Teach Primary magazine ‘Ask the Expert’ feature September 2018

Liz Twist explains how scores from NFER’s reliable standardised assessments can be used to monitor pupil progress and help inform future teaching.

Liz Twist has been developing assessments for over 20 years and oversees all NFER assessment research and development projects, including NFER’s own assessment products.

What is a standardised assessment?

Standardised assessments, such as NFER Tests, are trialled with a large nationally representative sample during development to ensure that the tests give you reliable outcomes. They enable pupil performance to be benchmarked against the national average, and meaningfully compared with other pupils and standardised scores from other tests.

What scores do standardised assessments provide?

While most assessments will provide a raw score (the actual mark or score obtained by a pupil in a test), these do not enable meaningful comparisons between tests or pupils. Raw scores from a standardised test can be converted into standardised scores so that the achievement of pupils can be compared directly to the achievement of children nationally, and for the progress of a child to be monitored from test to test. Some tests also provide age-standardised scores which take into account the ages of the pupils taking the tests and compares them only with other students of the same age (in years and months).

How are these scores calculated?

Standardised scores can be calculated from pupils’ raw scores. Usually, tests are standardised so that the average, nationally standardised score is 100, irrespective of the difficulty of the test. This means teachers can readily identify whether a test-taker is above or below the national average. The teacher guides for NFER Tests provide comprehensive guidance for administering and marking the tests. Teacher guides also include access to the NFER Tests Analysis Tool (releasing in autumn 2018) to help you interpret and get the most from your results. This easy-to-use online tool will automatically convert raw scores to standardised and age-standardised scores to save you time and ensure accuracy. 

How can these scores be used to
inform teaching?

When used effectively, scores from standardised assessments are valuable in enabling schools to highlight gaps in attainment, identify patterns and make insightful comparisons. Scores from early or mid-year assessments are particularly useful for identifying areas for development or further consolidation to help formulate teaching plans and support ongoing learning.

How can standardised scores be used
to monitor progress?

By tracking and comparing pupils’ standardised scores over time, they can be used to build a profile of a child’s performance and indicate whether progress is being made. For example, scores from NFER’s autumn tests can be used as a point from which to monitor progress during the autumn term and at the end of the year. Scores from NFER’s summer tests can be used at the end of the year to summarise pupil progress over the duration of the learning period. There is a wealth of further free guidance to support effective assessment in primary schools available at nfer.ac.uk/assessment-hub.