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The NAEP Reading Achievement Levels by Grade

2009–2013 Achievement-Level Descriptions

1992–2007 Achievement-Level Descriptions

2009–2013 Achievement-Level Descriptions

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 12

NAEP reading achievement-level descriptions present expectations of student performance in relation to a range of text types and text difficulty and in response to a variety of assessment questions intended to elicit different cognitive processes and reading behaviors. The specific processes and reading behaviors mentioned in the achievement-level descriptions are illustrative of those judged as central to students' successful comprehension of texts. These processes and reading behaviors involve different and increasing cognitive demands from one grade and performance level to the next as they are applied within more challenging contexts and with more complex information. While similar reading behaviors are included at the different performance levels and grades, it should be understood that these skills are being described in relation to texts and assessment questions of varying difficulty.

The specific descriptions of what students at grades 4, 8, and 12 should know and be able to do at the Basic,Proficient, and Advanced reading achievement levels are presented below. NAEP achievement levels are cumulative; therefore, student performance at the Proficient level includes the competencies associated with the Basic level, and the Advanced level also includes the skills and knowledge associated with both the Basic and the Proficient levels. The cut score indicating the lower end of the score range for each level is noted in parentheses.

The achievement-level descriptions were updated in 2009 to reflect the new reading framework. Although the descriptions have been updated, the scale score cut points remain the same. Achievement-level descriptions for 1992-2007 are below.

Find general information about achievement levels and the detailed descriptions for other NAEP subjects.

Grade 4

Basic
(208)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to locate relevant information, make simple inferences, and use their understanding of the text to identify details that support a given interpretation or conclusion. Students should be able to interpret the meaning of a word as it is used in the text.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to make simple inferences about characters, events, plot, and setting. They should be able to identify a problem in a story and relevant information that supports an interpretation of a text.

When reading informational texts such as articles and excerpts from books, fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to identify the main purpose and an explicitly stated main idea, as well as gather information from various parts of a text to provide supporting information.

Proficient
(238)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to integrate and interpret texts and apply their understanding of the text to draw conclusions and make evaluations.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to identify implicit main ideas and recognize relevant information that supports them. Students should be able to judge elements of author’s craft and provide some support for their judgment. They should be able to analyze character roles, actions, feelings, and motives.

When reading informational texts such as articles and excerpts from books, fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to locate relevant information, integrate information across texts, and evaluate the way an author presents information. Student performance at this level should demonstrate an understanding of the purpose for text features and an ability to integrate information from headings, text boxes, graphics and their captions. They should be able to explain a simple cause-and-effect relationship and draw conclusions.

Advanced
(268)

Fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to make complex inferences and construct and support their inferential understanding of the text. Students should be able to apply their under-standing of a text to make and support a judgment.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to identify the theme in stories and poems and make complex inferences about characters’ traits, feelings, motivations, and actions. They should be able to recognize characters’ perspectives and evaluate character motivation. Students should be able to interpret characteristics of poems and evaluate aspects of text organization.

When reading informational texts such as articles and excerpts from books, fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to make complex inferences about main ideas and supporting ideas. They should be able to express a judgment about the text and about text features and support the judgment with evidence. They should be able to identify the most likely cause given an effect, explain an author’s point of view, and compare ideas across two texts.


Grade 8

Basic
(243)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to locate information; identify statements of main idea, theme, or author’s purpose; and make simple inferences from texts. They should be able to interpret the meaning of a word as it is used in the text. Students performing at this level should also be able to state judgments and give some support about content and presentation of content.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should recognize major themes and be able to identify, describe, and make simple inferences about setting and about character motivations, traits, and experiences. They should be able to state and provide some support for judgments about the way an author presents content and about character motivation.

When reading informational texts such as exposition and argumentation, eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to recognize inferences based on main ideas and supporting details. They should be able to state and provide some support for judgments about the way an author presents content and about character motivation.

When reading informational texts such as exposition and argumentation, eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to recognize inferences based on main ideas and supporting details. They should be able to locate and provide relevant facts to construct general statements about information from the text. Students should be able to provide some support for judgments about the way information is presented.

Proficient
(281)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to provide relevant information and summarize main ideas and themes. They should be able to make and support inferences about a text, connect parts of a text, and analyze text features. Students performing at this level should also be able to fully substantiate judgments about con-tent and presentation of content.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, eighth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to make and support a connection between characters from two parts of a text. They should be able to recognize character actions and infer and support character feelings. Students performing at this level should be able to provide and support judgments about character motivation across texts. They should be able to identify how figurative language is used.

When reading informational texts such as exposition and argumentation, eighth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to locate and provide facts and relevant information that support a main idea or purpose, interpret causal relations, provide and support a judgment about the author’s argument or stance, and recognize rhetorical devices.

Advanced
(323)

Eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to make connections within and across texts and to explain causal relations. They should be able to evaluate and justify the strength of supporting evidence and the quality of an author’s presentation. Students performing at the advanced level also should be able to manage the processing demands of analysis and evaluation by stating, explaining, and justifying.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry, eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to explain the effects of narrative events. Within or across text, they should be able to make thematic connections and make inferences about character feelings, motivations, and experiences.

When reading informational texts such as exposition and argumentation, eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to infer and explain a variety of connections that are intratextual (such as the relation between specific information and the main idea) or intertextual (such as the relation of ideas across expository and argument text). Within and across texts, students should be able to state and justify judgments about text features, choice of content, and the author’s use of evidence and rhetorical devices.


