Happy #phonologicalfriday! This week’s post is about a FREE screening tool available for Phonological Awareness.


UNESCO(2006), considers learning to read not only a basic human right but also an instrument that is necessary for achieving other rights.


Unfortunately, there are reports from around the world, even in the most affluent countries, of children struggling to learn how to read the English language.


This is a tragedy because researchers studying reading development know what components are needed in reading instruction. In fact, three national reports done in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom have come to a consensus on the components that are necessary for effective reading instruction.

Phonological Awareness

One of the essential components for reading instruction is phonological awareness (Scarborough, 1998). Phonological awareness refers to the awareness of sounds in spoken language.  It is a key component for learning how to read  (e.g. Torgesen & Mathes, 2000; Vellutino, Scanlon & Ried Lyon, 2000).


Individuals with poorly developed phonological awareness have difficulty forming the relationship between letters (graphemes) and their sounds (phonemes). Weakness in phonological awareness is the most common reason for word-level reading difficulties (Stanovich, 1996).


The good news is that difficulties with phonological awareness are fairly easy to detect and phonological awareness can be improved with explicit instruction.

Phonological Awareness Screening

There are several ways that difficulties with phonological awareness can be detected. Fortunately, Dr. David Kilpatrick has made the Phonological Awareness Screening Tool (The PAST Test) available for free to educators for use with their students.


The PAST Test is comparable to other commercially available measures on the market and can be used to monitor students’ progress.


With the proper professional development, teachers can be taught how to administer this screen, interpret the results and plan the appropriate interventions.


Primary teachers could administer this screening tool to each of their students in a morning because it only takes between four to nine minutes to administer per student. 


The results from using the PAST Test do not provide students with a label, they simply inform the teacher which students need more help developing their phonological awareness  so they can become successful readers.


If a student is struggling with reading but does well on the PAST Test, it means their reading difficulties are almost certainly not due to phonological processing issues. This means further investigation is necessary in order to determine the most appropriate interventions to be used in this circumstance.


If a student has significant problems with phonological awareness, they will likely require more intensive interventions to fully develop this skill.


Thank you to Dr. David Kilpatrick for making the PAST Test freely available to educators so that more students can successfully learn to read from the beginning.


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Stanovich, K. E. (1996). Toward a more inclusive definition of dyslexia. Dyslexia2(3), 154-166.


Torgesen, J. K., & Mathes, P. G. (2000). A basic guide to understanding, assessing, and teaching phonological awareness. Pro Ed.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2006). Education for all global monitoring report. Retrieved fromhttp://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt5_eng.pdf


Vellutino, F. R., Scanlon, D. M., & Reid Lyon, G. (2000). Differentiating between difficult-to-remediate and readily remediated poor readers: More evidence against the IQ-achievement discrepancy definition of reading disabilityJournal of Learning Disabilities33(3), 223-238.