Updated 10/19/99


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A Test of Pragmatic Competence of American English (PCAE) is designed to measure functional skills in American English. It is intended for use by intermediate through advanced students of English as a second language. The test measures the student's ability to recognize degree of formality, gender and age-related restrictions, appropriateness of answers to questions, depending on to whom and when he or she talks. In short, the PCAE measures the degree to which the student understands speaking rules, and the relation between linguistic form and function.


1. There are 28 problems in the test. For each problem, you will read about a situation or context. You can read each item as many times as you want until you fully understand the situation or context. When you understand the context, look at the four answer choices printed right below what you have just read. Choose the one response that would be the best answer (both GRAMMATICALLY & SOCIALLY) to the question or statement.

2. Each problem in the test has only one best answer (GRAMMATICALLY ACCURATE AS WELL AS SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE). In some items, the best answer may be NONE OF THE ABOVE. For each problem, make only one mark on your answer sheet. If you want to change an answer, please erase the old mark completely and darken your new answer.

3. If you do not know the answer to a problem, make a reasonable guess. There is no penalty for guessing. CORRECTION-FOR-GUESSING: Score = #Right - (#Wrong / #Option -1). Eg 19-(9/3)= 16

4. Use only #2 pencils.

5. Write only on your answer sheet.

6. Now, begin the test.

1. You are sitting in a room near a window. The window is closed. An acquaintance, not a close friend, of the same age and sex as yourself is sitting on the opposite side of the room. The room is becoming very hot. The acquaintance wants you to open the window, saying:
A) Would you mind opening the window? It's getting awfully warm in here.
B) Excuse me, would you mind if opening the window?
C) Open the window, it is hot here.
D) Do you open the window, please?
50-item PCAE item#47 D57 p74. 40-item PCAE item#09 D44 p82

2. A 13-year-old boy, feeling a little upset, wants his older sister to return a record he lent her the previous week. He will probably say to her:
A) Sister, give me my record as soon as possible.
B) Where is my record that you borrowed from me previous week?
C) You must give me the record! When do you think to give me it?
D) Can I have my record back now? You've had it a week already!
50-item PCAE item#41 D51 p76. 40-item PCAE item#07 D39 p77

3. There is a lecture that seems to be very appealing to you. It will be held in a city about 25 miles away from where you live. You want to attend it, but you have no transportation. You become anxious the day of the lecture. You telephone your best friend and ask:
A) Would you do me a favor to drive here and pick me up to a lecture right now?
B) Listen, I'm in trouble. I'd really like to go to a lecture. Will you pick up me right now?
C) I wonder if you could do me a big favor. I need a lift to _________. Could you possibly take me?
D) Hi, Mary. I am interested about a lecture which is 25 miles away from here. Would it be possible if you bring me there?
50-item item#06 D63 p69. 40-item item#11 D51 p75

4. Your friend has never been healthy. She does not like to exercise because she gets tired very easily. You hear from her roommate that she has not been feeling well recently; she even visited her doctor a few days ago. Her doctor gave her some medicine to take and told her not to worry, but she still believes that she is very sick. Now you meet her on the street. She looks pale. You are sympathetic and tell or ask her:
A) You are still sick. You should go to the bed as early as possible you can.
B) You look pale, you should get more exercise.
C) How are you feeling? I hope you're feeling better.
D) I think you are too worried. It is said that most of sickness is from the spirit. We'll go hiking next Saturday. Why don't you join us?
50-items PCAE item#14 D57 p56. 40-items PCAE item#27 D47 p74

5. You are at the cash register in a supermarket. The change you receive is for a five dollar bill rather than the twenty dollar bill you gave the cashier. You want your correct change. You are upset but act calm and reserved. You will probably say to the cashier, a woman in her early 20's:
A) Excuse me, but I gave you a twenty.
B) I think you have made a big mistake.
C) Could you make a correct change please?
D) Excuse me but I gave a $20 bill so I need more change.
50-item PCAE item#29 D51 p67. 40-item PCAE item#14 D50 p74

