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Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles


This Glossary contains explanations of acronyms and abbreviations used throughout the site as well as the definitions of words and terms.

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ABE = Adult Basic Education.

ABLE = Adult Basic Learning Examination

Academic Word List
The Academic Word List is a compilation of words that appear in college texts and college-level reading materials. Words are arranged according to how common a word is to all the texts scanned and to how frequently it appears.

Affixes are word parts that are either attached to the beginnings of words (prefixes) or to the endings of words (suffixes). The word unhelpful has two affixes, a prefix (un-) and a suffix (-ful).

AMES = Adult Measure of Essential Skills

Alphabetic Language
A language that that uses letters and letter combinations to represent sounds of speech.

"Alphabetics is the use of letters to represent spoken words. Because spoken words are made up of smaller, more basic sounds (phonemes), alphabetics includes Phonemic Awareness, or knowing how phonemes are combined to make words. It also includes phonics or letter-sound knowledge—knowing the relationship between letters or letter combinations and the sounds they represent and how these are put together to form words. The word cat, for example, is made up of three sounds represented by the letters c, a, and t." RR

ARCS = The Adult Reading Components Study
The ARCS was a project of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy. The ARCS assessed the reading of 676 ABE learners and grouped them according to similarities in their performance on several reading components. To create the profiles featured on this Web site, researchers analyzed the reading performance of a subset of 569 learners from the ARCS.

ARCS Comparison Profile
Scores entered in the interactive section of this site are analyzed and matched to an ARCS Comparison Profile, one of the 11 profiles created from a dataset of 569 adult learners who participated in the Adult Reading Components Study.

ASE = Adult Secondary Education

The gathering of information from several measurements to show strengths and weaknesses on a particular ability, or of a particular attribute. The terms, assessment and test are often used interchangeably.

Assisted Oral Reading
Assisted oral reading refers to a mature reader's support of a learner's oral reading by helping with Word Recognition, or by reading orally along with him/her. Paired reading (partner) and choral reading (whole class) are forms of assisted oral reading.

Automaticity of a skill is achieved when it can be performed with little or no conscious attention to its execution. Automaticity of Word Recognition frees conscious attention for comprehension. (See also Mastery and Automaticity.)

An average is a way to describe the most typical of a full range of scores from the lowest to the highest. An arithmetic average is the total of all values (scores) divided by the number of values (scores). Mean is another term for average.


To blend sounds is to join one to another seamlessly. Sounds of individual letters, digraphs, and diphthongs are blended to form syllables. The individual sounds of c, a, and t flow from one to the next as they are blended to form cat.


CASAS = Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System

Cluster Analysis
A statistical procedure whereby people or items are grouped according to their similarity on measures of interest to the researcher.

Collaborative Oral Reading
In collaborative oral reading, teacher and pupil alternate or read a passage in unison. (See also Assisted Oral Reading.)

Consonant Blend
Two or three consecutive consonants, each altering its own sound just enough to join seamlessly to its neighbor. Examples are: bl, str, and sn.

Components of Reading
The several subskills of fluent reading ability. They are often categorized as Print (Alphabetic) Skills and Meaning Skills.

CREVT-2 = Comprehensive Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test

Criterion-referenced Tests
Criterion-referenced tests are assessments of a specified level of an ability or a specified body of information. Classroom tests that assess learners' mastery of a specific lesson are one type of criterion-referenced test as are published tests that use graded materials to find a learner's level of mastery. The DAR is a criterion-referenced test.


DAR = Diagnostic Assessments of Reading

To decode is to attach sounds to letters and groups of letters that make up a word and then to blend them to say the word.

A digraph is two letters together that make one sound. Examples of consonant digraphs are: ch, sh, and ck, and of vowel digraphs: ea, aw.

A diphthong is a vowel sound produced when the tongue moves or glides from one vowel sound toward another vowel or semivowel sound in the same syllable, as in buy and the vowel sounds in bee, bay, boo, and bough.

Direct Teaching
Teacher-directed instruction of specific skills.


ELL = English Language Learner

To encode is to "write the code" for a spoken word, to spell. It is the opposite of decode.

ESL = English as a Second Language

ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages

EVT = Expressive Vocabulary Test

Expressive Vocabulary
Expressive vocabulary refers to the body of words whose meanings are known well enough to use them in speaking or writing. It is also referred to as speaking, oral, or productive vocabulary. It is comprised of a smaller number of words than the listening vocabulary or receptive vocabulary whose meanings may be less well understood.


Reading Fluency is the ability to read accurately and smoothly at a rate close to that of speech with appropriate intonation and rhythm.


GE = Grade Equivalent
"A test score that is used to convert raw scores on a test (the number of correct answers, for example) into something more meaningful. It represents the grade placement for which the raw score is average. A GE of 6, for example, means that the score received is an average score for someone in the 6th grade. Grade Equivalent Scores need to be interpreted carefully because they are, in most cases, estimates. Different test publishers may use different procedures to estimate GE scores. A GE may also be based on the readability score of a passage of text. Readability scores are derived from formulas that are used to estimate how difficult a passage is. For example, a readability score may be based on the difficulty of individual words and how complex the sentences in the passage are. These scores are often expressed in terms of grade equivalents. A passage with a readability score of GE 6, for example, would be a passage that students in a sixth grade classroom could read and understand. On some tests, such as informal reading inventories, if a student is able to read a passage with a readability score of GE 6, they are given a score of six for the passage." RR

GED = General Education Development Test
The GED is a norm-referenced test on the academic skills.

GORT-4 = Gray Oral Reading Test


Independent Reading Level
The reading level at which at least 95% of words can be read accurately.


