identification and assessment of learning difficulties page on the department’s website features tasks to assess a student’s ability to read and spell words (across Prep to Year 2, years 3-6, and years 7-10. It comprises three main tasks: word reading, letter and letter-sound skills, and phonological skills.
Word reading accuracy is measured by asking students to read a list of words and determining the number or percentage of correctly read words. There are several tests that you can use (some are described below).
Word reading automaticity is measured by asking students to read a list of words under timed conditions.
Testing students' ability to read nonsense (nonwords) provides information about decoding. This is because students cannot rely on recall or context for any nonsense word, for example, 'gorp' and 'plarch'. It is essential that the nonsense words are made up of phonically acceptable letter combinations. For example, an item such as 'ngarl' is not helpful because in English, words do not start with 'ng'. See the freely accessible
Diagnostic Reading Test for Nonwords.
The following examples are for Prep to Year 2.
word reading test asks students to read two types of words; infrequent words with regular spelling patterns, and exceptional words that don’t follow phonic rules but are typical of words learned in this age range.
A list of 20 words (10 with regular spelling and 10 with exceptional spelling) at each year level from Foundation to Year 2 is provided. The words are organised sequentially to match the reading instruction program in the classroom. This assessment should take approximately five to eight minutes to complete.
You can use the word reading task to:
- identify a student’s ability to decode
- identify a student's year level word reading score.
For students who are having difficulty, you can then look for patterns of strength and difficulty in the student's word reading, for example, strengths may include being able to read consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words where the vowel is short. Difficulties could be:
- lack of knowledge in consonant digraphs such as 'sh' and 'ch'
- difficulties with words containing long vowels.
Use the data to determine how best to support the student to improve their word reading accuracy.
letter and letter-sound knowledge test assesses a student’s ability to recognise the names of letters and the sounds they make. The test comprises:
- knowing letter names
- and writing letters in upper and lower case.
Each part of this assessment should take approximately five minutes to complete.
phonological knowledge test assesses a student's ability to auditorily detect, isolate and manipulate sounds in words (phonemic awareness) and larger intra-word components (phonological awareness). Phonemic awareness is an important precursor skill for being able to read and spell words accurately and fluently.
Students who have significant difficulty with phonemic awareness should be tested on their phonological awareness. The task comprises four parts organised developmentally:
- recognising and expressing simple rhyming units (phonological awareness: test only if necessary)
- identifying the individual phonemes within words (phonemic awareness: segmentation)
- blending phonemes to make a word
- manipulating phonemes within words. For example:
- what is the first sound in the word 'back'?
- now, replace that first sound with the sound 's'.
Each part of this assessment should take approximately five to eight minutes to complete.
Taken together, the data from these three assessments can tell you whether a student’s word and spelling ability is typical of a literacy learning difficulty, the type of word reading/spelling difficulty it is and the potential cause of the difficulty.
Just like mainstream students, those with reading difficulties and reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, will benefit from
explicit and direct teaching strategies to support individual learning needs. The delivery of explicit teaching will inevitably need to be provided more intensively so that those students can start closing the gap between themselves and their more able reading peers.
For more information refer to
literacy and English tools and resources.