Interpreting Testing Results

A standardized test is an objective test that is given and scored in a uniform and consistent manner. They are carefully constructed and items are selected after many large scale trials for appropriateness, ambivalence, and difficulty, to make sure the results for each question are accurate and meaningful.

  • All students who take the same version of a standardized test will have the same conditions and the same amount of time to complete the test.
  • Standardized tests assess student skills and knowledge on a broad level and may test all academic areas at the same time (math, reading, science, etc.)

There are many kinds of standardized tests that are used for a variety of purposes with both children and adults. The annual standardized test we use at Brookwood Christian is the Woodcock-Johnson III Form C/Brief Battery. The beauty of this test is that each student gets exactly the time he needs, not rushed to finish, nor waiting for others to finish. This is not a timed test, though there are 3 sections: reading fluencymath fluency, and writing fluency; that are timed (3/3/7 minutes). Click HERE for more details on the specific test sections.

This is a norm-referenced test. These tests are not designed to measure a specific curriculum, but rather the knowledge generally taught at a particular grade level. Results from a norm-referenced test compare a student’s performance to a national reference group (the “norm”) of students at the same grade. Individual results on these tests are usually reported using a variety of scores, explained below.


Remember that a standardized achievement test cannot measure the sum total of your child’s progress. It is only one assessment tool designed to measure a certain set of skills.

Achievement Tests CAN:
• Measure a child’s ability to recall certain facts, basic skills, and concepts common to the grade tested
• Compare a child’s scores with other students’ scores.
• Assess a child’s year-to-year development of learning, if the same test is used for several years.
• Help determine a child’s academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as the effectiveness of a curriculum, teaching methods, or emphasis, when results are combined with teacher or other professional observations.

Achievement Tests CANNOT:
• Tell if a child as achieved academically to the level of his ability/potential.
• Measure a child’s other skills and abilities not on the test.
• Replace a teacher’s professional evaluation of a child’s knowledge and skills gained from daily observation of his work and more thorough and frequent review questions.


Raw Scores: A raw score is the number of items answered correctly on a given test. Raw scores by themselves have little or no meaning. A child’s Raw Score (number correct) is compared to the original group of students of the same age who first took the test. The averages of this original group are called the “Norms”. Norm referenced test scores compare a child’s raw score to the norm group. Next, a child’s raw scores are converted into scaled scores, grade equivalents, percentiles and stanines.

  • SCALED SCORE: this is a mathematical transformation of a raw score. These are useful when comparing test results over time. Most standardized achievement tests provide scaled scores for such purposes. Several different methods of scaling exist, but each is intended to provide a continuous score scale across the different forms and levels of a test series.
  • GRADE EQUIVALENT: This is the most commonly misunderstood term in interpreting test scores. The first digit represents the year of the grade level and the digit after the decimal represents the month of that grade level. If 4th grade Sally obtains a grade equivalent score of 7.6 on a reading comprehension test, this means that she obtained the same score as the typical student in the sixth month of seventh grade. Sally may or may not have acquired the same skills as the typical seventh grader. It also very likely means the 4th grader mastered the material very well and answered most of the questions correctly. See below for actual score report we use.
  • PERCENTILE: This score ranks individuals within a group on a scale of 1-99 with 50 being average. A percentile rank of 75 means the student scored better than 75 percent of the other students in his or her norm group, and 25 percent scored as well or better than your student. There no such thing as the 100th percentile because a child can’t do better than himself. It does not mean the student got 75% of the items correct. Percentile does not refer to the percent of questions that were answered correctly.
  • STANINE: This term comes from the combination of the words “standard of nine”. It rates a child’s achievement on a scale of 1-9 based on a coarse grouping of the scores. In general, a stanine of 1, 2 or 3 indicates below average achievement. A stanine of 4, 5 or 6 indicates average achievement, while 7, 8 or 9 indicate above average.


There are many reasons for scores to be lower than expected, time of day, something going on that day, end of year “fatigue”, or just plain couldn’t concentrate.  These scores should never be used alone, but only as a guide, along with grades and input from teachers who work with the students on a daily basis and KNOW what the students know and the skills/tasks they are capable of performing. Ideally, we like to see growth over time, sometimes we don’t see it in all areas in just one year, but when we look at their scores over time, we see a much clearer picture.

Most importantly, when reacting to low scores, remember that scores have nothing to do with a child’s innate worth. Your reaction, positive or negative, will influence the child’s sense of self-worth and anxiety on future tests. Tell your child that you will try to find the reason for the low scores, and help to improve the weak areas. Be sure to include praise for the strong areas. Always take into account that no one measure gets at the complete picture, and that the best measure of how a child is performing will be the observation of the parent and teacher.


A score report will show the current grade level of the student with a vertical dashed line, Sally’s is 4.1.

For each section of the test, there will be a confidence band (the grey strip) which will show the likely range of scores if Sally were to take this test countless times, with the center number being where she scored on this particular test.  So for the Brief Math test, Sally scored 4.0 with a confidence band indicating she probably could score anywhere from 3.3 to 4.9 if she repeated the very same test.

As long as the confidence band straddles the grade placement level, then we tend to say the student is performing on grade level. The entire band being higher, like Brief Achievement in this case, could mean that grade level work may seem easy, but not necessarily that Sally is ready for the next grade. It could indicate she need challenging more.

If the confidence band is entirely below grade level, as Written Expression is in this case, then this may be an area of difficulty for Sally and it’s possible she may struggle with grade level work without adequate support. This is an area we would watch closely, especially that two other areas involving writing seem on the low side.

Again, this is just a ‘snapshot’ of Sally’s performance on ONE DAY, for no more than ONE HOUR. It’s also very possible that Sally is doing very well and just had an “off” day. We look at these scores along with report cards and teacher input to make any decision for placement.

What we don’t want to see is the bars not moving as the grade placement moves up. Often, within a year or two, we see bars moving closer to grade placement and very often passing it. As long as there is improvement over time, not necessarily all areas in just one year, then we are moving in the right direction.