6. You were invited to a home of an American friend for dinner. The food is served and you take some salad onto your plate and eat it. You do not like the taste. In such a situation you will probably say or react in the following way:
A) I don't really like the taste. It's too sour for me.
B) This taste is some kind of stranger. Is this popular salad?
C) I am sorry. I had much lunch, so I cannot have so much dinner.
D) [I'd leave the rest of the salad on the plate and not say anything.]
50-item PCAE item#19 D86 p61. 40-item PCAE item#21 D52 p73

7. Mary, a polite young American lady, is sitting in a waiting room in a hospital next to an older business executive who is smoking in a non-smoking area. There is a no smoking sign on the wall. She wants him to stop smoking. Mary, feeling a little irritated and angry, would probably say to the gentleman:
A) Excuse me sir, do you read English (pointing to the sign). This is a no smoking area.
B) Excuse me, but here is a non-smoking area.
C) This is non-smoking area. If you smoke you must go out hospital.
D) Excuse me, but this is a non-smoking area.
50-item PCAE item#27 D60 p77. 40-item PCAE item#05 D60 p73

8. A patient sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office realizes that she must make an urgent telephone call. She approaches the doctor's receptionist and asks to use the office telephone. She will probably say:
A) Excuse me. I just remembered something very important and I need to make a call right away. Could I use your telephone?
B) May I use your telephone? I just remember that I need to make an urgent phone call.
C) Excuse me, lady. Can I make a telephone call? It's very urgent!
50-item PCAE item#44 D34 p67. 40-item PCAE item#13 D44 p71

9. George, a college student in a hurry, is getting on a city bus, but he has to wait his turn in line to get a transfer on the bus. After he waits nearly one minute, he finally reaches the bus driver and says to him: (There are ten or so more people behind George waiting their turns.)
A) I'm sorry, I am not quite know about this area. Is this bus going to Army street?
B) Excuse me, sir. Could you start on time?
C) Transfer, please.
50-item PCAE item#26 D63 p63. 40-item PCAE item#18 D50 p71

10. A girl scout is selling Girl Scout cookies. The girl says to a middle-aged female shopper who has just come out of a supermarket:
A) Do you like to support us by buying some scout cookies?
B) Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?
C) Ma'am, would you taste our cookies?
50-item PCAE item#42 D63 p73. 40-item PCAE item#08 D65 p70

11. At a dinner party, you are seated right next to a young lady. You, feeling a little helpless, want the roast beef to be passed to you because you cannot reach it. You will probably say to her:
A) Would you mind to pass the roast beef to me, please?
B) Would you pass the roast beef, please?
C) Would you like to give me the roast beef, please?
50-item PCAE item#02 D63 p67. 40-item PCAE item#15 D57 p69

12. The young president of a company is visiting the office of one of his employees, and he wants to use the telephone there. The president will probably say:
A) Excuse me, I must call. Where is the telephone?
B) I will use the phone in here for a moment.
C) Mind if I use your phone?
D) I must use the phone for a telephone call.
50-item PCAE item#45 D51 p67. 40-item PCAE item#12 D48 p68

13. You are invited to dinner by the family of your close friend. When the dinner is ready, the mother of the family, who is cheerful and has always been delighted to see you, puts her head around the corner and calls to everyone, saying:
A) Dinner is ready, we can start now. I am glad to see you again and make yourself just like at home.
B) Could you please close your eyes?
C) Dinner's ready!
50-item PCAE item#36 D71 p61. 40-item PCAE item#20 D63 p68

