What Are Age Equivalent Test Scores?

Why These Scores May Not Be the Most Precise

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What is the definition of an age equivalent test score? Learn more about these scores and their potential drawbacks with this review.

What Do Age Equivalent Test Scores Mean?

Some test scores are reported as age equivalent test scores. Simply put, an age equivalent is a comparison of your child's performance compared to age groups whose average scores are in the same range. For example, if your 9 year old child scores a 42 raw score on a test, and that score is average for 8 year olds, his age equivalent score would be 8.

Age equivalent test scores are also known as mental age or test age. However, age equivalent scores are not usually considered the most precise scores for measuring a student's performance on tests.

How Age Equivalent Test Scores Work

According to the Educational Testing Service, age equivalent tests work by using samples of scores from a range of different age groups. Children with birthdays in a six month window are grouped together to represent a certain year group. The materials on the test should range in difficulty from extremely easy to very difficult. The mean test score for each age group is found and shown on a graph. It is used to determine what the age equivalent score should be.

The Drawbacks of Age Equivalent Test Scores

Some parents mistakenly believe that age equivalent test scores mean that a child is more advanced than she actually is. For example, if the 9 year old above receives a score of 62 on the previously mentioned test, and that score is average for 10 year olds, parents may think that their child can do the same work that the average 10 year old can do.

But the child was not given a test for 10 year olds but for 9 year olds.

Doing the same as the average 10 year old did on the test content does not mean that a child can actually handle the work that an older child can do. On the other hand, if a child does poorly on the test, it doesn't necessarily mean that the child can't handle age-level work and should be relegated to material for a child one year younger.

The Educational Testing Service notes that although a 6 year old may perform on a test as well as, say, a 9 year old, they are not the same. The former does not have the "mental equipment" of the latter, no matter the score.

The same applies to grade equivalent tests, which children are given to see if they're performing on grade level. If a sixth grader performs the same as an average seventh grader on a test, it doesn't mean they can handle the seventh grade curriculum. Educators argue that these tests should not be regarded in this manner.

The Bottom Line

A number of tests can determine how well a child can perform academically. Rather than take stock in any one, consider a child's scores on a variety of tests as well as her performance on school work.

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