Fundamentals Of Spelling Assessment and How to Conduct One

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It goes without saying that spelling is one of the most important fundamental skills for mastering a language. Your writing and reading skills are directly dependent on your spelling prowess. You certainly don’t want to be the cause of snickering in a public place because of your clumsy spelling skills.

So, you need to work on your spelling skills as it is an evident determiner of your fluency in a language.

But where should start?

You need a scale that can indicate your current skill level so that you can strategize your path to achieve your desired skill level.

In short, you need a method of spelling assessment.

As you can guess, we’re taking a deeper dive into the concept of spelling assessment today. First, we’d cover the basics revolving around the concept and later discuss the most convenient way of spelling baseline assessment online for free!

This article will cover —

  • What is a spelling assessment?
  • Core components of a spelling assessment
  • Standardized spelling assessments
  • How to conduct a spelling level assessment online? [for free]


What Is a Spelling Assessment?

A spelling assessment or a spelling level test is a method for determining an individual’s level of understanding of conventional spelling patterns and rules. The assessments often focus on but don’t limit to — phonological, orthographic, morphological, and etymological knowledge.

Some experts label the assessment areas as the core components of assessment.

Now, you may ask — isn’t spelling is all about arranging the letters in an orderly fashion to form a meaningful word?


But English is quite complex as it often ignores the basic rules and creates exceptions. In fact, there are so many exception rules in English that there is no standardized set of spelling rules. You can only identify some common spelling patterns and consider them as your personal spelling rule.

But you should know that almost all of the spelling rules come with a ton of exceptions.

For example, we often consider the following pattern as a spelling rule — I before E, except after C. Most of the time this rule stands true. You can see that in the spelling of the words — field, believe, lie, piece (I before E) and receive, ceiling, deceit (E before I because of the C).

However, the spellings of these English words don’t follow the rule — seize, weird, neither, science, sufficient, etc.

This is why orthographic knowledge is very important as it helps to identify plausible letter patterns. Also, the English language has borrowed words from German, French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and even Hindi! Being a polyglot language, one must have a strong sense of etymology.

This is why a dependable spelling assessment test should cover all aspects of English spelling.

Curious to learn about spelling and reading connection? Here’s a guide to learn more. 

Components of a Standard Spelling Assessment

As we have discussed in the previous section, there are a few components of English spelling testing. We have divided the components into two categories —

  • Core components
  • Additional components

The four core components are —

  • Phonological Knowledge
  • Morphological knowledge
  • Orthographic Knowledge
  • Etymological Knowledge

And, the two additional components are —

  • Visual Knowledge
  • Semantic Knowledge

Let’s discuss them —


Phonological Knowledge

As start our academic journey, the schools focus heavily on developing our phonological awareness. In simpler terms, phonological awareness is the ability to coordinate sounds with the letters in the English language.

A huge portion of English words follows phonemic patterns. So, having a strong phonological knowledge helps our spelling skills.

However, a good speller understands that English is NOT a phonetic language and the spellings don’t always follow the letter-sound coordination. For example, the sound /la-it/ might have the following spelling — lite, light, and lyte! One can only be sure of the correct spelling after learning about the context.

But it is also true that phonological knowledge helps us connect the phonemes with the possible options of graphemes.  

Also, one can incorporate inventive spelling strategy into their learning efforts in the initial English learning efforts. Inventive spelling is the unorthodox approach of spelling that encourages learners to invent spellings only based on phonological awareness.

You can learn more about inventive spelling in this article on — Inventive Spelling and Its Connection to Phonological Awareness.


Morphological Knowledge

A good speller must have a strong understanding of morphemes. Morphemes are the core parts of the words. This includes base words, prefixes, and suffixes.

For example, magic is a base word that becomes magical with the addition of the suffix -al. In this case, magic and -al are both morphemes.

A strong morphological knowledge helps the spellers to cover multiple words with minimum effort.

Think about the word complete. We can see multiple variants of this word in the English language —

  • Completed
  • Completes
  • Completing
  • Completeness
  • Incomplete
  • Completion

So, the knowledge of one word helped to master six other words in this case. This is having a decent morphological knowledge plays a crucial role. It makes the process easier and achieve higher accuracy.

