The evaluation of vocabulary in childhood, both receptive and expressive, is of vital importance in cases where this or these are altered or where there is some other disorder (e.g. a neurodevelopmental disorder).

Here we will know a useful tool to evaluate the receptive language in almost all ages: the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test . We will know its characteristics, what it is for and how it is applied.

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test: Characteristics

The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III) was developed by Ll. M. Dunn and L.M. Dunn in 1997. In 2006 D. Arribas elaborated the Spanish adaptation (TEA Ediciones). The PPVT-III consists of an adaptation of the Peabody Picture Vovabulary Test-Revised, although it differs from it in that it does not establish any correlation with the intelligence quotient.

It is a test to detect language difficulties and to evaluate verbal aptitude and vocabulary . It evaluates listening or verbal comprehension.

It is applied individually, and the application time is between 10 and 20 minutes, although it is usually 11 to 12 minutes. The age of application is from 2 and a half years to 90 years.

The material required for the application of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test is the manual, 25 note sheets and the visual stimulus booklet .


The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test consists of 192 slides preceded by 5 practice items. Each plate has 4 simple black and white illustrations , organized in the form of a multiple choice. The task of the examinee will be to select the picture that represents the best meaning of the word presented verbally by the examiner (e.g. “pear”).

Sets of elements that are too easy or too difficult are not applied to the subject; therefore, subjects generally respond to a total of 7 sets.

The correction of the test is generally quick and objective , and is done simultaneously with the application of the test.


The basic purposes of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test are as follows.

1. Assess the level of receptive vocabulary

Receptive vocabulary, also called passive vocabulary or reception vocabulary, is one that a speaker is able to interpret in different situations of message reception. Consequently, receptive vocabulary is part of a speaker’s mental lexicon .

In this sense, it is a performance test that measures a subject’s level of vocabulary acquisition. We must understand it as an achievement test , since it demonstrates such acquisition of Spanish vocabulary.

2. Rapid detection of difficulties or screening of verbal aptitude.

The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test can be included as one piece of information in a comprehensive test battery that assesses different cognitive processes . However, it can only be used in this sense when the language of the examinee at home, in the community or at school is Spanish.


The test is mainly applied in two contexts: the clinical and the school context. It can be used on children with reading difficulties or who have language problems ; also on people with autism, psychosis, intellectual disability and withdrawal.

As we have seen, it can be used as a test to discern school aptitude (verbal ability or intelligence) or as part of a cognitive battery.

Importance of Vocabulary

It is believed that a vocabulary test is the best individual index of school or academic success. On the one hand, language is the main instrument for manipulating the most complex processes of thinking , education and communication; on the other hand, a wealth of auditory vocabulary can be understood as an important measure of competence or intellectual capacity.


We should bear in mind that the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test does not provide a global measure of intelligence, and that we should not make too many generalizations based on an instrument that only measures auditory vocabulary, mainly, since this is only one aspect of a person’s complex linguistic and cognitive domain.

On the other hand, it is not recommended to apply the test to people with hearing difficulties or deafness .

Test construction

The construction of the test was based on Item Response Theory, which ensures that only the elements appropriate to the examinee’s aptitude level are applied. The Spanish adaptation had a representative sample of more than 2500 subjects.

Bibliographic references:

  • Dunn, Ll., Dunn, L. and Arribas, D. PEABODY Picture Vocabulary Test. PSEA S.A.S Associate Specialist Psychologists.
  • School and Clinic Catalogue. TEA EDITIONS.
  • Cervero, M. J. and Pichardo Castro, F. (2000). Learning and teaching vocabulary. Madrid: Edelsa.