Basic Word Spelling

This test assesses the child’s ability to spell simple, highly familiar words that may be encountered in primer books or in environmental print. The first two items are the child’s own name and the word MUM; these are used as practice items to ease the child into the task, although they are scored. Of the remaining eight words, three are high frequency content words and five are high frequency function (or grammatical) words. 

Age range

This test is suitable for children in Reception Year and Year 1, and may be appropriate for older children who are experiencing reading and spelling difficulties.  Also, while most preschool children will not have formally learned to spell, many have some ideas about writing and, even at this stage, their partial or invented spellings can be informative about their current and later literacy outcomes.

Scoring: accuracy

Each spelling is scored for ‘binary’ accuracy, that is, one point for fully correct spellings or zero points for incorrect spellings, producing a score out of 9 (child’s name is not scored).  However, practitioners are encouraged to transcribe and qualitatively evaluate children’s invented spelling attempts as these can provide excellent insights into individual children’s notions about the spelling process, as well as about their level of mastery of the component skills that contribute to spelling ability. 


Current English norms are available only for children in Reception Year and Year 1 as children typically reach mastery by the end of Year 1.

Materials for administration

Participant Sheet and pencil or pen (as is typical in the child’s classroom) for participant, Basic Words Spelling Task Score Sheet

Please ensure you are using the most up-to-date test version:

Test Version: 3

Norm Version: 1

Updated: 23.02.2021

You must be logged in to access test materials.