Reading assessment

Teachers engage in ongoing assessment of students’ reading by gathering, analysing, interpreting and using a range of evidence to inform their teaching.

Assessment evidence informs teachers about what a student already knows and is ready to learn next. Teachers can use assessment evidence to evaluate the impact of their teaching on student learning and consider how their teaching may be adapted, so that the needs of all students are met. Quality reading assessment occurs when teachers combine a range of assessment tools and processes to accurately report against curriculum standards and plan for teaching and learning.

Gathering evidence

The evidence may be from formal assessment tools as listed below, or from teachers’ informed judgements about a student’s progress and achievement as part of the teaching process. This includes informal and formative assessments as well as the judicious use of more formal assessment tools and processes.

For more information about formative assessment visit Note six: formative assessment.

The following key areas of reading are important for teaching and assessment with emergent and early readers.

Concepts of print

Concepts of print relate to the features of text and how we read them, such as:

  • understanding that print conveys a message
  • knowledge about book orientation and reading from left to right
  • the difference between sentences, words and letters
  • knowledge of the alphabetic system and the difference between letters and words.

Students usually develop an understanding of the concepts of print before the formal teaching of reading begins through interaction with texts, such as when adults read books with children. It is important to be aware that students’ experiences with printed text may vary and some students may have had little experiences with books and other printed texts when they start school. Also, some student’s experiences of print may have only been in languages other than English. Gathering information about students’ knowledge of concepts of print when they start school will assist with determining the explicit teaching that needs to occur for individual students.


Learning about how graphemes (letters) represent phonemes (sounds) is an important skill for learning to read. Assessing student’s phonic knowledge and ability to decode words will assist teachers to determine the explicit teaching that needs to occur for individual or groups of students.

Phonemic awareness or the awareness that spoken words consist of sounds, is usually the precursor to phonic knowledge. The word ‘dog,’ for example, has three 3 phonemes each represented by one letter. While phonemic awareness is usually evident before school entry, it's useful for teachers to gather information about a student’s phonemic awareness and knowledge to inform the explicit teaching of phonics that needs to occur for individual or groups of students.

Narrative comprehension

Comprehension is the ultimate aim of all reading. Recent longitudinal research (Babayigit et al., 2021) has shown that a child’s ability to engage in oral narrative re-tell at the age of 5 plays an important long-term role in reading development that extends beyond the primary school years. 

A student’s level of comprehension can be shown by their ability to join in discussions about texts read to them, or re-tell a story shown to them in pictures. This may include an understanding of story elements such as structure, sequencing, vocabulary, inferring, and semantic and grammatical skills before they can read texts independently.

Reading texts

Students need to be able to use all the reading skills that have been listed above to read authentic texts. Nation (2017) states that reading is much more than repeated exposure to individual words in isolation. Experiencing words in diverse and meaningful language environments is critical for the development of word-reading skills (Nation, 2017).

A running record of reading behaviours can assess many skills of reading. A running record is a tool for assessing a student’s reading while they are reading (Barone et al 2020; Clay, 1993).

A running record of reading behaviours provides information on:

  • a score of word reading accuracy
  • an analysis of a reader's errors and self-corrections
  • an analysis of the reading strategies used
  • an identification of reading fluency.

Using a series of standardised conventions, a teacher can quickly and accurately record what the reader says as they read a text or section of a text aloud. After the reading, the teacher completes an analysis of the student’s reading. Teachers can use texts that have been used as part of teaching, for example a guided reading text to take a running record, or a text that is part of a commercially produced benchmark test kit.

Teachers can continue to monitor and assess the reading components described above by gathering data during teaching as well as using a range of formalised assessment tools and processes as required. Stahl, Flanigan and McKenna (2019) highlighted the importance of teachers having a range of strategies for assessment that are valid and reliable. The assessment tools detailed below are examples of tools that teachers may use to assess reading.

Reading engagement and motivation

It's important that students not only learn how to read but that they become motivated and engaged readers. According to Afflerbach (2021), a positive attitude for reading encourages students to read whereas a negative affect can discourage students from reading. 

Teachers can monitor and assess student engagement with reading by using informal and formative assessment processes to gauge students’ attitudes towards reading. This may be in the form of a reading conference. A reading conference based on a student’s independent reading offers the opportunity for students to:

  • share their thoughts about what they have read 
  • set goals for future reading
  • receive feedback from the teacher.

Additionally, teachers can use simple surveys and questionnaires to find out information about a student’s reading interests and habits and use this information to support a student with their reading.

Assessment tools

Assessment tools are provided by us and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority to support reading assessment which are described below. Schools may also use other standardised assessments as part of their assessment schedule.

English Online Interview

The English Online Interview (EOI) is an online assessment of a student’s literacy development across the 3 modes of English, including reading and viewing. It comprehensively assesses 10 areas of literacy, including:

  • phonological skill
  • listening comprehension
  • writing and spelling
  • reading accuracy
  • oral language.

It includes specific tasks for assessing a child’s phonological awareness, and their ability to decode and blend and segment phonemes and graphemes. 

The EOI was enhanced for use in 2023 to include additional phonics items in all 4 modules to support teachers to assess their students’ phonics knowledge and skills in Foundation to Grade 2.

