Interpreting Test Scores

Test publishers use a variety of terms when reporting test scores. To help you interpret these scores, VaHomeschoolers has provided explanations of the most common terms.

For additional information on interpreting test scores, see Explaining Test Results to Parents, ERIC Digest 102.


A norm is test data (scores) that allow for the comparison of a particular score with a group of scores on the same test.

Nationally Normed Standardized Test

A nationally normed standardized test is a test that has been given to large numbers of students at specific grade levels and whose scores make up the norms which make it possible to compare one student with all the others. They test a broad content area with items increasing in difficulty so as to discriminate among students.

Percentile Score

A percentile score indicates on a scale of 1 to 99 the percentage of students scoring at, or lower than, the student’s test score. The percentile score does not provide information about the student’s actual score but only on how that score related to the scores of other students.

For example, a child scoring in the 72nd percentile received a score higher than 72% of the other children who took the test.

Percentile scores should not be confused with percentage correct scores. Percentile scores allow you to compare one child’s scores with a group of children who took the test. Percentage correct scores record the number of questions that a child answered correctly out of the total number of questions.

Percentage Correct Scores (Raw Score)

Percentage correct scores tell the number of items answered correctly. Independently this number is meaningless.


A stanine is an abbreviation for “standard nine.” Scores are broken into nine intervals, with 1 as the lowest and 9 as the highest:

  • Scores of 9, 8, and 7 are considered “above average”
  • Scores of 6, 5, and 4 are considered “average”
  • Scores of 3, 2 and 1 are considered “below average”

A stanine score of 5 would indicate the student’s score was average in comparison to other student’s taking the same test. Stanines provide a quick overview of a child’s score in relation to other children’s scores but does not permit for fine discrimination between students.

For additional information on stanines, see What the *Bleep* Is a Stanine?.

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