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Progressive achievement tests (PATs)

Progressive achievement tests (PATs) are standardised assessments, developed specifically for use in New Zealand schools by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). They assess students' mathematics, listening comprehension (year levels 3–10), reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, and punctuation and grammar (year levels 4–10). Each PAT is a 40–50 minute test that is easy to administer, mark, and score. The questions in PATs are all multi-choice.  Some PATs are able to be done online.

When do you use them?

Although PATs can be administered individually, it is common practice to test a group at the same time, thereby gaining group comparison data as well as individual progress information.  There is flexibility on when to test. Schools should be clear about their purpose for choosing the assessment and define their use of the data for learning. This will inform the time of the year that it is most appropriate to test students.

What do they give you?

Each PAT has an achievement scale that shows the level of knowledge and skills a student is working at, and can be used to track student, class, and year group progress over time. Using scale scores to measure increases in student knowledge and skills can indicate teachers’ and students’ strengths and needs.  Scale descriptions at the back of the teacher manuals support teacher judgments around student achievement, describe increasing knowledge and skills, and offer possible next steps. Students can be compared to a nationally representative sample by converting test scores to stanines.

There is also an online marking and analysis service, available by subscription, which provides a range of reports at the student, class, question, and cohort level.

Points to consider

It is important to be aware that, if you wish to use stanines to make comparisons, these will be most valid if the test is carried out in term 1, as the PAT tests were normed in March.  If testing is done in term 4, stanine information for the following year should be used, and if testing takes place during terms 2 or 3, the stanine information will be less valid as there is no obvious group with which to compare the students. Scale scores can be used at any time of the year to identify achievement and track progress between time points.

There is an on-going materials cost associated with using PATs.

An overview of the different PATs:

Mathematics: designed for assessment of students in years 3–10 in the areas of number knowledge, number strategies, algebra, geometry and measurement, and statistics.  The tests come as reusable booklets with separate answer sheets.  This assessment can be done online.

Listening comprehension: uses short stories, extracts from novels, poems, and nonfiction texts to assess a student's comprehension of texts read to them, thereby providing information about meaning making that is independent of text-decoding skills.  Helps teachers detect students with poor listening skills and those whose listening comprehension differs significantly from their reading comprehension. The tests are aimed at years 3–10. All texts and questions are presented on CDs.

Reading comprehension: tests students' ability to make meaning across a range of texts including narrative, instructional, persuasive, and poetic.  The tests reflect current developments in the teaching and learning of reading comprehension, and are designed to help teachers determine achievement levels in reading comprehension as well as indicate possible gaps in learning.  The tests, aimed at years 4–10, come as reusable booklets with separate answer sheets.  The reading comprehension and reading vocabulary tests are combined in one booklet but are to be used separately.

Reading vocabulary: indicates students' ability to understand the words they read, using a range of vocabulary in context.  The tests, aimed at years 4–10, come as reusable booklets with separate answer sheets.  The reading comprehension and reading vocabulary tests are combined in one booklet but are to be used separately. Reading vocabulary can be done online.

Punctuation and grammar: assesses student ability to use the grammatical conventions of standard New Zealand English, including punctuation, in context. Gives an overall indication of year 4–10 students’ level of achievement and helps teachers pinpoint specific aspects of punctuation and grammar for further teaching and learning. Test booklets are reusable with separate answer sheets.

More information is available on the NZCER website