Conceptual and empirical relationships between temporal measures of fluency and oral English proficiency with implications for automated scoring

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Language Testing, Volume 27, Number 3, p.379-399 (2010)





automated scoring, Fluency, oral English proficiency


Information provided by examination of the skills that underlie holistic scores can be used not only as supporting evidence for the validity of inferences associated with performance tests but also as a way to improve the scoring rubrics, descriptors, and benchmarks associated with scoring scales. As fluency is considered a critical, perhaps foundational, component of speaking proficiency, temporal measures of fluency are expected to be strongly related to holistic ratings of speech quality.This study examines the relationships among selected temporal measures of fluency and holistic scores on a semi-direct measure of oral English proficiency. The spoken responses of 150 respondents to one item on the Oral English Proficiency Test (OEPT) were analyzed for selected temporal measures of fluency. The examinees represented three first language backgrounds (Chinese, Hindi, and English) and the range of scores on the OEPT scale. While strong and moderate correlations between OEPT scores and speech rate, speech time ratio, mean length of run, and the number and length of silent pauses were found, fluency variables alone did not distinguish adjacent levels of the OEPT scale. Temporal measures of fluency may reasonably be selected for the development of automated scoring systems for speech; however, identification of an examinee’s level remains dependent on aspects of performance only partially represented by fluency measures.