14. You are asked by your boss to run down and make some photocopies. Your boss gave you the key to start the machine; you arrive at the copy machine and insert the key. The machine says "ready," so you put the original copy your boss handed you into the machine and press the start button. The machine does not copy. You look around the room. You then see a secretary sitting nearby from whom you might get some help. You approach her and probably say:
A) Is this machine OK?
B) Excuse me for troubling you, but can you help me with the copier?
C) Excuse me, Could you help me copy because the copy machine seems to be out of order.
D) Hi! Lady. I don't know how to start the machine. I inserted the key to the machine, but it didn't start. Do you know how to start it?
50-item PCAE item#07 D74 p58. 40-item PCAE item#25 D56 p68

15. You are in a restaurant with your date. A waitress gives you a dirty plate. You realize that she is very busy. You are relaxed but a little upset about the dirty plate. You would call the waitress to your table and probably say to her:
A) Please, would you notice this?
B) This plate is dirty. Would you mind changing another one?
C) Could you clean the dirty plate, please?
D) Excuse me, but this plate is dirty.
50-item PCAE item#35 D80 p61. 40-item PCAE item#24 D69 p63

16. Your neighbor always parks his car very close to the entrance of your driveway. Sometimes another neighbor across the street from your house parks his car in the street. Today you discover that the street is full of cars and your next door neighbor, as usual, parked his car partly blocking your driveway. There is no way you can get your car out of your driveway. You are getting nervous because you are going to be late for school. You knock on your neighbor's door and say:
A) Would you mind to move the car for me. I will be late for school.
B) Excuse me, your car is blocking my driveway and I am going to be late for school.
C) Excuse me. Your car is blocked the way of my way. Please move out your car immediately.
D) You're blocking my driveway. I have to leave right now. Move your car, please, at once.
50-item PCAE item#09 D37 p61. 40-item PCAE item#22 D49 p42

17. Your teacher, whom you know well, smokes and drinks too much. Today you go out with him. You decide to tell him to stop smoking or smoke less, because you have recently learned that smoking is extremely hazardous to one's health. Your teacher finishes a drink and lights another cigarette. Both you and your teacher are relaxed. You are concerned about his health. So you tell him:
A) You had better stop or smoke less.
B) You shouldn't smoke so much; it's bad for you.
C) You smoke too much and drink. You'd better let yourself smoke less and also drink.
D) Do you know smoking and drinking is bad to your health. Why don't you stop smoking and drinking.
50-item PCAE item#12 D77 p56. 40-item PCAE item#28 D56 p60

18. You bought a videotape machine and started operating it in your home. You thought you followed the directions properly, but you cannot record anything. You become irritated. You find that the instructions are too confusing, so you knock on the door of your housemate and then ask him for help. You will probably say to him:
A) Do you know anything about VCR's? Could you take a look at mine and see what I'm doing wrong?
B) I'm sorry for interrupting, but are you familiar with operating videotape machine?
C) Can you help me to start this machine. It is a life that I'm trying to do it.
50-item PCAE item#08 D66 p61. 40-item PCAE item#23 D56 p58

19. You have invited out to dinner a friend who has helped you move into your new apartment. After you have finished a delicious meal, the waiter brings the bill to you. You are about to pay the waiter. You look through your wallet (or purse) and discover that you have no money and left your credit cards at home. You are embarrassed and feel helpless. To get out of this situation without giving your friend a bad impression, you will probably say to your friend:
A) I'm really sorry to what had happened. I forgot that my wallet was in the other handbag. I thought I brought the right handbag.
B) I'm sorry. I don't have any money. I thought I had enough money in my wallet. Will you pay it instead of me?
C) I'm sorry I left my wallet at home. Would you pay the bill instead of me? I will pay back it as soon as I come home.
D) Did you bring any money? I left my wallet at home. I'll pay you back as soon as we get back.
50-item PCAE item#13 D80 p52. 40-item PCAE item#31 D79 p58

20. At a sandwich shop, a young man who is a regular customer is buying a sandwich. He changes his order every day. He wants mayonnaise but no tomato on his sandwich, so he will probably say:
A) Mayo, please, and hold the tomato.
B) You know what I want, don't you?
C) Please one sandwich but no with tomato.
D) Only mayonnaise and not tomato, please
50-item PCAE item#43 D83 p49. 40-item PCAE item#33 D80 p58

