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  • Glossary for standardised testing
    Raw score – The number of questions answered correctly. Standard deviation - Standard deviation indicates you how much scores differs from the average. A high standard deviation indicates greater variability, while a low one suggests scores are closer to the average. Standard score – Standard scores express the raw scores on a single common scale. Standard scores usually go from 55 to 145 with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Further information can be found here. sTen score - STen scores are transformations of standard scores. STen means ‘standard-ten’, and a STen score goes from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). The average STen score is 5.5, and the standard deviation is 2. These are most commonly used by teachers when sharing results. Further information can be found here. Percentile rank - The percentile rank is also a transformation of standard scores. They show the percentage of pupils in the norm group whose score is lower than or equal to the pupil’s score. A percentile rank of 66 did as well as or better than 66% of pupils in the norm group and, by inference, the population that the norm group represents.
  • What are the Drumcondra standardised tests?
    The Drumcondra tests, often referred to as “Drumcondras”, are standardised tests developed to assess pupils’ achievement in English reading, Mathematics, Irish, and English spelling. The tests are based on Ireland’s curriculum and have been administered to a representative sample of our school population in order to generate a ‘bell curve’ of results. A child’s test score in a particular subject area gives an overall estimate of their achievement relative to the spectrum of achievement of all pupils in Ireland at that grade level. For example, if a child scores in the “average” range on a test (STen 5 or 6), we estimate that their achievement is broadly in line with the national average.
  • Why is my child doing these tests?
    Primary schools must carry out standardised testing in English reading and Mathematics – and, in Irish-medium schools, Irish in 2nd, 4th and 6th Class. Many schools choose to test all students each year because they find that the results contribute to teachers’ and parents’ understanding of children’s progress and needs. Standardised test results are just one method of assessment, and, many other elements will combine to build an overall picture of your child’s learning. Please remember that these tests are just a snapshot of performance on a day. Teachers will take all elements of your child’s learning into consideration when discussing your child’s progress with you.
  • Is the test like the Junior or Leaving Cert?
    Unlike the Junior Cycle or Leaving Cert. exams, where the test content changes year-on-year, the Drumcondra tests do not change each year, although tests are typically redeveloped after a number of years. The current version of the English Reading and Maths test was published in 2019. The current version of the Irish test was published in 2010 and redevelopment will take place over the next few years.
  • Can I get “samples” of the paper tests or “past papers”?
    In order to protect the integrity of the tests, samples are not available to parents/guardians. Furthermore, “past papers” do not exist because the test content remains the same for a number of years, and previous versions may not correspond to the current curriculum or social context. Any samples or past papers would be identical to the actual test your child will sit. It is not intended that pupils would “practise the test” or that teachers would teach the actual test content or familiarise pupils with the exact test format. Test results are based on a comparison with a nationally representative sample of pupils who took the test with no special preparation. Therefore, pupils’ results are no longer valid or useful if pupils have “practised the test” or if teachers have “taught to the test”. It is worth noting that standardised tests are designed to reflect the curriculum and to provide information about pupil performance in relation to the curriculum. As such, the best way that your child can prepare for the test is to take part in the regular curriculum-based learning activities developed by their teacher.
  • Can I view my child’s test paper/test results?
    Yes, to comply with GDPR, our position would be that parents/guardians are entitled to view their child’s test script. This will usually be a completed booklet for First and Second class and a completed answer sheet alongside a blank booklet for Third to Sixth class. Please note that the content of the tests is confidential and it is important that it does not circulate among the general public. Other pupils and schools will use these tests in subsequent years, and in order to protect the integrity of the tests, the content must be kept secure. As such, we would stipulate that a child’s answers be viewed under the supervision of a school staff member only. The test content must not be photographed or photocopied. Your child’s school may ask you to leave your phone in a safe place outside the room (e.g. in the school office), in order to ensure that the test content remains secure.
  • Should my child be exempted from testing, and can reasonable accommodations be made?
    Exemptions The test administration manuals indicate that pupils may be exempted who have a physical or intellectual/learning disability that would prevent them from engaging with the test in a meaningful way, or who have insufficient experience (generally, less than one year) of instruction through English or Irish. In general, we advise that pupils be included whenever possible. Additional guidance about exemptions and reasonable accommodations is available from the Department of Education here. This document states that the decision to exempt a particular pupil lies with the school principal, taking into account the pupil’s needs, abilities and best interests. Accommodations Accommodations could include, but are not limited to: o a child taking the test at a lower level than their class level; o taking the test in a quiet room; o extra time for comfort breaks; o taking the test with the support of a Special Needs Assistant; o a reader for the mathematics test (whether a human reader or a digital device that reads text aloud); o answering a paper test using the test booklet rather than an answer sheet (applies from primary Level 3 (3rd class) upwards); o using coloured overlays. If an accommodation is made, the test results must be interpreted cautiously as the test was conducted outside standardisation conditions. Please note that it is not usually advisable to supply a reader for a reading test as a reasonable accommodation. If the school does this, you should be aware that what is being assessed is no longer reading literacy, but rather listening language skills. While the raw score (number of questions answered correctly) may still offer some useful information about the child’s language knowledge more generally, the standard score will not be interpretable as the comparison with the population is no longer a like-for-like one.
  • How accurate are the test scores?
    There is a margin of error around every child’s test score. This is because a test represents a single “snapshot” of achievement, and a child’s result is likely to vary a little depending on how they are feeling on the day. For example, how much energy do they have; are they nervous; are they feeling hungry or ill? Their result will also vary slightly based on the particular test questions that they see. For example, a child who loves sport and often uses sport-related vocabulary might perform a bit better when reading a passage about an athlete than when reading a passage about a musician. To understand your child’s test score, you should always keep the margin of error in mind. It is helpful to think of a standardised test score as just one piece in the “jigsaw” of information about your child’s learning. You can find further information on standardised testing and its purpose from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website here.
  • What is ERC DOTS?
    ERC’s (Educational Research Centre’s) DOTS (Drumcondra Online Testing System) is a platform that schools can use to buy, administer and score standardised tests for students. It supports the administration and reporting of a wide range of Drumcondra tests at both primary and post-primary levels. Please note that only schools can register on DOTS. It is not a portal for parents/guardians of pupils. For all queries related to ERC DOTS, please email
  • How secure is my child’s data?
    The security of school and child information is of the utmost importance to the Educational Research Centre. We use state-of-the-art security to safeguard information entered by the school. Data is stored and processed in strict compliance with Irish and European data protection laws. School Data inputted by Schools through DOTS is stored on an encrypted server hosted in the EEA on the secure Microsoft Azure cloud. The ERC DOTS platform and Microsoft Azure have extensive security features and protocols to protect Personal Data including: · Pseudonymisation and encryption of Personal Data · HTTPS protocol and federated authentication · Restricted Access role-based security model · Passwords for local users are salted and hashed with a Base64 algorithm · Layered security architecture · Azure SQL provides built in auditing functionality · Azure Web Application Firewall. Microsoft Azure provides a secure foundation across physical, infrastructure, and operational security. Microsoft use a layered approach to security and their data centres are certified to comply with the most comprehensive portfolio of internationally-recognized standards and certifications. If you require more information please contact us at
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