Reading serves as the most essential skill necessary for achievement on standardized tests. Whether the test measures math, science, social studies or reading, students must be able to decode, comprehend and analyze the information given to them to formulate correct test responses, all within a specified period of time. Studies have shown that students with high literacy skills receive higher test scores on standardized tests. A specific range of skills are regarded as important to develop to achieve higher scores.
Accuracy refers to a child's aptitude for reading unknown words correctly, otherwise known at decoding. A student who can decode proficiently will be more likely to understand the passages he reads, thus more likely to formulate correct responses on standardized tests. This skill is considered by many, including the National Association of Elementary Principals, to be the easiest to remedy, as teacher observation can help determine the best course of action to take to improve a student's decoding ability. Without accuracy, fluency, comprehension and motivation will suffer.
Fluency is the ability of the student to read and understand text quickly. This is an important skill for students to acquire because of the time limits placed on standardized tests. Students who are able to decode and process information quickly are able to spend more time analyzing answer choices and formulating extended responses. Giving students ample time to practice reading is an essential component in building this skill. Researchers have found a moderate to high degree of correlation between a student's ability to read fluently and standardized reading achievement scores.
Comprehension is a combination of accuracy and fluency skills. It refers to the student's ability to understand what he has read. If a student struggles to make sense of what is presented in the passages or questions within a standardized test, he will be less likely to answer those test questions correctly. The NAEP has determined that comprehension skills are a key indicator of performance ability on high stakes tests. Critical thinking skills are a component of comprehension, and students should be given ample opportunities to discuss what is read to develop this ability.
Several studies have found a direct relationship between students who are motivated to read and increased standardized test scores. These students spend a significant amount of time reading varied text on a wide basis. This activity has been shown to increase students' background knowledge. This prior knowledge enables them to understand test material more easily and analyze that material to formulate correct test responses. Encouraging all types of reading is essential to help develop well-rounded reading ability, which will result in higher test scores.