21. You buy some milk at your nearby grocery store. When you get home you find that it is sour. You take it back to the store and speak to the manager. You are angry but patient. You will probably say to the manager:
A) I just bought this milk and it's sour.
B) I would like good milk, this is sour.
C) Sir, I am afraid that the milk has turned sour. Can I change it?
D) I would like to have another bottle of milk and you must take off and revise if there are more sour milk on the shelf.
50-item PCAE item#34 D77 p56. 40-item PCAE item#26 D56 p55

22. After a week of Easter vacation, you enter a college classroom several minutes before class. Your teacher politely asks you, "How was your vacation?" You respond:
A) That was great. How was yours?
B) Thank you. Very well. I was.
C) It was great.
D) I was enjoyed very much. Thank you.
50-item PCAE item#49 D23 p36. 40-item PCAE item#39 D79 p54

23. You have a very bad cold and look terribly pale. A friend who knows you very well is concerned and worried about you and says to you:
A) You look terrible! What's wrong?
B) What happen to you? Are you OK?
C) What you look?
50-item PCAE item#37 D51 p52. 40-item PCAE item#30 D50 p53

24. You want to see Ms. Brown who is the director of a language school, but unfortunately she is not in her office when you visit her. The secretary says to you that she does not know where Ms. Brown is. The secretary says to you, "I'd leave a message if I were you." You respond:
A) Yes, please.
B) Thank you. Don't bother. I'd drop by later.
C) Yes, will you please take my message down for her?
D) Thank you, I will.
50-item PCAE item#30 D49 p63. 40-item PCAE item#17 D51 p53

25. One evening you are invited to a formal dinner by one of your American friends. The host, Mrs. Jones, has prepared a nice meal. You see liver, which you hate, on one of the plates. Mrs. Jones passes you the plate of liver. But you do not want to hurt her feelings. (You are sensitive and reserved.) You would probably say to Mrs. Jones:
A) Excuse me, but today I haven't thin, I would like.
B) Thank you, but liver doesn't agree with me.
C) Oh, sorry, I have an allergic of liver.
D) Thank you very much, but I am more interested in the other plates.
50-item PCAE item#28 D34 p39. 40-item PCAE item#37 D73 p50

26. You are in the living room busily dusting the furniture, and your roommate is upstairs in the house. The telephone rings, and you pick it up and say "Hello." The voice says, "Is your roommate there?" You answer:
A) Yes, he is upstairs.
B) Yes, there is. Just a moment, please. He will come soon.
C) Yes. May I say who's calling?
50-item PCAE item#32 D46 p48. 40-item PCAE item#35 D42 p46

27. On an airplane, a stewardess is addressing a passenger who happens to be very noisy and disturbing other passengers. The stewardess, who is calm but angry at the passenger, would probably say to the passenger:
A) Could you keep quiet?
B) Would you mind if you talk quietly please? Because some passenger can not sleep.
C) Please be quiet. There are not only you in the plane.
D) Sir, is there anything I can get you?
50-item PCAE item#40 D51 p39. 40-item PCAE item#36 D54 p38

28. You go to a lecture and start listening to the speaker. You find that the speech is extremely interesting so you decide to take notes. You, however, discover that you do not have a pen and paper with you. You look around the room and see a gentleman sitting behind you who is taking notes on his note pad. You want very much to take notes, so you ask him for a pen and some paper, saying:
A) Can I have some paper and a pen?
B) Do you happen to have another pen and some paper?
C) Excuse me, would you mind if I lent your pen and some paper?
D) Excuse me. Do you have extra pen and paper? Can I borrow them?
50-item PCAE item#05 D66 p33. 40-item PCAE item#40 D45 p30


VALIDITY COEFFICIENTS: .44 with TOEFL, .50 with Farhady functional test

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