Dyslexia Assessment Part III

Nonsense Words and Real Words:

This test increases from simple concepts and word patterns to more-complex ones. This is not a basic word list according to grade level or frequency, and it is not a Most Common Word list; it is based on phonetic skills that will require the person to decode the words. 1st graders should be able to go through the short and long vowel list; 2nd graders should be able to go through Murmur Diphthongs and the Special Vowel Combinations; 3rd graders and above should be able to go through everything.

We are also looking for the discrepancy between their nonsense word score and their real word score; they will most likely score higher on the real words than on the nonsense words, particularly if they have a phonetic weakness. This is because those with processing disorders such as dyslexia compensate by memorizing words as a whole so, if the word has meaning or a visual attached to it, they are more likely to have it in their short-term memory. They can attach no meaning to the nonsense words, which is why it is such a good indicator of a phonemic problem. Because they will not be able to recognize these words, they must sound them out.

If the person taking the test misses more than six words in a row, you can stop. To get a specific reading grade level, go to our resources section and scroll down to the Online Assessment link. You should also have the person read a grade level story since they do better in context than with words in isolation. (More information on this is found at the end of the assessment.)

If the difference between the scores is greater than 5 - the real-word score being higher - it is another indicator of possible dyslexia. If the nonsense-word score is unusually low, that, too, is a strong indicator: Anyone 7 and older should score at least 15 on the nonsense words test.