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Terms Used in Individual Standardized Tests

If a specialist has assessed your child for a learning problem, you probably have a report outlining the test results. Are you confused about the test results -- what they mean for your child? This article may answer your questions.

By Joyce Destefanis, M.A.

If your child was assessed individually by a specialist, you've probably received a written or oral report (or both) of the test results. Are you still confused about what the tests actually measured? Do you wonder what the results mean for your child?

Common Terminology

Because different professionals and school districts use various tests, some tests are revised regularly, and new tests often become available, it's impossible to mention every term you might find in a report. Here are some of the more frequently used terms in assessment reports. They are listed according to the specialist who most likely tested your child.

Terms Used by Speech and Language Pathologists

Articulation: Ability to produce speech sounds clearly

Kids with an articulation disorder have difficulty communicating effectively because they distort speech sounds. However, substitution of letter sounds in words is common at certain ages, such as /w/ for /r/ in "rabbit" to get "wabbit."

Morphology: Changes in words, such as adding prefixes or suffixes, or changing the inflection of words when speaking

Prefixes and suffixes change words in predictable ways, e.g., when "s" is added to a word, it becomes plural and changes the meaning from one to more than one. Words with a common root share common meanings, e.g., since "talk" means to speak, adding the suffix "ed" to doesn't change the meaning but defines when the speaking took place. (The suffix "ed" put the action in the past.)

Oral Language: Ability to understand and express spoken language

    Receptive language is listening, remembering, and understanding what someone else says.

Expressive language is the ability to organize thoughts and express them verbally to convey meaning to others.

Phonology: Speech sounds of the language

There are 44 phonemes in English, including sounds made by combining more than one letter, such as /th/. A letter can have more than one sound, such as the different sounds "g" has in "go" and "gentle."

Pragmatics: social language skills

Social language involves at least two people. It includes the ability to maintain eye contact, understand body language of others, take turns in a conversation, stick to the subject, and use oral language appropriate for the situation (speaking quietly in church, not telling rude jokes).

Semantics: Word meanings and the relationships between words

In addition to understanding definitions of words, semantic knowledge includes recognizing words with the same or opposite meaning, for example, knowing "bucket" and "pail" mean the same or that the opposite of "hot" is "cold." It includes understanding figures of speech, for example, knowing "waiting for the other shoe to drop" means waiting for the next related event to happen.

Syntax: Rules for putting words into meaningful sentences

The ordering of words gives meaning to a sentence, e.g., an adjective comes before the noun it describes — "green grass" rather than "grass green" or a noun and verb change position in a statement and a question — "It is raining," or "Is it raining?". Correct grammar also includes agreement in a sentence between subject, what is talked about, and verb, what is happening, for example,"The girl went home," instead of "The girl goed home."