Standardised Tests Explained! Sigma-T, Micra-T, Drumcondra.
If you’re living in Ireland, you might have heard your child speaking about big tests that their teacher has told them they will be doing at the end of the year in Math and English. These are the standardized tests, also known as the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test/Micra-T (English tests) and the Sigma-T Test (Math test). Children from 1st to 6th class sit these tests, usually around the end of May and are expected to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in specific areas. These tests are designed to be administered consistently across all schools in Ireland and to provide a standardized measure of student achievement, student learning and progress.
What is the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and Micra-T?
The Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and Micra-T evaluates primary school children's reading skills, including word recognition, phonics, comprehension, and fluency. In these tests, children are expected to demonstrate their ability to read fluently, comprehend what they have read, and decode words accurately.
What is the Sigma-T?
The Sigma-T Test is a standardized math test designed to evaluate cognitive abilities, including verbal, numerical, and spatial reasoning. In the Sigma-T Test, children are expected to demonstrate their ability to reason logically, solve problems, and understand numerical and spatial concepts.
How can I help my child prepare?
Children are not meant to be prepped for these tests and there are strict guidelines instructing teachers not to do so. As many children can be anxious about the tests, the best way to help your child prepare is to discuss any concerns that they may have and reassure them that it is ok to find the test difficult or get stuck on some questions. It can also be a good idea to suggest that they leave any questions they are unsure of until the end of the test and to encourage them to double check their answers if they are finished early.
Can my child be exempted?
Some children do receive exemptions for the standardised tests, if you feel that you child may benefit from this it is best to talk to your child's school. There is information available on the criteria for exemptions here: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/af92e8-standardised-testing-in-primary-schools/
What are the results for?
The test is used to monitor progress in reading skills and maths over time and to compare standards across the country. The tests are a designed to evaluate the effectiveness of educational interventions, identify students who may need additional support or interventions to improve their reading and/or skills. Decisions about attending a support teacher for small group lessons the following year may be influenced by these results. Results may also be used to identify students who may benefit from participation in gifted education programs or more challenging learning. The test is also used to monitor progress in reading skills and math over time and to compare schools across the country.
Can I get the results?
Their results are often sent home in their school reports over the summer. However, if you do not receive the results and would like to see them it is best to ask your child’s school. In Ireland, parents have the right to access their child's standardized test results. The Education Act 1998 provides that parents or guardians are entitled to access their child's educational records, including standardized test results, as long as they do not contain information that could be used to identify other students. The school will keep the corrected test booklet on file for 12 months, after which it is securely destroyed in line with Data Protection Legislation. The results will be kept in the child’s file, which Data Protection Legislation states schools must store securely until the child is 26 years old.
Understanding the results:
You might notice a Sten score on your child’s report card. In standardized tests in Ireland, Sten scores are a way to convert raw test scores into a standardized scale that allows for easier comparison and interpretation. They are used to measure the children's performance relative to a standardized group of children. These results are often used to identify children who may need extra support or more challenging work in the next academic year.
Sten scores do not represent how many questions a child got correct/incorrect, the reflect how the child performed in comparison to other children. For example, if your child got a Sten of 4, then they did the same or better than 4 out of ten children in their class level in Ireland.
Sten scores range from 1 to 10, with a mean (average) score of 5. A Sten score of 5 is considered average, indicating that the student's performance is in line with the average performance of the standardization group or their class level.
The Sten score scale is divided into bands. Scores of 1-3 are below average, scores of 4-7 are considered average, and scores of 8-10 are above average. Each Sten band covers a range of raw scores, allowing for a broader understanding of a student's performance. What if I’m worried about the results? Where can I get help?
If you have any concerns about the results, it is best to discuss them with the class teacher and also to raise your concerns with your child’s new teacher for the following year when school restarts in September. However, standardized tests do not always show the whole picture; they are only one test, on one day which many different factors influencing the results. Results from standardized tests should be considered in conjunction with other measures, such as teacher observations, classroom performance, and formative assessments. It is important to remember that as the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) states, Standardised Tests are NOT intelligence tests and their main purpose is to help a teacher identify strengths and weaknesses in individual pupils and to offer some guidance to parents. Standardised tests are only one of a number of ways that we monitor and measure a child’s progress.
Educational Research Centre. (2015). Drumcondra Reading Test: Manual. Dublin: Educational Research Centre.
Educational Research Centre. (2016). Sigma-T Manual. Dublin: Educational Research Centre.
Morrison, T. G., & McWilliams, S. (2016). Standardised testing in Ireland: Challenges, opportunities and alternatives. Irish Educational Studies, 35(2), 115-123.