There are dozens of assessments relevant to encoding/decoding skills available so this list is in no way comprehensive, but I hope includes useful information.
Phonemic awareness assessments
- School Entry Alphabetical and Phonological Awareness Readiness test (SEAPART) (individual, criterion-referenced test, takes about 10 minutes) is an Australian test by Speech Pathologist Roslyn Neilson which assesses both phonological awareness and early alphabet knowledge.
- Rosner Test of Auditory Analysis Skills (free and takes 3 minutes, contains some very general normative information).
- Lindamood Auditory Conceptualisation Test (standardised, takes 20-30 minutes), available in Australia from ACER and Pro-Ed.
- Sutherland Phonological Awareness Test – Revised (standardised, takes 10-15 minutes, for grades 1-4), is another Australian test by Speech Pathologist Roslyn Neilson, also available from ACER.
- The Phonemic Awareness Literacy Screening is actually three tests – for preschoolers, school beginners and older primary school children – designed for class teachers to use with all their students.
- The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing 2 (CTOPP-2) is a standardised 40-minute test for clinicians to administer to indivduals, designed to provide detailed information about a range of phonological processing skills.
Real word reading assessments
- Burt Reading Test and Administration instructions (standardised, on Reading Reform Foundation website, for non-commercial use only).
- MOTIF Castles and Coltheart 2 (free, standardised, assesses both real and non-word reading, separates regularly spelt words and words containing unusual spellings).
- It should not be used as a substitute for a formal, standardised test, but there is an affordable, user-friendly app called “Nessy What’s My Reading Age?” available for both iPad/iPhone and Android from which you can get an idea of a child’s reading ability, plus it suggests things to work on.
Non-word reading assessments
- MOTIF Castles and Coltheart 2 (free, standardised, assesses both real and non-word reading, you must be a professional to download it).
- Diagnostic Reading Test for Nonwords (free, nonstandardised, you must be a professional to download it)
- The Martin and Pratt Nonword Reading test sadly seems now to be out of print.
Real word spelling assessments
- Single Word Spelling Test (UK, actually nine standardised tests for ages 6-14, you must be a professional to buy it).
- MOTIF Diagnostic Spelling Test – Sounds (free, nonstandardised, tests 32 sounds, you must be a professional to download it).
- MOTIF Diagnostic Spelling Test for Irregular Words (free, nonstandardised, you must be a professional to use it).
- Schonell Spelling Test (on Reading Reform Foundation website, for non-commercial use only).
Non-word spelling assessments
- MOTIF Diagnostic Spelling Test for Nonwords (free, nonstandardised, you must be a professional to download it)
- Astronaut Invented Spelling Test – 2 (individual or group, standardised, takes 10 minutes) by Australian Speech Pathologist Roslyn Neilson assesses Phonemic Awareness and early spelling knowledge.
- The free, nonstandardised tests on this website can be used to give you an idea of learners’ spelling word attack, as well as helping you choose materials to target gaps in their system.
Tests of spelling patterns outside words
- MOTIF Letter Identification Test (free, nonstandardised, assesses both upper and lower case letter knowledge, you must be a professional to download it).
- MOTIF Letter Sound Test (free, tests 51 graphemes, includes normative data for the first four years of school, you must be a professional to download it)
- School Entry Alphabetical and Phonological Awareness Readiness test (SEAPART) as mentioned above, assesses Phonemic Awareness as well as early alphabetic knowledge.
Rapid Automatised Naming assessments
Difficulties with Rapid Automatised Naming are strongly associated with persistent reading difficulties, so worth knowing about.
- The RAN/RAS test is a standardised assessment for ages 5-18.
- The CELF-4, which most Speech Pathologists working with school-aged children have, has a subtest assessing Rapid Automatised Naming, but it is not as powerful as the RAN/RAS since it is only a criterion-referenced subtest, not a standardised test.
Non-word repetition assessment
- The Children’s Test of Nonword Repetition takes four minutes, has norms for ages 4-8, is simple enough for even preschoolers, and doesn’t disadvantage children whose home language isn’t English or children who’ve hardly seen a book and don’t know what a rhyme is. Poor non-word repetition is quite a good predictor of language and reading difficulties.
More comprehensive assessments
The York Assessment of Reading Comprehension is a comprehensive, individually-administered reading test which has now been standardised in Australia. There is a version for primary school-aged children and another for secondary school age.
The free DIBELS assessments cover a range of literacy skills across the primary school years, and are widely used in the US.
The Abecedarian Reading Assessment is another fairly comprehensive assessment of early reading skills from the US which is available free online.
The Predictive Assessment of Reading is a high-quality standardised US screening tool designed to identify children needing extra help with reading. The Aimsweb and PALS screeners also have proper data to back them up.
Many standardised assessments of phonemic awareness and decoding/encoding skills are incorporated into major psychological or language tests, and you have to be a Psychologist or Speech Pathologist to use them, so I won’t go into their details here, but if you’re seeing a Psychologist or Speech Pathologist they will be able to tell you about each of the tests they use.
Many synthetic phonics programs have their own placement tests, for use in deciding where to start on their program, for example the Jolly Phonics Reading Assessment, and the Ridgehill Synthetic Phonics Placement Tests. If you’re investigating getting such a program, check whether it includes assessments like these.
Response To Intervention
Response To Intervention or RTI is an approach to identifying and assisting students with additional needs at school. It provides three tiers of assessment and intervention, with anyone struggling at a lower tier getting access to the next tier:
- Evidence-based classroom teaching, including screening for risk factors,
- Small group support and intervention for anyone struggling or considered “at risk”,
- Intensive individual support and intervention for anyone whose problems are severe/ongoing.
RTI is the best way to make sure that all children are able to achieve to their literacy potential. The US-based National Center on Response To Intervention website contains lots of information about how to implement an RTI approach.