sab                             /s/                               ab

            b. smig                           /sm/                            ig

            c. nald                            /d/                               nal


Test items:

            1. mag                           /m/                              ag

            2. stib                            /st/                              ib

            3. leet                            /t/                                lee

            4. narp                           /p/                               nar

            5. yits                             /s/                               yit

            6. rinch                          /ch/                             rin       

            7. grem                          /g/                               rem     

            8. snup                           /s/                               nup    

            9. floke                          /f /                               loke

            10. blick                        /l/                                bick

            11. stome                       /t/                                soam

            12. kimp                        /m/                              kip      

            13. snool  (long u)          /n/                               sool   

            14. bilp                          /l/                                bip

            15. doast                       /s/                               dote/dowed (either is right)

Interpreting the results:


Count the number correct on the two parts together.  Then relate this score to the reading grade level as measured by the Woodcock Word Identification test, for a sample of 181 children in grades 1-3 who took both tests (and who spanned a wide range of reading ability).  (Note that this is not a normed test!  As our study continues, we will refine this relationship, and we will be acquiring data on older children.  But at least this gives a starting point.)  This will give you an idea of how the child's phonemic awareness, as measured by this test, compares with the average for that grade-level achievement in reading. 


Number correct      Reading grade level


1                            < 1

2                            "

3                            "

4                            "

5                            "

6                            "

7                            "

8                            "

9                            "

10                          "

11                          "

12                          1.0                         (1st grade scores by children who can delete all 

13                          1.2                         initial consonants - singles and blends -

14                          1.4                         and some finals)

15                          1.7

16                          1.8

17                          2.0                         (2nd grade scores by children who also delete

18                          2.4                         first consonant in initial blend, and last consonant

19                          2.6                         in final blend, but mostly only in real words)

20                          2.7

21                          2.9

22                          3.0                         (3rd grade scores by children who delete some

23                          3.2                         consonants at the beginning of a word-final blend)

24                          3.5

25                          3.7

26                          3.9

27                          4.0                         (4th grade scores by children who do as above,

28                          4.2                         but more reliably)

29                          4.5

30                          4.8


(our data so far don't tell us about scores above this)