PAT Vocabulary

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Assessment overview

The PAT Vocabulary tests are designed to assist teachers in their assessment of students’ knowledge of vocabulary.

PAT Vocabulary consists of five word knowledge tests, ordered according to difficulty. Each test contains between 35 and 40 items. Each item is a short sentence in which a focus word is used in context. Students select an appropriate synonym for this word from a set of alternatives in a multiple-choice format.

Each test requires up to 25 minutes of testing time, plus time for administration.


While PAT Vocabulary measures one important strand – the ability to identify synonyms – the newly released PAT Vocabulary Skills assesses a much broader conception of vocabulary and a wide range of associated processes.

Results from the new PAT Vocabulary Skills cannot be directly compared to the existing PAT Vocabulary assessment.

If your school has not previously used PAT Vocabulary, ACER recommends using PAT Vocabulary Skills to assess your students' abilities.


When to assess

To monitor student progress, a gap of 9 to 12 months between testing sessions is recommended. Learning progress may not be reflected in a student’s PAT Vocabulary scale scores over a shorter period of time.

If schools assess students towards the end of the calendar year, the administration will correspond with the time of year that the national norms were collected (September). The assessment data can then be passed on to teachers to inform teaching practice the following year.


Choosing the right test 

Choosing the right test is necessary to ensure that students’ results provide useful information about their current ability in the learning domain.

The difficulty of a test form and the teacher’s knowledge of a student should be taken into consideration in selecting an appropriate test form. Curriculum appropriateness and the context of the classroom also need to be taken into account when making this decision.

When a student can answer around 50% of the questions correctly, the test is well targeted and provides considerable information about the skills a student is demonstrating, and those she or he is still developing. While it is the case that very high or very low PAT scores will have larger error margins, measurement error should not be the motivating factor in test selection.

There is often a wide range of ability within the classroom and reading skills exist on a continuum, so it is not necessary to provide all students in a class with the same test. Instead the focus should always be each student’s ability at the time of the assessment, not where they are expected to be.
To make decisions about which test is most appropriate for a particular student or group of students, it is essential that the teacher previews and becomes familiar with the content of the tests.

PAT Vocab table.png


Administering the tests 

Schools should take care in planning the administration of PAT Vocabulary to ensure consistency. PAT Vocabulary is a standardised assessment that must be completed in 25 minutes. Time must be managed by the teacher invigilating the assessment. Students will not be automatically timed out by the online system.

Students’ focus and energy levels are important factors in their capacity to accurately demonstrate their ability on the assessment. For this reason, it is generally best to test students in the morning and not immediately before or after an exciting school event.

Prior to administering the tests to students, teachers should download or print a list of student login details as well as the test administration instructions. It is recommended that the school’s unique account URL is saved as a shortcut or link on students’ devices or on the school intranet for easy access.

 Test administration instructions


Using the results 

Determining students’ current levels of achievement within the PAT learning domain
PAT student achievement is measured in PAT scale scores. PAT tests within a learning domain are all equated onto a common scale using Rasch scaling methodologies. The student’s PAT scale score establishes where they are on a learning continuum. The PAT Vocabulary tests provide an idea of the level of knowledge of vocabulary for individuals or groups.

Observing differences in ability and inferring learning progress over time
Using the common scale, PAT scale scores within a learning area can be directly compared within and across tests and year levels. PAT scale scores can be used over years of schooling to monitor progress. The PAT scale describes what typical progression looks like in the learning domain.

Comparing student achievement to the achievement of national year level cohorts
PAT norms are established to represent Australian achievement by year level. The percentile rank reported for PAT can be used to compare the achievement of an individual student against Australian year level norms within a single year level.

Supporting and supplementing the results provided by other standardised assessments
PAT scales are unique to PAT assessments and do not align with any other standardised assessments. PAT results can be used in conjunction with evidence collected from other formal and informal assessments to form a clearer understanding of student ability in the learning domain.


Supporting documents 

Test administration instructions
Instructions for teachers and staff members responsible for administering and invigilating PAT Vocabulary tests. 

Words along the scale
A list of words assessed by the PAT Vocabulary tests, ordered by difficulty against the scale.

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