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The Drumcondra Tests
A Note for Parents


What are the Drumcondra Tests ?

Nowadays, it is common practice for schools to assess pupils using standardised tests such as the Drumcondra Primary Reading / Mathematics / Spelling. These tests are administered to groups of children by the children's class teachers (or another teacher in the school), following procedures outlined in the test manual.

What do the test scores mean ?
In developing the DPMT-R, the test was administered to nationally-representative samples of about 2000 children at each class level. The results were used to develop test norms. The test norms allow teachers to compare the performance of an individual pupil in their class with that of other pupils nationally at the same class level.

The results of standardised tests may be reported in terms of
Raw Scores, Standard Scores, Sten Scores, or Percentile Ranks.

The Raw Score corresponds to the number of questions answered correctly by the child. Thus, on a test of 60 questions, a raw score of 30 means that the child answered half of the questions correctly.

In standardising a test, Raw Scores are transformed to
Standard Scores. Standard Scores tell you the position of a child relative to other children nationally. On most standardised tests, the average Standard Score is set at 100. The following table may be helpful in interpreting standard scores. It provides a descriptor for scores in each of several score ranges, and also indicates how the performance of a child may be interpreted relative to other children in the norm group.


Standard Score Range Descriptor Comments
130 and above Well Above Average Top 2% of children
120-129 Above Average 8% of children
110-119 High Average 15% of children
90-109 Average (middle) 50% of children
80-89 Low Average 15% of children
70-79 Below Average 8% of children
Below 70 Well Below Average Bottom 2% of children


Thus, a Standard Score of 115 is in the high average range, and indicates a fairly strong performance on a test. Fewer than 25% of children achieve a score that is this high. A score of 75 is in the below average range, and indicates low performance. Fewer than 10% of children achieve a score that is this low.

Performance on standardised tests may also be reported in terms of a
Sten Score. These scores are on a scale of 1 to 10.

The following table may be useful in interpreting Sten Scores:

Sten Core Range Descriptor Comments
8-10 High / Above Average Top sixth of pupils
4-7 Average Middle two-thirds of pupils
1-3 Low / Below Average Bottom sixth of pupils


Thus, a Sten Score of 2 indicates that a child performed poorly on the test relative to other children at the child's class level nationally. A Sten Score of 5 indicates that the child achieved a score that is in the average range, while a Sten Score of 9 indicates a high score on the test.

Finally, a child's score may be reported in terms of a
Percentile Rank.

If a child achieves a Percentile Rank of 40, it means that the child achieved a score on the test that was the same as, or better than, 40% of children nationally (and lower than 60%). Similarly, a Percentile Rank of 70 means that the child did as well as, or better than, 70% of children on whom the test was standardised (and less well than 30%).

How accurate are achievement test scores ?
Unfortunately, there is error associated with all test scores. A child's test score is an estimate of his or her true score. If a child achieves a Standard Score of 115, it indicates that the child's true score is probably in a range or band or scores around 115. For example, we might say that there is a 95% chance that the child's 'true' score falls in the range 110 to 120. This means that your child's score on a test such as a Drumcondra Test is an
estimate of his/her 'true' achievement rather than a precise measure of achievement.

Because of this error margin, if your child score drops a few percentile ranks, this should not necessarily be cause for alarm. Remember, these scores reflect how your child did at a certain time on a certain day of the year ! Perhaps the child wasn't feeling well, had other things on his mind, or just panicked on the day of the test. The scores given by the tests should be used as a guideline only.



Karl O Broin 2017 | karlobroin@gmail.com

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