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Five Types of Learning-Related Assessments

If you’re thinking of having your child’s learning skills assessed, there are a lot of choices. Read on to discover the difference between five of the more common types of tests to evaluate cognitive skills.

  1. Achievement assessments: These tests measure proficiency in specific subjects and can alert parents to holes in their children’s education. Although scores from standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, typically reflect the test-taker’s acquired knowledge, there are some concerns as to whether the scores of children and teens with test anxiety are truly representational of their knowledge.
  2. Reading assessments: These tests focus on the skills and systems necessary for fluent, efficient reading. Obviously, tests vary by age/grade, but most will cover some or all of the following elements: language and reading comprehension, decoding, phonology, syntax, semantics, and phonemic awareness, among others.
  3. Cognitive skills assessments: Often done at personal brain training centers, these assessments measure cognitive skills, like auditory processing, logic & reasoning, and visual processing. “These tests should not be used to classify, label, or diagnose a child,” explains Tanya Mitchell, co-author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake up the Smart in Your Child. “They are simply an affordable method to help determine the cause of your child’s learning struggles. Once you know where the weaknesses are—such as working memory, divided attention, or processing speed—then you can identify the best training to target and train that particular weak skill.”
  4. Assessment of basic language and learning skills (ABLLS): Although this educational tool is typically used to measure the linguistic and functional skills of children with developmental delays and disabilities (e.g., autism), it can be used on any child who appears to be significantly behind their peers in basic communication and life skills. The assessment covers 544 skills from 25 functional areas, including reading, writing, math, grooming, gross motor skills, and social interaction, among others.
  5. IQ tests: These standardized tests measure intelligence, not knowledge. Unlike achievement tests, which may test how much you know about the Civil War, IQ scores are a measurement of cognitive skills, such as abstract reasoning, logic, induction, and visual processing. “We now know about neuroplasticity, that is, the brain’s ability to change, reroute, repair, and grow at any age,” says Mitchell. “That also means that IQ is no longer a stagnant number. Because IQ is a measurement of cognitive skills, personal brain training can significantly strengthen these skills—whether the person is 6 or 76.”

While there are other types of learning-related assessments, these are some of the most common. Remember, the most important part of an assessment isn’t the score, it’s understanding where your child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses lie, so you can choose the best cognitive skills training to help them excel.