What That Test Score Really Means…

Your kids have just been tested to their limit. They’ve probably had at least a week or two of testing just in the last few months.

Over the whole year, the amount of testing time probably comes close to a full month. I’m really just guessing with that number though.

Now the results of those final tests are coming in. But what do they actually mean?

But what do the test scores actually mean?

Raw Score

This is what you are used to: how many correct out of the total number of problems. For example: 15 correct out of 20 problems.

This tells you the basics of what your child did on that test: the pure number of correct answers.


This is the score on a 0-100 percent scale. To get this score, you divide the correct responses by the total number of problems. In our last example this would mean:

15÷20=0.75 or 75%

This is also a typical way to score things in the classroom. It’s what we see on report cards and how final grades are calculated.

Developmental Score

This type of score takes the raw score and then compares it to an age or grade. It can help to shed light on your child’s progress and general achievement.

Based on your child’s raw score (15/20), the test might come back with an age/month or a grade/month score of where your child is on the spectrum.

These scores should absolutely be taken with a huge grain of salt.

They are not truly reflective of anything in terms of giftedness, delays, or potential class placement options. Just because one test shows that your fourth grader is reading at grade 6 month 3 (6.3), it doesn’t mean that he needs to be skipped ahead. It also doesn’t mean that he will understand the concepts and themes in books for older readers. There are still many fourth-grade level skills this student needs to cover.

What developmental scores DO show is relative areas of strength. That 6.3 grade equivalency tells a teacher that this child has good reading skills. That’s it.

Percentile Rank

This type of score shows where your child falls in the curve of scores from all same-grade students.

A percentile rank of 50 means that 50% of students scored better than this child, and the 50% scored lower than this student. The higher the percentile ranks, the better the student’s performance when compared to other students taking the same test. So a percentile rank of 81 means that a child scored higher than 81% of other students.

It should also be noted that a percentile rank of 50 is considered average.

Standard Scores

There are several types of standard scores. Basically, there are benchmark intervals on a rating chart or curve. Raw scores correlate to points on the scale.

On each scale there are performance levels: average, above average, and below average. The difference between the points are called standard deviations. Calculating standard deviations is one type of data that schools consider for special education placement.

What Does This Mean For You

Honestly, it depends on the test and what the score will be used for.

For run-of-the-mill benchmarking or annual tests, the scores just give you a quick snapshot of where your child is in school. You’ll get a sense of academic strength and weaknesses.

Sometimes, these basic tests can open the door to gifted and talented or special education. Extremely high scores can be used as evidence for those GT programs. Very low scores or scores that are all over the place can be a big red flag for teachers. They will be keeping a very close eye on your child in this case.

For college entrance exams, you want a high score and score interpretation across the board. Colleges and universities will be looking for the best and the brightest. Even a lower score won’t rule out admission since the SATs and ACTs are just part of a bigger application package.

There are also special tests given during the special education process. Each of these test results will be explained to you.

If you don’t know what a score means for your kiddo, ask me!

I can help decode test results for you, and your first email or video consult is FREE!


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