A Guide to Spelling Age Test: Determine Spelling Age at Home!

16 June 2021

Your teaching efforts should always be in sync with the age of your child, especially for teaching English spelling. Now, you should also understand the actual age and the spelling age are not the same things. A child could be twelve years old but her spelling age could be eight or even fifteen — based on her academic prowess.

You could use a spelling age test to pinpoint the spelling age of a particular child. This indicative age will help you customize your teaching efforts so that the children can learn at an optimal speed.

Today, we would take a deeper dive and learn about —

  • Fundamentals of spelling age
  • How to determine the spelling age?
  • Why is a spelling age test important?
  • Best spelling age tests


What Is Spelling Age?

Spelling age is the hypothetical age that indicates an individual’s spelling skills and correlates to his/her academic prowess. It is also a determiner of the individual’s vocabulary collection.

For example, Sarah struggles to master common spellings like while or stayed. She is biologically ten years old but her spelling age suggests to be eight.

What does it mean?

It means that Sarah’s spelling skills are similar to the children who are eight years old despite her being a ten-year-old in real life.

As children grow older, the curriculum introduces newer and more complicated words to them. So, it’s essential for the children to be on par with their respective spelling age. Otherwise, they will fall behind their peers and continually perform poorly in their academic lives.

That brings us to the main point of our topic today — assessing the spelling age of the child through a spelling age test.


Do you want to do better in the spelling, punctuation, and grammar test? Then, you need to work on your punctuation skills as this is the skill that we often neglect. Here's a guide that covers all punctuation rules in layman terms. 


How to Determine the Spelling Age?

Many educators and experts have come up with different methods to determine the spelling age. Later, other educators have verified and approved of those methods due to their integrity and usability.

These methods, in general, are known as spelling age tests.

Sir Fred Joyce Schonell, an Australian educator, was the pioneer behind the development of the spelling age test. He worked closely with two other experts in this field, Orton and Gillingham developed the Schonell Spelling Age Test in the 1940s. This test still proves effective to this day.

We will learn more about this test later in this article.

Are you looking for a standardized spelling assessment? Here's a guide that discusses everything revolving around the topic with a convenient way for conducting one. 


Why Are Spelling Age Tests Important?

Think about teaching integral calculus to a ten-year-old (Consider Sarah from the previous section). Without a doubt, she would struggle miserably. Her brain is developed enough to comprehend such advanced mathematical concepts. Rather she should stick to learning age-appropriate arithmetic concepts at ten.

Similarly, she would struggle hard to spell complicated spellings, such as — subterranean, exaggerate, miscellaneous, or apparatus. At the age of ten, should be able to spell words like — pair, direct, headache, style, etc.

At the same time, she shouldn’t struggle with spellings like — dot, pet, pie, leg, etc. 

In such cases, you should introduce her spelling activities or spelling tricks. These activities and tricks would help her excel. 

If a child is on the expected spelling level, you should be concerned that much. The same can be said if a child is above her spelling age.

However, if the opposite thing happens, the teachers (or the parents) should take some proactive measures to improve the children’s spelling skills. And, a spelling age test is the most effective tool that can help the teachers or parents here. It helps them to assess the amount of effort they should implement.  

Curious to learn how spelling supports reading? Check out this article now!


Best Spelling Age Tests

As we have said before, many educators have developed different spelling age tests. However, the fundamentals behind the tests are somewhat similar. It goes like this —

  • Create a list of words with difficulty level
  • Dictate the words, one-by-one (may or may not use contextual sentence)
  • Ask the patriating student to write them down on a paper
  • Continue the dictation test until the participant makes too many mistakes (there should be a limit of misspelled words)
  • Evaluate the result based on the number of correct and incorrect words
  • Cross-match the result with a perceived standard
  • Assign a spelling age

If you follow this pattern, you too can come up with your own spelling age test!

However, the experts do extensive research to come up with a standard list of words and the perceived standard of correct and incorrect spelling ratio.

So, it’s better to stick with the proved and approved spelling age tests available.

The most popular and well-known tests are —

  • Schonell Spelling Test
  • South Australian Spelling Test (SAST)
  • Blackwell Spelling Test
  • SpellQuiz Vocabulary Assessment Test


Schonell Spelling Test

The Schonell Testing or the Schonell Spelling Age Test is one of the most popular tests available. Despite being an old method, this method still has a good reputation among the teachers.

To conduct the test, you’ll first need the actual lists. Sir Schonell has developed two lists — Schonell Spelling Test List A and List B. Each of these lists contains 100 words.

