Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment: An Effective Guide

Early reading diagnostic assessment helps monitor students’ progress and needs. It is designed to measure what students know, can do, and need to do to become proficient readers at their level.

The reading assessment measures students’ skills in the five components of reading. These are phonemic awareness, vocabulary, phonics, reading comprehension, and fluency.

Let’s delve a little deeper.

Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment: An Overview

The Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment (ERDA) assesses the early reading skills of kindergarten, first, second and third-grade students. The ERDA aim to provide additional information to help teachers aid students in their learning journey.

ERDA includes items on all five of the components of reading (phonemic awareness, vocabulary, phonics, comprehension, and fluency). Additionally, the ERDA helps students and teachers understand the role and relative importance of phonemic and whole-word decoding skills in reading. ERDA also helps teachers monitor students’ growth in their reading skills throughout the year.

The reading diagnostic instrument identifies students’ strengths and weaknesses for specific interventions. Knowing which students are doing well or not so well at any time allows teachers to intervene with additional instructional strategies.

The ERDA also give parents important information about their child’s reading skills. It encourages students’ growth in reading and the prompt revision of their home-school learning environment to better support their learning.

Early Reading Diagnostic Assessments

1. Phonemic and phonological awareness.

Phonemes, rhymes (kindergarten only), rimes, and syllables are subtests that assess a child’s ability to hear sound units in spoken language. They are used to determine the child’s phonemic and phonological awareness comprehension. While phonemes, rimes and syllables apply to all grades (kindergarten to grade 3), rhymes apply to only kindergarten.

2. Phonics

Subtests that assess phonics are letter recognition and pseudoword decoding. A letter is shown to kindergarten and first-grade children to assess letter recognition. Afterwards, they are asked to point to the letter and say its name. Grades one to three children are administered with pseudoword decoding. They are offered a list of pseudo-words and must pronounce them as quickly and accurately as possible.

3. Fluency

From kindergarten to grade three, fluency is assessed by word reading and passage fluency subtests. A child is presented with a list of words to read aloud in order to assess word reading. Passage fluency is measured by listening to the student read a series of brief, and informational passages aloud. Each passage is in ascending order of difficulty and scored based on time and accuracy.

4. Vocabulary

To assess a student’s receptive vocabulary, set of pictures is shown and a word is said to the student. The student is then asked to point to the picture representing the word. Assessment of synonyms, word opposites, definitions, and multiple meanings provide other indicators of student’s vocabulary.

5. Comprehension

Word items, sentence items with target words in context, and passage items are used by ERDA to accurately assess student comprehension. For word items, kindergarten and first-graders are asked to read one or two words and point to a picture that accurately represent the word.

Assessment by sentence items requires the student to read a sentence of high-frequency words aloud and respond to a comprehension question in some instances.

Guided reading practice between two girls so that they can help each other.
Partner reading photo by Ben White on Unsplash


The Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment measures a child’s skills in different areas essential for reading. These tests are designed for children beginning to read (kindergarten, first, second and third-grade students).

Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment measures a child’s phonemic awareness, vocabulary, phonics, comprehension, and fluency. Results of these reading tests identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and help teachers and parents develop intervention strategies.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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