Why is there variance with standardised assessment or term test scores?

At times, students test scores differ greatly from term-to-term or end of year standardized assessments are not reflective of teacher assessed progress.

This can be disheartening or stressful for teachers who have been working hard to ensure sufficient learning has occurred.

Why does this happen?

There are many reasons why variance occurs. Teachers need to always ensure that they are securing a representative sample from students. Rushing testing or trying to squeeze an assessment in on the last day of term is not going to yield the most reflective sample of ability.

Students with behaviour, attention or anxiety issues can often score differently when tested at intervals. Other diagnosis can also impact consistency of results.

For some students, the situation is that on a good day, they can perform at an X level/stage but on another day, they can only secure Y level/stage.

Considering that programs are established on results and teachers are accountable for progress, it is imperative that you are collecting a representative sample from students. If you feel that the testing results do not match ability, consider the tips below.


Use the same standardised assessment each year.

Ensure the standardised assessment is one recommended by PLD. See recommendations HERE

Break the assessment into parts/chunks. For example, complete part one before recess and then part two once students settle after the break.

Give students an interval or brain break when administering longer assessments.

Ensure tracking sheets include clear and detailed information about student background/difficulties/diagnosis. This is important as it gives a strong picture/insight into that student.


Once students are 7 ½ years+ and are significantly behind their age-matched peers, they still can progress, but their progress is often more complicated.

Such students are often identified as Tier 3 or Wave 3 students. They require (as much as possible) highly personalised instruction, specialised techniques and programs, and they can progress, but they require this over the long-term and they rarely catch up with their peers. We need to be realistic about the progress we can achieve with older students, but we still need to make specific adaptations to the process to ensure progress (even small progress) is achieved.

Updated on: 20/01/2023

Was this article helpful?

Share your feedback


Thank you!