After getting the lists, you should follow these steps —

  • Offer a pencil and a paper (A3) to the participant
  • Ask them to write their name and age on top of the page
  • Explain that you’ll speak out a word and he/she will have to write it down
  • Speak out the word loud and clear (start from the beginning)
  • Offer a reference sentence and speak out the word again (i.e., Net — I catch fish with Net, Net!)
  • Continue this process in groups of ten words
  • Stop the process once the participant makes ten mistakes in a row

Now, it’s time to make the evaluation and assign the spelling age. To do so, you’ll the following formula —

Spelling age = (number of correctly spelled words ÷ 10) + 5

For example, Sarah (biological age 10) has spelled 37 correctly. So, her spelling age is — (37 ÷ 10) + 5 = 8.7. But there’s a catch, 8.7 is a decimal number. You have to convert it to twelfths so that you get a year and a month value.

You can follow this chart —





















That means Sarah’s spelling age is 8 years and 8 months!


South Australian Spelling Test

The South Australian Spelling Test or SAST is another standardized test that works great for the age range between 6 and 15. The fundamentals of this test match the Schonell Testing in many ways.

For example, you’ll ask the participants to write the correct spelling as you dictate words from a list. Also, you’ll continue the test until they make ten consecutive spelling mistakes.

However, the word list is different here. Rather than using the 200 words (100 in each list) that Schonell used, the SAST list has 140 (70 words in two lists) words.

Plus, SAST doesn’t use Schonell’s assessment formula. Instead, it uses a statistical data chart that focuses on these factors —

  • Participant’s age
  • Average score
  • Normal Range
  • Critically low score  

You can find the complete SAST chart here. But here’s a short version to give you an idea —

Participant’s age

Average score

Normal Range

Critically low score  


















But this chart only shows the statistical interpretation data. It doesn’t indicate the spelling age. Experts have come up with the following decision-making chart —

Raw Score

Spelling Age (Years)

12 and below

Below 6.0





















53 and above

Above 15.5

Again, you can find the complete SAST spelling age chart here.

Experts also acknowledge the error margin (± 2 points) in this analysis. So, instead of using a definite spelling age, they use a range of spelling ages.

For example, if Sarah gets 32 points, you should use ± 2 points error margin. So, her score range varies from 30 to 34. By that logic, Sarah’s spelling age is between 8.4 years to 9.2 years.


Blackwell Spelling Test

Just like the previous two test methods, the Blackwell spelling test also uses a spelling list and a unique formula to determine the spelling age.

Blackwell test comes with a unique list of 100 words with respective reference sentences. You’ll ask them to write the words down as you dictate the words. Once they make five mistakes in a row, you’ll begin the marking stage.

The Blackwell spelling test marking formula goes like this —

  • Put decimal point between the two-digit score figure
  • (Special case) Place 0 and a decimal point for a single-digit score
  • Add 6 to the first-digit (leftmost number)

For example, if Sarah gets 36 points, that makes the decimal figure 3.6. Now, add 6 t the first digit (in this case — 3) which becomes 9.

This makes Sarah’s spelling age 9.6 years.   

Blackwell Spelling test takes things one step further. It uses spelling color groups based on the range of spelling ages so that you can categorize the students in broader spectrums.

It goes like this —

Spelling Color-Groups

Spelling Age Range














SpellQuiz Spelling Age Test (Vocabulary Assessment)

Despite the popularity of the above spelling age tests, the methods are notoriously complex, especially the marking and evaluation process. If you’re looking for a modern and hassle-free approach, you should definitely try SpellQuiz.

SpellQuiz has a plethora of useful tools under its arsenal, like — spelling tests, Spelling Bee Online, Spelling Words lists, Idioms, and Quizzes.

However, we are talking about the vocabulary assessment section. Here, you’ll find dictation-based tests — just like the previous ones. The spelling list in this section is a combined effort of spelling experts from the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Now, the test section is quite similar — participants will hear a word, a reference sentence including the word, and the word again. After hearing the word, the participant will have to write it on a textbox. Thus, the process continues until the system figures out spelling age.

At the end of the test, the system will suggest the approximate vocabulary size and the equivalent grade level or the spelling age.

Compared to other traditional and older methods, SpellQuiz takes a modern approach and offers a multi-directional result. For example, no other diagnostic spelling tests suggest an approximate vocabulary size. This approach helps your vocabulary building efforts and spelling training efforts at the same time.

And the best part is — SpellQuiz Vocabulary Assessment tool is completely free!

Why don’t you give it a try?

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