Grade 12

Basic
(265)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to identify elements of meaning and form and relate them to the overall meaning of the text. They should be able to make inferences, develop interpretations, make connections between texts, and draw conclusions; and they should be able to provide some support for each. They should be able to interpret the meaning of a word as it is used in the text.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry, twelfth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to describe essential literary elements such as character, narration, setting, and theme; provide examples to illustrate how an author uses a story element for a specific effect; and provide interpretations of figurative language.

When reading informational texts such as exposition, argumentation, and documents, twelfth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to identify the organization of a text, make connections between ideas in two different texts, locate relevant information in a document, and provide some explanation for why the information is included.

Proficient
(302)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to locate and integrate information using sophisticated analyses of the meaning and form of the text. These students should be able to pro-vide specific text support for inferences, interpretative statements, and comparisons within and across texts.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry, twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to explain a theme and integrate information from across a text to describe or explain character motivations, actions, thoughts, or feelings. They should be able to provide a description of settings, events, or character and connect the description to the larger theme of a text. Students performing at this level should be able to make and compare generalizations about different characters’ perspectives within and across texts.

When reading informational texts including exposition, argumentation, and documents, twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to integrate and interpret texts to provide main ideas with general sup-port from the text. They should be able to evaluate texts by forming judgments about an author’s perspective, about the relative strength of claims, and about the effectiveness of organizational elements or structures. Students performing at this level should be able to understand an author’s intent and evaluate the effectiveness of arguments within and across texts. They should also be able to comprehend detailed documents to locate relevant information needed for specified purposes.

Advanced
(346)

Twelfth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to analyze both the meaning and the form of the text and provide complete, explicit, and precise text support for their analyses with specific examples. They should be able to read across multiple texts for a variety of purposes, analyzing and evaluating them individually and as a set.

When reading literary texts such as fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction, twelfth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to analyze and evaluate how an author uses literary devices, such as sarcasm or irony, to enhance and convey meaning. They should be able to determine themes and explain thematic connections across texts.

When reading informational texts, twelfth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to recognize, use, and evaluate expository and argument text structures and the organization of documents. They should be able to critique and evaluate arguments and counterarguments within and between texts, and substantiate analyses with full and precise evidence from the text. They should be able to identify and integrate essential information within and across documents.


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1992–2007 Achievement-Level Descriptions

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 12  

Grade 4

Basic
(208)
Fourth-grade students performing at the Basic level should demonstrate an understanding of the overall meaning of what they read. When reading text appropriate for fourth-graders, they should be able to make relatively obvious connections between the text and their own experiences and extend the ideas in the text by making simple inferences.
Proficient
(238)
Fourth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to demonstrate an overall understanding of the text, providing inferential as well as literal information. When reading text appropriate to fourth grade, they should be able to extend the ideas in the text by making inferences, drawing conclusions, and making connections to their own experiences. The connection between the text and what the student infers should be clear.
Advanced
(268)
Fourth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to generalize about topics in the reading selection and demonstrate an awareness of how authors compose and use literary devices. When reading text appropriate to fourth grade, they should be able to judge text critically and, in general, to give thorough answers that indicate careful thought.

Grade 8

Basic
(243)
Eighth-grade students performing at the Basic level should demonstrate a literal understanding of what they read and be able to make some interpretations. When reading text appropriate to eighth grade, they should be able to identify specific aspects of the text that reflect overall meaning, extend the ideas in the text by making simple inferences, recognize and relate interpretations and connections among ideas in the text to personal experience, and draw conclusions based on the text.
Proficient
(281)
Eighth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to show an overall understanding of the text, including inferential as well as literal information. When reading text appropriate to eighth grade, they should be able to extend the ideas in the text by making clear inferences from it, by drawing conclusions, and by making connections to their own experiences—including other reading experiences. Proficient eighth-graders should be able to identify some of the devices authors use in composing text.
Advanced
(323)
Eighth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to describe the more abstract themes and ideas of the overall text. When reading text appropriate to eighth grade, they should be able to analyze both meaning and form and support their analyses explicitly with examples from the text; they should be able to extend text information by relating it to their experiences and to world events. At this level, student responses should be thorough, thoughtful, and extensive.
 

Grade 12

Basic
(265)
Twelfth-grade students performing at the Basic level should be able to demonstrate an overall understanding and make some interpretations of the text. When reading text appropriate to twelfth grade, they should be able to identify and relate aspects of the text to its overall meaning, extend the ideas in the text by making simple inferences, recognize interpretations, make connections among and relate ideas in the text to their personal experiences, and draw conclusions. They should be able to identify elements of an author’s style.
Proficient
(302)
Twelfth-grade students performing at the Proficient level should be able to show an overall understanding of the text which includes inferential as well as literal information. When reading text appropriate to twelfth grade, they should be able to extend the ideas of the text by making inferences, drawing conclusions, and making connections to their own personal experiences and other readings. Connections between inferences and the text should be clear, even when implicit. These students should be able to analyze the author’s use of literary devices.
Advanced
(346)
Twelfth-grade students performing at the Advanced level should be able to describe more abstract themes and ideas in the overall text. When reading text appropriate to twelfth grade, they should be able to analyze both the meaning and the form of the text and explicitly support their analyses with specific examples from the text. They should be able to extend the information from the text by relating it to their experiences and to the world. Their responses should be thorough, thoughtful, and extensive.

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Last updated 24 October 2013 (FW)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education