Easy Language Sample Tool for SLPs

One of the “go to” assessment tools is a language sample.

But wait…

What if you don’t have time to collect language samples?! Aren’t they incredibly time-consuming?

They don’t have to be!

Check out this tool to simplify language sample collection. This quick hack can save you hours of time! I provide step-by-step instructions for how to use it in this post, so click through to read the full tutorial.

Before we jump in, let’s chat a little bit about why we should even bother with language samples.

Language samples, and particularly narrative language samples, may offer a valid complement or even alternative to norm-referenced testing (Ebert & Scott, 2014).

1. Language samples address many of the weaknesses of norm-referenced testing.

2. They provide rich, in-depth information about a child’s use of language in real-world situations (Costanza-Smith, 2010; Hewitt, Hammer, Yont, & Tomblin, 2005), resulting in strong ecological validity and the ability to derive language treatment targets.

3. They place very few behavioral requirements on examinees, allowing for flexible use across children of diverse ages and types of impairment (Costanza-Smith, 2010).

4. They have been shown to be a valid assessment for diverse populations, including bilingual children (Restrepo, 1998) and speakers of nonstandard dialects (Stockman, 1996).

And guess what?! It doesn’t have to take you hours to analyze your samples.

I created a smart spreadsheet that will automatically calculate MLU for you!

Here are the steps to use it!

1. Enter Student Information

I typically only include my student’s initials. My school district didn’t purchase the HIPAA-compliant version of Google Drive, so I want to avoid including too much student data.

I also include the date, time, and type of sample collected.

2. Start the Timer

Give the student a prompt (e.g., a conversation starter, a wordless picture book, sequencing cards, etc.) and start typing away!

I hit “Enter” to move each utterance to a new line.

I usually record the sample so I can refer back to it, if needed.

3. Add Relevant Notes

I make note of anything that struck me in regards to language content, form, or use.

4. Delete Extra Rows

I delete extra rows, so the spreadsheet only calculates the MLU using the student’s utterances.

5. Update the Number of Utterances

I highlight the utterances, and Google Sheets automatically calculates the number for me. I update that number on the bottom of the sheet.

6. Language Sample = Complete

Now, it’s time to “plug and chug.” I move the data into my report. Because I took notes in “real time,” it makes it really easy to describe what actually happened during the language sample (rather than guessing…!).

You can also print the sheet to attach to your report.

Want access to this spreadsheet and a special cheat sheet?

Enter your e-mail below to have the freebies sent to your inbox!


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions


  1. This is AMAZING! Thank you for making and sharing! I can never figure out how google sheets and/or excel work to automatically add up words and calculate MLU. You rock Marisha!

  2. I just discovered this, and its great. Is there an easy way to add more lines to the sample, and keep it in your formula?

  3. The spreadsheet looks incredibly helpful and I’m excited to try it out. I confirmed my subscription but haven’t received the spreadsheet yet. I don’t know if it just takes a little while or if my confirmation didn’t go through.
    Thank you for sharing such a great resource!!!

    • Hi Elise! There’s a little form just below the blog post. If you enter your e-mail there, you’ll be good to go!

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