What Does the Woodcock Johnson Standardized Test Measure?


School psychologists and special educators often find themselves spending a significant amount of time explaining academic assessments to parents and general education teachers. Of these assessments, one of the longest and most commonly utilized is the Woodcock-Johnson. If parents and educators have a basic understanding of what this 22-part test measures, they can use its results to make better informed decisions on developing child-centered education programs.


  • The test has five parts designed to assess a student's reading skills. Test 1: Letter-Word Identification assesses decoding and letter-recognition skills. Test 2: Reading Fluency evaluates a student's ability to accurately read passages when timed for three minutes. Test 9: Passage Comprehension assesses reading comprehension by pointing to pictures representing a sentence, and fills in the appropriate word in blank spaces. Test 13: Word Attack assesses a student's ability to identify letters that make certain sounds and to spell nonsense words. Test 17: Reading Vocabulary asks students to orally respond with antonyms, synonyms or analogies.

Written Language

  • There are four tests on the exam that assess a student's written language. Test 7: Spelling assesses a student's ability to write letters and spell words that the assessor dictates. Test 8: Writing Fluency tests a student's ability to accurately and quickly write sentences. Students have seven minutes to complete as many sentences as possible based on visual prompts. Test 11: Writing Samples evaluates a student's ability to use written language to respond to prompts. The early part of the test asks for one-word answers and it progresses in difficulty to full-sentence answers. Test 16: Editing assesses a student's ability to identify and correct errors in punctuation and capitalization, grammar and spelling.

Oral Language

  • There are four parts that assess a student's oral language skills. Test 3: Story Recall asks students to orally retell stories that the assessor plays from a recording. Points are given for each key detail a student remembers. Test 4: Understanding Directions assesses a student's ability to follow commands and series of commands. The student listens to a recording of instructions and then points to items in pictures as instructed. Test 14: Picture Vocabulary asks students to point to pictures of items named by the assessor. Test 15: Oral Comprehension assesses a student's ability to fill in missing words in sentences read out loud.


  • Four parts -- the final consisting of two subtests -- assess a student's mathematical skills. Test 5: Calculation asks students to solve computation problems. The early part of the test requires students to write an orally dictated number, and it progresses in difficulty to include advanced concepts like fractions, algebra, trigonometry, geometry and calculus. Test 6: Math Fluency is a timed test and assesses a student's ability to quickly and accurately solve fact problems. Students have seven minutes to complete as many problems as possible. Test 18: Quantitive Concepts has two subtests that assess a student's understanding of mathematical concepts like symbols, shapes and vocabulary, and the ability to recognize patterns numerical patterns.

Academic and Supplemental Knowledge

  • The standard and extended batteries include a variety of tests that assess specific academic skills. Test 19: Academic Knowledge contains three subtests in science, social studies and humanities and assesses a student's knowledge of basic scientific principles, geography, art and literature. Test 12: Story Recall-Delayed is administered at least 30 minutes after the first administration of Test 3: Story Recall and assesses a student's ability to recall facts about stories after time has passed. Test 21: Sound Awareness tests a student's ability to rhyme, delete sounds from words, change words with sound substitution and reverse words by changing the order of the sounds.


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