Articles on: Literacy

Which standardised assessment does PLD recommend?

When investigating the options to assess single word reading and spelling skills there are many testing options available on the market. The list below provides some of the basic tools available to schools that are relatively easy to access, are cost effective and relatively time efficient to administer.

None of the assessmenst can be purchased through PLD. It is recommended that schools contact ACER. (
ACER has education consultants available to provide information on the specific tests. The consultants are available on the following email: or on the toll free number: 1800 338 402

Single Word Reading Tests:

Burt Word Reading Test (1981) Alison Gilmore, Cedric Croft and Neil Reid
The Burt Word Reading Test provides a measure of an aspect of a student’s word reading skills, i.e. word recognition. The test card consists of 110 words printed in decreasing size of type and graded in approximate order of difficulty. The quick test will enable teachers to form a broad estimate of a child's reading achievement to aid decisions about appropriate teaching and reading materials. (Cost: Approximately $30).

The Castles and Coltheart Test 2 (CC2) assesses the functioning of the key processes in single word reading: sounding-out ability and whole word recognition ability. The full test consists of 40 regular words, 40 irregular words and 40 nonwords, which are presented one-at-a-time, in mixed order, and with gradually increasing difficulty. A stopping rule is applied separately for each item type, with presentation discontinuing after five consecutive items are read incorrectly. The test has been normed on over 1000 Australian children aged from 6 years 0 months to 11 years 6 months. The online version of the test calculates a separate accuracy score for each item type and converts this to a "z score" for the child's age based on the normative data. (Cost: free, upon registration).

TOWRE-2 Test of Word Reading Efficiency (2nd Ed.) The TOWRE-2 is a measure of a student's ability to pronounce printed words (Sight Word Efficiency) and phonemically regular nonwords (Phonemic Decoding Efficiency) accurately and fluently. Because it can be administered very quickly, the test provides an efficient means of monitoring the growth of two kinds of word reading skill that are critical in the development of overall reading ability. The National Reading Panel in 2000 indicated that frequent monitoring of growth in essential reading skills is important in the delivery of effective reading instruction for all students. Frequent assessment of critical reading skills is also a central aspect of the popular Response to Intervention model of service delivery. Although the TOWRE-2 has not been developed to provide weekly or monthly assessments, it certainly can be used to monitor progress in growth of word-level reading skills three or four times per year. The TOWRE-2 was normed on over 1,700 individuals ranging in age from 6 to 24 years and residing in 12 states and Washington, DC.

The Complete Kit: Approximately $320

UK Phonics Screening Check: is designed for Term 3 Year 1 (reviewing the first 18 months of literacy instruction). The screen requires students to read/decode a series of real and pseudowords.
2016 screen: (The threshold mark is 32 in the UK and 28 in Australia)
2017 screen: (The threshold mark is 32 in the UK and 28 in Australia)
2018 screen: (The threshold mark is 32 in the UK and 28 in Australia)
2019 screen: (The threshold mark is 32 in the UK and 28 in Australia)
2021 Screen: (

Single Word Spelling Tests:

The South Australian Spelling Test - Form A and B contained within ‘Approaches to teaching and assessment’ (2nd Ed.) Peter Westwood (2005)
Yes, the norms are getting old as the revised edition was republished in 2005.
It is however an inexpensive and accessible option for schools. For example: Form A - 2022. 2024 & 2026. Form B - 2023, 2025 & 2027.

PAT R Spelling Test Set up fee and charge per student. Organised through ACER PAT assessments will not provide a reading and spelling age, but rather a stanine. Yes, these can be used instead of a reading/spelling age. An actual age would be preferable, but stanines can also be used.

Test to Avoid:

The Waddington Reading and Spelling Test are not recommended
The Schonell reading and spelling tests are also not recommended:
In additional all 'whole language' and 'balanced literacy' assesments are also not recommended. For example Running Records, PM Benchmarking, Marie Clay Observational Survey. etc.

Reading Comprehension Assessments:

Tests of Reading Comprehension: (ACER)


Neale Analysis (3rd edition)

Reading comprehension assessments for junior primary students (or students operating at a low junior primary level) are challenging to locate. Students require a certain level of decoding and word reading ability in order to attempt a reading comprehension assessment.
Option 1: For students with limited decoding, phonic and word attack strategies, an individualised and in-depth screen is presented.
Option 2: An indication of future reading comprehension ability is typically reflected by performance with Blank Level Questioning. Hence the screens in the comprehension question programs will present an indication of later comprehension ability, when students are able to read the text themselves. For example:
Early Years: Comprehension Questions for 4 Year Olds
Foundation: Comprehension Questions for 5 Year Olds
Year 1 & 2: Comprehension Questions for 6 & 7 Year Olds

PM Benchmarking and SSP are TOTALLY incompatible. There is no effective way to match PM Benchmarks with SSP or PLD. You can read more on this here:
Plus, keep in mind, although PM suggested that their assessments are also assessing reading, they are not supported by the evidence base.

Further Assistance:
ACER has education consultants available to provide information on the specific tests. The consultants are available on the following email: or on the toll free number: 1800 338 402

Alternatively book and individual ‘coaching’ session with Diana Rigg to review the school’s literacy plan and how the assessments cycles are operating within the literacy plan.

Updated on: 24/11/2022

Was this article helpful?

Share your feedback


Thank you!