Dictation levels

As you use this site, you will see each dictation has data displayed on it. This is designed to help you find suitable dictation exercises. Please note that these levels are a guide only and we know this isn’t a perfect system.

However, the more that you use Ringo Lingo, the more helpful the system will be to help you find suitable exercises.

A dictation is added to a level based on the vocabulary it uses. We use the New General Service List (NGSL) created by Brent Culligan, Joseph Phillips and Charles Browne for all calculations.

That list contains 2,801 of the most commonly used words in English, ranked from the most used first. While the list contains 2,801 base words, many of these also have variations that we include. For example, these may include pluralized words, negated versions such as haven’t for have, or alternative forms of a verb, such as has for have.

Each level on Ringo Lingo is based on an approximate number of words from this list.

For example, for the Starter level, you should know the first 100 words from the list. The levels and approximate number of words to know are listed below.

  • Level 1 (100 words)
  • Level 2 (200 words)
  • Level 3 (400 words)
  • Level 4 (750 words)
  • Level 5 (1,200 words)
  • Level 6 (1,750 words)
  • Level 7 (2,801 words)

The NGSL also includes a supplemental list of words, including numbers, days and months. We’ve also included these within the words used in Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 exercises.

Additionally, to help use create more useful dictation exercises for Level 1, we’ve also added another 20 words that have been selected from the New Dolch List.

For clarity, dictations within a level may contain words that are not within that level. This is because we assess the level based on the first 80% of most commonly used words.

So if a user is considered to be at Level 3, they should know at least 80% of the unique words used in a Level 3 dictation exercise.

The following should help clarify the data displayed on dictations.

The bar chart has eight columns. The first seven columns represent the levels, with Level 1 on the left, through to Level 7 on the right. The eighth column is for words that don’t appear on the NGSL.

The proportion of words from each level is represented by the column height. The taller the column, the more words are used from that level. The actual percentage of words is also displayed beneath each column.

The image above shows that while this is a Level 3 dictation, more than half the words should be known by a user at Level 1.

That’s further clarified on the chart by the Median point marker. On each chart, below one column is a thicker, darker blue line. This indicates the Median point. In the image above, it is below the first column, for Level 1.

For users feeling more adventurous, this offers a quick way to find dictations where they should know less than the 80% threshold, but still know more than half of the words.

The vocabulary bar is just another way to display data about the words used. This is the average Standard Frequency Indicator (SFI) value of all the words in the dictation.

SFI indicates how commonly a word is used. The higher the SFI, the more often a word is used. Dictations with a shorter bar will use a greater number of common words. If the bar is longer, the dictation will use more words that are not so commonly used.

So, the shorter the Vocabulary bar, usually the easier the dictation will be in terms of vocabulary.

Finally there is the Reading difficulty bar.

This is based on the Flesch Kincaid Readability Ease formula. This is a formula designed to rate how easy a piece of text is. The higher the score, the easier it is to read, making it more suitable for younger readers.

Note that with this bar, the shorter it is, the easier the dictation should be. When the bar is longer, the dictation will usually contain longer sentences and use words with more syllables.