Generally, a dictionary; in reading it can refer to a reader's receptive/listening bank of Word Meanings.

Listening Comprehension Tests
Listening comprehension tests are graded passages that are read aloud by the teacher to which students answer comprehension questions. They are helpful in assessing English language comprehension of ESL learners and for assessing the text comprehension ability of beginning and low intermediate native English readers.

Listening Vocabulary
See receptive vocabulary.


Mastery and Automaticity
When learners are reliably able to perform a skill, we say they have mastery of that skill. For example, someone who is able to read a Grade 5 word list may hesitate between words or give evidence of having to use elementary word attack skills to figure them out, but unless there is obvious deliberate effort to decode the words, we say that he or she has mastery of Word Recognition at Grade 5. This same person, however, may be able to read a Grade 3 word list accurately with no evidence of having to use word attack skills: the words are recognized automatically. We can say this person has Word Recognition mastery of Grade 5 words and automaticity at Grade 3.

The difference between these concepts is the level of conscious application of underlying skills that are called upon to accomplish a task. Consideration of ease, accuracy, and rate of performance are the yardsticks for automaticity.


Native Speakers of English (NSE)
NSE means that the first language a person learned to speak was English.

NCSALL = National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy

NIFL = National Institute for Literacy

Non-native Speakers of English (NNSE)
NNSE means that the first language a person learned to speak was other than English.

Norm-referenced Tests
A test that enables a score to be compared to levels of achievement of a specified group of people (norming population).

NRP = National Reading Panel


The onset is the part of a syllable or one-syllable word that comes before the vowel; e.g., the /t/ in top. The rime is everything that comes after; e.g., the /-op/ in top.

Oral Reading Rate
Oral reading rate is the number of words per minute that a person can read at mastery level, where mastery level is the level at which they can read 95% or better of the words in a text correctly.

The writing system of a language—Spelling.


PA = Phoneme Awareness
The ability to isolate and manipulate separate sounds (phonemes) in a word. Tests of phoneme awareness may require the deletion or substitution of phonemes in a given word. For example, a deletion task: "Say plant", "Now, say it again, but don't say /t/ (say the sound of t); or a sustitution task: "Say plant ", "Now change the /p/ to /s/ (say the sounds of the letters) and say the word".

PPVT-III = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test

"The study of the relationships between letters and the sounds they represent; also used to describe reading instruction that teaches sound-symbol correspondences, such as 'the phonics approach' or 'phonic reading'" RR.

Phonological Awareness
"Metalinguistic awareness of all levels of the speech sound system, including word boundaries, stress patterns, syllables, onset-rime units, and phonemes; a more encompassing term than phoneme awareness" RR.

Productive Vocabulary
The body of words whose meanings are known well enough to become part of a person's speech.

As applied to reading, reading with appropriate intonation and rhythm.


READ Test = Reading Evaluation - Adult Diagnosis Test

Receptive Vocabulary
The body of words we know well enough to understand when listening or reading. Receptive vocabulary is the larger bank of known Word Meanings because it includes productive vocabulary. Receptive vocabulary is often called listening vocabulary.

Reliability of Tests
A test has high reliability if it consistently gives the same results under different testing conditions, with different examiners, when administered in different places, or between two forms of the test.

The rime is the part of a syllable or one-syllable word that includes the vowel itself and everything that comes after the vowel; e.g., the /-op/ in top. Open syllables (like the /o/ in open) or words that end in vowels like no or me don't have rimes—they only have onsets.


Shared Reading
See "Assisted Oral Reading" or "Collaborative Oral Reading."

SORT-R = Slosson Oral Reading Test-Revised

Standard Deviation (See "Standard Scores," below)

Standard Scores
A standard score interprets a raw score in terms of how far it is from the average of a group score. The unit that tells the distance from the average is the standard deviation (sd) for that reference group. The standard deviation is always given for a standard score. Two thirds of the people who are in a test's reference group score between -1 and +1 standard deviations. If your learner scores within -1 sd and +1 sd she/he is in the low to high average range; above +1 sd, he/she is in the top 15% of the group; if your learner scores below -1 sd, she/he is in the lowest 15% of the reference group on the ability being measured.

Standardized Tests
Tests that are administered and scored according to set procedures and under the same conditions so that learners' scores have the same meaning and are not influenced by differing conditions.

Structural Analysis
"Structural analysis commonly involves the identification of roots, affixes, compounds, hyphenated forms, inflected and derived endings, contractions, and, in some cases, syllabication. [It] is sometimes used as an aid to pronunciation or in combination with phonic analysis in Word Analysis programs" RR.


TABE = Tests of Adult Basic Education

TOWRE = Test of Word Reading Efficiency


Validity of Tests
A test is valid if it measures what it claims to measure. Validity is a statistical construct derived from appropriate evidence.

Visual Memory

In the context of language, visual memory is the ability to remember forms of letters, sight words, and spelling patterns of phonetically irregular words.

"A voiced speech sound made without stoppage or friction of the air flow as it passes though the vocal tract" RR.


WAIS-III = Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III

WMT = Word Meaning Test

Word Attack Assessments
Word attack assessments are tests of phonics. They are most often lists of pseudo-words that are made up of the phonic elements being assessed. For example, these words could test mastery of final e constructions: fipe, sele, or tane. If real words are used there is the possibility of their being sight words so that little information would be gained about the reader's mastery of particular phonetic constructions.

Word Meaning Tests
Word Meaning tests assess a person's knowledge of words by how well she/he is able to define or describe a given word. The more completely a word's meaning is expressed, the better it is known, and the more likely it is to be in the person's productive vocabulary.

WPM = Words per Minute

WRAT-3 = Wide Range Achievement Test

WRMT-R = Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised