Resources‎ > ‎

Diagnostic Assessment

The diagnostic report is the report that Pearl will issue to the child’s parents and the child’s School/College (where relevant) at the end of the assessment process when a full assessment has been requested. The report is a formal document which can be used by the Centre or School as evidence for obtaining access arrangements (exam concessions) for external examinations, or as evidence to support the application for additional funding and support for the child, such as top-up funding or high level needs funding.

Background Information:

Pearl only uses fully standardised assessments. These are assessments which have been rigorously tested and evaluated for accuracy across a large population, and are well recognised for their accuracy in obtaining appropriate information. However, it is always worth remembering that no test is 100 per cent accurate. 

Before conducting any any assessment Pearl will issue developmental questionnaires. These provide her with background information relating to the child to be assessed and where any strengths, needs and concerns may lie. They provide the context for assessment and enable Pearl to focus assessment upon the most relevant and appropriate areas. 

The full diagnostic assessment provides detailed and diagnostic information relating to the strengths and needs of the child. It is most suitable where a parent or school has concerns, but the child has not been assessed in the past as it provides a holistic analysis of child's strengths and weaknesses. It is suitable for application for additional funding, for instance for an EHCP, additional top-up funding, disability students allowance and access arrangements. A full report is provided as an outcome of the assessment which details the results of the assessment, analyses these results and provides key recommendations for staff, parents and the pupil themselves. 

The short assessment provides information relating to the key areas relevant for application for access arrangements. No report is provided, but a summary 'Pupil Profile' is produced as an outcome, along with any additional application forms (e.g. Form 8 Section C), as appropriate. The short assessment also provides recommendations for teaching and support staff, parents and the pupil themselves. 

The full diagnostic assessment: 

The assessment itself takes between 2 and 3 hours and depends upon the age and performance of the pupil. It can be conducted in the child's home, school or at Pearl's home. Pearl offers breaks as appropriate. The assessment consists of a number of tests which each take a varying length of time.  The standard battery of tests include:

  • Verbal reasoning
  • non-verbal reasoning
  • Reading - accuracy, speed, comprehension, fluency and efficiency
  • phonological awareness and discrimination - including segmenting and blending
  • spelling
  • writing  - legibility, comprehension and speed
  • auditory and visual processing
  • auditory and visual short-term and working memory
Additional tests may be administered, according to need, which include:
  • mathematical ability
  • language reasoning, expression and comprehension
  • motor coordination, visual-motor perception and visual-motor integration 
Pearl will discuss whether additional tests may be needed before she conducts the assessment.

Short assessment for access arrangement applications:

This assessment takes about 1.5 hours and is conducted in the student's school. The assessment focuses upon areas of need to highlight strengths and weaknesses and where any specific concerns may lie which would require a special dispensation or access arrangement. The standard battery of tests include:

  • Reading: accuracy, speed, comprehension, efficiency
  • Spelling
  • auditory and visual processing speed
  • auditory working and short term memory
  • writing legibility
  • writing speed
Additional tests which might be administered are:

  • Expressive/receptive language tests
  • motor coordination, visual perception, visual motor integration

There are a number of words and phrases used within reports which are specific to psychometric assessments. In order to interpret and understand the implications of the assessments undertaken, outlined below is the key terminology which often forms part of the assessment process and may be referred to within a report.


This is what an individual is can do.


The difference between a test and an assessment is that a 'test' usually provides a final score which provides quantitative information only. The assessment process is the mechanism for interpreting the test data whilst observing the engagement and interaction of the child/young person and analysing the information gained through the assessment process. It is a 360 degree analysis of performance.


Standardised assessments are often weakest at the extreme ranges of the ages that the tests have been designed for. At the lowest end, the youngest children would answer the least number of correct questions and hence the average is limited to a smaller sample. Similarly, at the upper end the oldest participants would answer the most number of questions, thereby not providing a true picture of the range available at this age.

Centile scores

Percentile or centile scores provide a centile ranking to compare clients with their peers. They can be viewed as steps on a ladder, from 1 to 100. If a hypothetical group of 100 students of a similar age are ranked according to their test scores, a score of 85 per cent would be the 85th student and there would be 15 student achieving higher results and 84 student achieving lower results. A student achieving 20% can be deemed to be equal to or surpassing 20 per cent of his or her peers. Although it would be thought that 50 per cent is average, the average range is considered to be 25 to 74 per cent.


Understanding spoken words and their meaning (verbal Comprehension) or written words and their meaning (reading comprehension). It can also mean understanding non-verbal clues like gestures. Difficulty in reading comprehension can lead to difficulty in understanding the true meaning of the text and can lead to inaccurate interpretations. A candidate with reading comprehension difficulties may qualify for a reader or additional time, if by reading slowly they are able to improve their reading comprehension score.

Confidence Intervals

This is the measure of the accuracy of the assessment. It describes how confident the assessor is with the measurement or result. 95 per cent confidence intervals are usually quoted. This means that the assessor can be 95 per cent confident that the actual performance of the client lies within the range given. For instance, if a test was carried out with the same client twenty times, and test practice effects and external factors were taken into account, the score would fall between the lower and upper limit on 19 out of 20 occasions. 


Is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words. Understanding these relationships gives children the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven't seen before. Although children may sometimes figure out some of these relationships on their own, most children benefit from explicit instruction in this area. If a candidate has difficulty in decoding their reading will be impaired despite having ability if presented with information orally. They may qualify for a reader in exams.

Expressive difficulties

Difficulty conveying thoughts and messages through language.

Fluency Score

Fluency is associated with the ability to read or write easily, accurately and automatically. The score takes account of ability to decode words with accuracy. A low fluency score would disadvantage a candidate who otherwise is able to respond appropriately to exam questions. They may therefore qualify for a reader or additional time.

Grammatical Structures

The system of rules governing a language. Difficulties with grasping grammatical structures leads to difficulties in reading comprehension and/or writing. A candidate with difficulties in grammatical structures may qualify for a reader if they are able to understand the question when presented orally. If their difficulties impacts their written scripts to the extent that they are unintelligible, they may qualify for either a scribe, a wordprocessor or a transcription.

Handwriting Speed

Usually measured in words per minute. The score measures how many words a candidate is able to write freely when not constrained by subject knowledge. Difficulty in handwriting speed may be a result of:

·         Slow processing of information

·         Problems with spelling

·         Motor co-ordination difficulties

·         Labour intensive and tiring

A candidate with slow handwriting when compared to peers, may qualify for additional time, a wordprocesssor or a scribe.

Long-Term Memory

Indefinitely stores an unlimited amount of information.

Non-Verbal Ability

This is the ability to interpret information which is presented in a non-verbal format such as through diagrams, patterns and so on. It is a useful measure for determining underlying ability in individuals with language and communication difficulties.

Non-word reading

This is a measure of phonological awareness by measuring ability to decode non-words, or made-up ‘words’, from their sounds. Phonological awareness is believed to be crucial to the development of reading.

Oral Expression

Ability to express oneself through spoken words.

Phonological Awareness/Difficulties

Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate sounds (phonemes) in words. It is a foundation skill for reading and spelling development. Phonological Difficulty is a difficulty in selecting, creating, discriminating or using correct speech sounds when speaking. This may affect the development of Literacy skills such as reading and spelling.

Phonological Processing

Ability to process and decode phonics (oral sounds), whether presented orally or in written form.

Processing Speed

Rate at which an individual is able to decode information and produce an accurate response. If a candidate presents with a slow processing speed s/he may qualify for additional time during exams.

Psychological Tests

Psychological tests measure qualities which are less tangible than physical measurements such as height or weight.  They often measure behavioural characteristics which are hidden

Raw Score

This is the actual score obtained on the test.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension measure the ability to read for meaning. Being able to provide and accurate interpretation of reading material. A candidate who has difficulty in interpreting written text when compared to it being presented orally, may qualify for a reader. It may be more appropriate to allow extra time if given time a candidate is able to interpret the text.

Reading Speed

This is the speed at which an individual can read individual words. A candidate who demonstrates a slow reading speed may qualify for additional time.


The ability to process information to make judgements and conclusions. It is also related to understanding the issues of cause and effect. It requires cognitive elements of understanding, considering, explaining and rationality.

Receptive Language Difficulty

This is a difficulty in understanding spoken language and will affect the interpretation of questions during an exam. A candidate may qualify for an oral language modifier or modified language paper in certain circumstances.


The reliability of a test is how consistent it is at measuring what it sets out to measure. For instance, if a test was administered to a client 5 times, disregarding the effects of learning the test, how similar are the results gained? The more reliable the test, the closer the results would be to each other. Reliability will be affected by random error (boredom, fatigue and so on).

Sensorimotor Functioning

This is the development of the brain which leads to the integration and co-ordination of sensory information leading to an appropriate motor response. Difficulties in sensorimotor development will impact handwriting and a candidate may qualify for the use of a wordprocessor, voice-activated computer, a scribe or additional time. If the sensorimotor development is significantly impaired, a candidate in extreme circumstances may qualify for a practical assistant, that is someone who aids their movement.

Short-term Memory

Capacity for holding a small amount of information in an active and readily available state for a short period of time. The capacity of the short-term memory is said to be 7 units of information +/- 2 units and can be held for just a few seconds, and it can be easily diverted by external factors. Difficulties in short-term memory may affect the ability to retain information during exams and may result in the candidate taking longer than normally expected to read, and re-read questions whilst aiming to retain the information and formulate a response. A candidate with a difficulty in short-term memory may qualify for additional time. Short-term memory difficulties may present as distractibility, and a prompter may be a more suitable arrangement in this case.

Single-Word Accuracy

Ability to read with accuracy single words when not placed within a context. This score provides an indicator of an individual’s ability to read written text accurately. A candidate with single-word reading difficulties will have difficulties reading generally and may qualify for extra time or a reader.

Standardised Assessment

A standardised assessment or test is a test that is administered and scored in a consistent or ‘standard’ way. They are designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring and interpretations are consistent allowing comparison to be made between scores. They are administered and scored in a predetermined and standard way based upon the results of the standardisation process. Standardised tests are developed and administered to a large sample of clients before being published, the data obtained is used to develop the scores for each client age group.

They provide a standardised method for assessing and diagnosing individuals. However, they are inherently unable to make a true representation of every member of society, so test bias will exist.

Standard Score

The standard score is a score which is calculated from the raw score obtained. It allows clients to be compared with others of similar age. The average range is 85-115, the low average range is 80-85 and the below average range is below a score 55-80.

A score is required to be within the below average range for a student to qualify for access arrangements.

Underlying Ability

This is the true ability of an individual and is usually measured using non-verbal scores. A discrepancy between non-verbal and verbal ability may indicate a specific language difficult, whereas low verbal and non-verbal scores indicates general cognitive delay.


This is a measure of confidence that the test is assessing what it sets out to measure. There will always be errors due to fatigue, boredom, external influences and so  on but systematic errors need to be reduced as far as possible. However, if for instance, a client struggles to understand the language of the test or the illustrations are outdated, the test will fail to accurately measure the true attainment of the client. In order for the test to measure what it sets out to measure, it needs to be valid.

Reliability and validity are related. The lower the reliability the lower the validity. As error increases, so the confidence that the test is measuring what it sets out to measure reduces.

Verbal Memory

Also known as auditory memory, it is the ability to retain an ordered sequence of verbal or auditory information for a short period of time. A candidate with verbal (auditory) memory difficulties will have difficulty demonstrating their true ability during oral exams, may struggle to organise and sequence their thoughts and  may lose the thread in a conversation, multiple instructions given orally and may qualify for access arrangements.

Verbal Processing Speed

This is the time taken to process familiar verbal  (aural) information such as letters and digits. If a candidate demonstrates significantly reduced verbal processing speed, they may qualify for additional time in exams in order to be able to allow time to process the information and formulate responses.

Visual Stress

This is a term used to describe the experience of eye strain and/or difficulty in focussing leading to headaches, illusions of colour or movement in written text. A candidate may require coloured overlays, coloured paper, magnifier  or enlarged print if this is their normal way of working. It may however, be more appropriate to provide rest breaks.

Visual-motor perceptual skills

Ability to process information visually and make an appropriate motor (movement) response. As with sensorimotor development, a candidate who experiences significant difficulties in visuomotor perception and integration may experience difficulty with interpreting text and diagrams and with handwriting. Access arrangements could include a scribe, wordprocessor, voice activated software,


Visuospatial processing

This is the ability to perceive objects and the relationships between them. A candidate with a strong visuospatial memory will be able to interpret pictures and diagrams more readily than spoken information, and there will be a mis-match between their verbal and non-verbal comprehension scores.

Working Memory

This is the memory used to hold temporarily, process, manipulate and retrieve information. It is the executive and attentional aspect of short-term memory. A difficulty in working memory can lead to a reduction in the ability to be able to process information and may impact ability within a number of situations such as mathematical problem-solving. Jottings may need to be encouraged to enable a student to keep track of their thought processes. A candidate may benefit from additional time in exams to allow for the extra time needed to make notes and jottings or to re-read information, as the simultaneous act of decoding textual information whilst absorbing the information from it, can lead to difficulties in interpreting information - this is particularly true where complex subject-specific vocabulary is used. Additionally, a candidate may benefit from rest breaks if the concentration within exam conditions reduces their concentration and working memory ability. Reading aloud may also benefit the candidate to hear the words as they are read.