Any education would be incomplete without the basic skills of spelling, reading, writing and mathematics. Students equipped with these skills often find it easier to complete further studies in any field, and tend to enjoy greater academic success than those who do not have such skills. Researchers conduct the basic academic skills test (BAST) to gauge the level of these skills in school students.

Rationale for BAST

Researchers use BAST scores to track and monitor the progress of basic skills in children of kindergarten and grade school ages. The data they obtain can be used to improve the curricula and learning methods that are currently in use.

The data also validates and identifies the strategies used to monitor the basic skills, and help to formulate standards to reflect actual performance and calculate how general teaching methods will progress. The evaluation also aids the appraisal of how consistent and concentrated instruction can affect a student's progress.

Reading Evaluation

The examiner conducts this evaluation on an individual basis with a student, with both having their own copy of the passage. The examiner starts the stopwatch when the student reads the first word. If the student does not begin reading within a certain time frame, the examiner reads the word and starts the stopwatch.

The examiner marks errors on his reading sheet. A word unread for three seconds is an error. At the end of the stipulated time, the student stops reading and the examiner marks the place in the text.

Writing Evaluation

An evaluation of written expression uses a selection of story starters to give students an idea about which to write. The evaluation can be on an individual or group basis. The student has to write on a composition sheet. The examiner may read out the story starter and give the student one minute to think, and three minutes to write.

The examiner can score the writing sample based on word count, letter count, and number of words spelled correctly or the amount of writing units in the correct sequence.

Mathematic Evaluation

A timed mathematical evaluation may be carried out individually or in a group. The examiner gives the student one or more evaluation sheets. These may contain single skill problems, e.g. addition only, or multiple skill problems that encompass addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, about which the examiner will inform the student.

Students undergoing the evaluation work on the problems from left to right, beginning from the top and working their way down the page. They also have to mark questions they cannot answer with an "X."

Spelling Evaluation

Although individual evaluations are possible, spelling is usually a group evaluation. Students have to spell a word read by the examiner or a recording on their answer sheets. The examiner starts the stopwatch after repeating a word twice, and stops it after a 10-second interval to read/play the next word.

Younger students (grades one through three) usually tackle lists of 12 words, while older students usually have to spell out 17 words. The examiner can read a word in the context of a sentence if it is a homonym.