Diagnostic Assessment Tools in English

The Diagnostic Assessment Tools in English (DATE) is designed to assess English learning of students in Foundation to Grade 2 (F-2). The DATE may be used to monitor student progress in one or more modes of English, including reading and viewing, throughout students' early literacy development. The DATE can be used to complement findings from the EOI or as standalone assessment. The DATE was enhanced for use in 2023 to include additional on-demand phonics items to support teachers to monitor student progress in F-2.

Abilities Based Learning and Education Support

Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (ABLES) supports teachers to assess the learning readiness of students with disabilities and additional needs. ‘English - Reading and Writing’, is part of the suite of 9 assessment tools that cover the development of the use and interpretation of symbolic forms of representation leading towards early reading and writing.

Digital Assessment Library

The Digital Assessment Library (DAL) offers assessments for Foundation to Year 10, including the reading and viewing mode of the Victorian Curriculum, English. For more information about literacy assessment visit, Literacy tests and what they assess.

Communicating with parents and carers about reading assessment outcomes

Parents and carers are a child’s first educators, so it's important that they are seen as partners in their child’s education. Parents and carers need to be kept informed about how their child is progressing in their reading and literacy learning. This includes providing information on the ways they can support the classroom teacher to teach their child to read.

Parents and carers should be informed on how and why a school uses particular approaches for the teaching and assessing of literacy and what this means for their child. They need to be aware of curriculum requirements as well as adjustments that are made to support their own child’s learning and development as a reader. Parents and carers require honest feedback on what their child is achieving in terms of the Victorian Curriculum F-10 and also what additional support or extension their child may require.

The Victorian Curriculum F-10 outlines what content is to be taught and assessed at a particular grade or year level. Many students need adjustments to teaching and assessment based on their individual needs. It's important that parents and carers are aware of the range of assessments that teachers use to make accurate and informed conclusions about an individual student’s progress and how they use this information to plan for their teaching.

Communicating about the EOI

Schools should clearly communicate to parents and carers that the EOI is used in Term 1 each year with all Foundation and Grade 1 students in government primary schools to assess their literacy skills, including phonics.

After administering the EOI at the beginning of the year, general information can be shared with parents and carers about ways to support their child with learning to read. This is particularly important for parents and carers who have children in Foundation. Schools may also consider distributing the Literacy and Numeracy Tips to Help your Child Every day booklet to parents and carers as this resource provides practical tips for building children’s literacy and numeracy skills outside of the school environment. It suggests fun, inexpensive, accessible and practical activities that can be done at home or in the local community.

It's not recommended that the EOI scores are shared with parents and carers as the scores are designed to inform teaching as one of the pieces of evidence gathered about a student learning. Instead, schools may consider providing a simple assessment report to parents and carers identifying what the assessment revealed in terms of what a student can do and what their teacher will focus on to support literacy learning. This may be a verbal or written report and should include tips on how the parents and carers can support their child at home as partners in their child’s learning. If the EOI reveals concerns about a student’s literacy learning, the teacher should follow up with the individual’s parent or carer and develop an Individual Education Plan as appropriate.


Afflerbach, P. (2021). Teaching Readers (not Reading): Moving Beyond Skills and Strategies to Reader-focused Instruction. Guilford Publications. 

Babayiğit, S., Roulstone, S., & Wren, Y. (2021). Linguistic comprehension and narrative skills predict reading ability: A 9‐year longitudinal study. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(1), 148-168. 

Buckingham, J. (2020a). Evidence strongly favours systematic synthetic phonics. Learning Difficulties Australia Bulletin, 52(1), 30-34.  

Buckingham, J. (2020b). Systematic phonics instruction belongs in evidence-based reading programs: A response to Bowers. Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 37(2), 105-113.  

Buckingham, J., Wheldall, R. & Wheldall, K. (2019). Systematic and explicit phonics instruction: A scientific, evidence-based approach to teaching the alphabetic principle. In R. Cox, S. Feez, & L. Beveridge (Eds.), The alphabetic principle and beyond: Surveying the landscape (pp. 49-67). Marrickville: Primary English Teaching Association Australia. 

Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(1), 5-51.

Clay, M. M. (1993). An observation survey of early literacy achievement. Heinemann, 361 Hanover St., Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912.  

Barone, J., Khairallah, P., & Gabriel, R. (2020). Running records revisited: A tool for efficiency and focus. The Reading Teacher,73(4), 525-530. 

Lane, H. B., Contesse, V. A., & Gallingane, C. (2022). Phonics 101: Preparing teachers to provide effective intervention in word reading skills. Intervention in School and Clinic, 1-11. 

Nation, K. (2017). Nurturing a lexical legacy: Reading experience is critical for the development of word reading skill. npj Science of Learning, 2(3), 1-4.

Seidenberg, M. S. (2017). Language at the speed of sight: How we read, why so many can't, and what can be done about it. New York: Basic Books.  

Stahl, K. A. D., Flanigan, K., & McKenna, M. C. (2019). Assessment for reading instruction. Guilford Publications. 

Torgerson, C., Brooks, G., Gascoine, L., & Higgins, S. (2019). Phonics: Reading policy and the evidence of effectiveness from a systematic ‘tertiary’ review. Research Papers in Education, 34(2), 208-238.