Also, morphological knowledge helps us to understand the meaning of words easily. For example, we know that magic means a mysterious phenomenon and -ian is a suffix that refers to a person who does something. So, combining two morphemes together we get magician that refers to a person who performs mysterious phenomenon.

So, evidently morphological knowledge helped us decipher the meaning of magician.  

Moreover, you should note that morphemes help us correlate phonemes and graphemes better. For example, think of the word jumped. The sound of this word suggests the spelling to be jumt! But as we know about the morphemes jump and -ed we can use the correct spelling jumped here.

These are the reasons why we say that English is a morphophonemic language!


To do well in the spelling and punctuation exercises, you need to master all the punctuation rules. Here’s a guide with all the punctuation rules you need to the exercises. 


Orthographic Knowledge

The third level of assessment should be about the orthographic knowledge of the individuals. In simpler terms, orthographic knowledge refers to the knowledge of feasible letter patters in a word.

For example, think about the wh- words in the wh- questions — what, when, why, where, whose, which, and how. As you can see, this cluster of words have a distinct pattern — all of them starts with wh (except for how).

A good speller has a clear idea about the common if not all of the letter patterns in English. Not only they know about the letter pairs like — ck, ch, qu, etc. they are aware of the prefix and suffix changes.

For example, you need to know that the word full drops one l when it is used as a suffix. You can see them in beautiful, colorful, joyful, etc.

Orthographic knowledge is so important that most of the traditional spelling assessments focused only on the orthographic knowledge. It’s true that only focusing on orthographic understanding makes those assessments flawed. But this also indicates the importance of this valuable spelling knowledge.


Etymological Knowledge

Finally comes the etymological knowledge. You should know that the English language has borrowed thousands of words from other languages. English has picked up foreign words for over a few centuries.

Here’s a fun example — have you ever wondered why the letter pair ch- has three different sounds? Consider these words — chicken, Christmas, and chef. Among these words, chicken has Anglo (English) origin, Christmas has Greek origin, and chef has French.

So, the etymological knowledge can help you master the correct spelling as well as the correct pronunciation of the English word.

This is why etymological knowledge plays a crucial role in spelling assessments.


Additional Components

Besides the four core components, some spelling assessments consider the following two factors as well —

Visual Knowledge — Determines how a speller stores the knowledge of spelling.

Semantic Knowledge — Determines whether the speller knows the meaning of the words alongside the correct spelling.


Standardized Spelling Assessments

Over the years, educators have developed numerous standardized spelling assessments. From the 1970s many rigorous assessment models have been developed. Here are the most renowned standardized spelling tests —

Standardized Spelling Assessments

Publication Year

Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement – Brief (K-TEA-Brief)


Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement – Comprehensive (K-TEA-Comp.)


Woodcock-Johnson-III (Form A)


Woodcock-Johnson-III (Form B)


Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-II (WIAT-II)


Wide Range Achievement Test-4 – WRAT-4 (Forms Blue)


Wide Range Achievement Test-4 – WRAT-4 (Forms Green)


Woodcock-Johnson-III (Form C)


However, you need proper authorization to conduct the listed spelling assessments.


Are you looking for creative ways to write words? Here’s guide with a large collection of unique spelling ideas. 


How to Conduct a Spelling Level Assessment Online? [for Free!]

While there are many standardized spelling assessments, most of them are quite old and flawed in many ways. For example, these tests focus heavily only on the orthographic knowledge and ignore the others.

Also, there is the issue of licensing and proper authorization.

What if we tell you that there is a convenient way for conducting spelling level assessment? If you are interested, you should definitely head over to SpellQuiz Vocabulary Assessment section. This is by far the most advanced spelling assessment tool available online. 

Although this is vocabulary assessment test, the tool heavily focuses on the core components of a standard spelling test. Educators from the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia have developed this advanced tech-focused test.

This modern approach is surely better than the ones from the 1980s!

As you start the test, you can hear real-life voice artists offering dictations and you’ll have to write the correct spellings using proper punctuation marks. In ten minutes, the test will offer you the result with approximate vocabulary size and equivalent spelling level.

Anyone can take part in this spelling level assessment as this completely free and offer you a head start to participate in the correct level of spelling tests and exercise.

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