If your child has trouble with reading, writing or math, in-depth testing can help you understand why. Testing can identify the areas where she needs targeted instruction and help. It can also help in determining whether she can get special education services.
Typically, these kinds of tests are used as part of a comprehensive evaluation. Professionals like psychologists, learning specialists or speech-language pathologists select the tests that will be given. They decide based on their experience, professional judgment and your child’s individual needs.
Depending on the test given, the results could uncover many things. Some test results show your child’s overall ability in a particular area such as reading or writing. Other tests measure a specific skill in an area. For example, a result might show that your child doesn’t understand sounds in words, an essential building block for literacy.
Scores for tests are generally reported on a “standard” scale. This means that raw scores are converted to a common measure like a percentile, which allows for comparisons between your child’s results on different tests.
A common measure also means results can be compared between students, classes and school districts. Scores may be reported as grade or age levels (for example, “She reads at a 10th grade reading level”), so the school can see how your child is doing compared to others. A standard scale also makes it easier to track your child’s progress over time.
Here are just a few of the many tests that may be given.
Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI)
What it measures: Reading comprehension
How it works: This computer-based test asks your child to read fiction and nonfiction passages and then answer questions about them. It’s “computer-adaptive.” This means that the test adjusts the difficulty of questions based on what she’s getting right and wrong.
What the scores mean: The scores point to a grade level at which your child is ready to be taught. Schools can then provide instruction and support accordingly.
Woodcock Reading Mastery Test (WRMT-III)
What it measures: Essential reading skills
How it works: Your child is given up to nine subtests that cover a range of skills. This test looks at skills like phonological awareness, comprehension, word and letter identification, reading fluency and others.
What the scores mean: This test measures many important components of reading. Results can be combined and compared to better understand your child’s reading challenges.
Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT-5)
What it measures: Spoken (oral) reading fluency and reading comprehension
How it works: Your child is asked to read passages aloud and then answer multiple-choice questions about what she’s just read. A tester observes, follows along and takes notes. These observations are used to analyze how and why your child is struggling.
What the scores mean: The results of this test show how quickly and accurately your child can read aloud. They also show how well she understands what she reads.
Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing
What it measures: How well your child understands sounds in words
How it works: Your child is given up to a dozen subtests. Each subtest manipulates parts of words to see if she understands how letters and groups of letters combine to make sound. For example, one subtest may remove part of a word (“dresser”) to form another word (“dress”). Your child is then asked to say the new word. Other sub tests may focus on rapid letter or object naming.
What the scores mean: This is a targeted test. A professional who gives this test will want to pinpoint where your child has difficulty with understanding sounds in words. The results can help direct how she is taught.
Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE-2)
What it measures: Ability to pronounce written words
How it works: Your child is asked to pronounce real and “nonsense” words. This test can be completed in as little as five or 10 minutes.
What the scores mean: This is a relatively quick way to determine how well your child recognizes sight words and decodes sounds in words. In grade school, results can help identify kids who need help with reading skills. In older kids, the test can help identify features of specific learning issues like dyslexia.
Rapid Automatized Naming Tasks
What it measures: How easily and quickly your child can process printed information
How it works: For each subtest, your child is shown a paper with various items, such as letters, numbers, colors or pictures of common objects. She’s tested on how quickly and accurately she can name them.
What the scores mean: Low scores on this test may not necessarily be a problem. Some children can complete these tasks slowly but accurately. However, if your child is working too slowly or making mistakes, it can mean there’s an underlying problem. Seeing how your child struggles with this task can be useful in creating strategies to help her learn.
Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA-3)
What it measures: Reading skills of children from preschool through third grade
How it works: Your child is asked to identify letters of the alphabet and the meaning of words. She’s also asked about how books work—for instance, where is the title page, what do pictures in a book mean, how do you hold a book and in which direction do you read the text.
What the scores mean: The results of this test can show where your child is on the path to independent reading. A child who doesn’t know the alphabet or how books work may need more than instruction on basic skills.
Wide Range Achievement Test 4
What it measures: Basic academic skills in reading, spelling and math for ages 5 and up
How it works: Your child takes a written test in word reading, sentence comprehension, spelling, counting and math. She writes her answers in a booklet. The same test is given regardless of a child’s age, and items start easy and get increasingly difficult.
What the scores mean: Results can show where your child performs on grade-level work. They can also point to where she needs help in various areas of academic performance.
KeyMath–3 Diagnostic Assessment
What it measures: Essential math concepts and skills
How it works: Your child is tested on math concepts that are appropriate for her age. These may include addition and subtraction, percentages and interpreting numerical data.
What the scores mean: This test shows how well your child understands essential math concepts. The results can show where she has strengths and weaknesses and can help schools give her targeted instruction.
Test of Mathematical Abilities (TOMA-3)
What it measures: Math abilities in kids 8 and up
How it works: Your child is tested on math concepts like word problems, computation and math symbols. There is also a subtest on using math in everyday life. Your child is also asked how she feels about math and her math ability.
What the scores mean: This test offers a broad take on how your child is doing in math. The results help identify students who are behind (or ahead of) their peers in math skills and knowledge. By asking about attitudes, the test uncovers how your child feels herself as a math learner.
Wechsler Individual Achievement Test
What it measures: Reading, writing and oral language, as well as math skills (depending on which subtests are used)
How it works: Your child takes a pencil and paper or online version of this test. It can be given to students at all grade levels. Depending on the grade level and subtests used, the test can take from 45 minutes to two hours to complete.
What the scores mean: Results for this test, like other tests, give a sense of how your child is doing in various academic areas.
It’s important to keep in mind these aren’t the only tests that your child may be given. There are dozens of different tests for reading, writing and math.
If testing is part of a comprehensive evaluation, the school evaluation team will work with you and your child. Team members will describe the tests to you, as well as the meaning of the results.
Some tests are given once as part of an evaluation. Others may be repeated during the year to help monitor your child’s progress. Either way, the results will help you and others understand and address your child’s challenges—and put everyone on track to finding solutions.