ATOS & SATs: The Perfect Match

By Margaret Allen

When it comes to children’s reading ability, Reading Ages seem to be a metric with which most people seem most comfortable. If you’re 8 years old and your assessed reading age is 8 years and 11 months, then you must be doing well – and if the results suggest 10 years and 11 months, well clearly you are a very competent reader. 

But is it really as simple as that? Surely content, genre, experience, literary capital and a child’s reading journey will also contribute to their ability to comprehend text. If you then add a child who is seemingly falling behind their reading age when compared to the chronological age – what happens next? Apart from there being a potential “ability gap”, what about the child’s confidence and motivation to read more – which obviously will expose them to more decoding, nuance and inference; all of which will contribute to their reading development.

From trial to a permanent fixture

At the heart of Accelerated Reader is a simple programme that encourages children to read a book and then take a quiz. The reason that the programme works so effectively is that books are levelled to ensure children are reading at a level that offers them enough challenge but doesn’t frustrate them.

The ATOS readability formula is a research-proven tool to guide students to appropriate-level books. ATOS considers the most important predictors of text complexity – average sentence length, average word length, and word difficulty level. As part of our support to customers each year (notwithstanding the current situation regarding SATs, GCSEs) we analyse the various tests and Secondary exam papers from AQA that each of the subject-specific exam papers expects by way of reading ability.

The document has become very popular and is often requested as soon as papers have been released, as schools are keen to identify and understand any potential pitfalls or challenges that children may have faced.

It is interesting to see the high reading levels that primary aged children are expected to meet in order to secure expected standards. It is also equally fascinating to many secondary subject specialists when considering the reading ability of their students, in order to access the specific content being tested.

Any text, from a short paragraph to a full book, can be “levelled’ using our free ‘ATOS Analyzer’ tool, which is available for anyone to use from our website. You can also learn more in my latest podcast chat with Matt Beighton from Literacy Shed, who has found ATOS to be completely accurate in assessing and levelling text.

To find out more about the ATOS Analyzer, click here.

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