How to Score the Virginia SOL

by Kathlyn Hyatt Stewart
The SOL assessment is used to determine student acadmic proficiency in Virginia.

The SOL assessment is used to determine student acadmic proficiency in Virginia.

In Virginia, the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment tests have been used to measure children's proficiency in English, mathematics, reading, science and history/social science since 2000. The 35 to 50 items on each test (600 total) measure content knowledge, scientific and mathematical processes, and reasoning and critical thinking skills. A two-part assessment that includes multiple-choice questions and a short essay is utilized to assess writing skills. All tests are administered in English, with other provisions available for students with disabilities or limited English-language proficiency. Parents receive scores and guidelines for interpreting them. But how exactly are the SOL scored?

SOL Writing test

SOL Writing test: Students are required to write a short essay on a given topic. Each essay is read by two readers, who assign it a score of 1 to 4 in three domains: composition, written expression, and usage/mechanics. The student's score in each domain is the total of the two readers' scores combined. The scores in each of the three domains are added to get the student's total writing score. For the multiple-choice section, a student's score is calculated based on how many questions that she gets correct out of the total number of questions.

Total test score: A student's scores on each section are added together to get an overall SOL score, which can range from zero to 600. A score of 400 represents the "minimal" level of proficiency, while 500 represents "advanced proficiency.'' There are also minimal "cut" scores on each test for each grade level from three through 12, with scores categorized as "fail/basic," "pass/proficient,'' and "pass/advanced.''

Lexile Measures for Reading: Beginning in 2009, Lexile measures are included in a student's SOL report. According to the Virginia Department of Education, "Lexile measures rank the reading level of a student and the difficulty of a text on a single scale and are correlated to scores on Standards of Learning (SOL) reading assessments in grades 3-8. Teachers and parents use Lexile measures to select books that are likely to improve the reading and comprehension skills of students." The relationship between a student's SOL score and the Lexile measures is calculated using standardized conversion tables developed by the Department of Education for each grade.

About the Author

Kathlyn Hyatt Stewart began writing for sociological abstracts in 1985 and had her first article published by "Cambridge Scientific Abstracts," where she was Senior Editor. She has copyedited numerous books and dissertations, proofread for ezines and local papers, and operates Gargoyle Books. Kathlyn has a master's degree in forensic science from National University and bachelor's degrees in English and psychology from University of Virginia.

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