PAT Grammar and Punctuation

The following topics are covered in this article:

Assessment overview 

PAT Grammar and Punctuation consists of seven tests, designed to assist teachers in their assessment of students’ understanding of the standard Australian English language conventions of grammar and punctuation. PAT Grammar and Punctuation is structured so that skills across a wide range of year levels can be assessed validly. The tests have been developed especially, but not exclusively, for use in Australian schools. The tests are suitable for students in Year 3 to Year 9 and are ordered according to difficulty but with considerable overlap. There are 35 multiple-choice tasks in each test, with each test containing a mixture of items assessing either grammar or punctuation.

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 Grammar and Punctuation scale scores over a shorter period of time.

If schools assess students towards the beginning of the calendar year, the administration will correspond with the time of year that the national norms were collected (March 2010).

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, 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.


Norm data collected in March 2010

Administering the test 

Schools should take care in planning the administration of PAT Grammar and Punctuation to ensure consistency. PAT Grammar and Punctuation is a standardised assessment that must be completed in 30 minutes. Each test comprises 35 questions. 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.

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 Spelling tests provide an idea of the level of knowledge of spelling 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.


This first Australian edition of PAT Grammar and Punctuation was developed in response to the status of learning about language in the Australian national curriculum for English. Margaret McGregor was responsible for the test development and Andrew Stephanou for the psychometrics, data analysis, norm study and reporting. Other ACER staff who made valued contributions include Greg Reid, David Kelly, Sandra Knowles, Julie-Anne Justus and Janelle Gallagher. ACER gratefully acknowledges the help given in the development of PAT Grammar and Punctuation by administrators of the various school systems and the principals, teachers and students of participating schools in the Australian States and Territories who so willingly took part in the trialling, norm and equating studies.

Supporting documents

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