Spelling diagnostic assessment

About the assessment

The Spelling diagnostic assessment assists teachers to establish where individual students are in their spelling development to target teaching and monitor student learning progress over time.

To help identify teaching focus and plan for differentiated instruction for students, the assessment items are grouped into sets that include different forms of spelling knowledge and skills. The sets align with K-10 English syllabus outcomes and includes National Literacy Learning Progression indicators.

The assessment is currently paper-based and focusses on students’ ability to coordinate all three word forms when spelling: phonology, orthography and morphology.

The assessment identifies a student’s:

  • phonological knowledge – the ability to segment spoken words into smaller units of sounds within a word (syllables, onset and rime, and individual phonemes)
  • orthographic knowledge – knowing letter patterns within words (26 letters of the alphabet to represent 44 phonemes)
  • morphological knowledge – understanding the meaningful word parts and how they can connect.

The Spelling diagnostic assessment can be used as both a formative and a summative assessment with any student from kindergarten onwards. It can be administered with individual students, small groups or the whole class. The assessment:

  • can be used in conjunction with teacher observations and other literacy assessments to monitor student progress
  • supports differentiation
  • can be used to provide student feedback and enable goal setting

Assessment overview

There are 7 sets in the assessment, each divided into multiple sections. Each set is aligned to a Stage (Early Stage 1 to Stage 3), with each set divided into multiple sections.

Teachers have the flexibility to use sets as needed, administer one, some or all sections in a set or administer the assessment with individual students, small groups or whole classes.

Each set includes teacher material and student recording sheets.

Teacher material includes resources to administer, mark and analyse the assessment.

  • Content overview – identifies the phonological, orthographic or morphological spelling knowledge and skills being assessed in each section. Each section includes links to K-6 English syllabus outcomes and the National Literacy Learning Progression indicators.

  • Assessment questions and instructions – lists the words to assess for each section and suggests read aloud sentences to provide context for each item.

  • Marking guide – highlights the area of focus for each section to assist teachers when marking students’ work.

  • Assessment analysis guide – assists teachers with analysing individual student results providing a whole-class overview.

Student recording sheets provide space for students to write as well as a guide to assist teachers when marking students’ spelling responses.

Teachers should use their professional judgement and knowledge of individual student learning needs to select the most appropriate sets and sections of the spelling assessment.

Assessment sets

There are 2 documents for each assessment set.

  • Teacher material – download/print one copy of the teacher material.
  • Student recording sheets – print one per student for chosen section.

Set 1 (Early Stage 1 alignment)

Set 2 (Stage 1 alignment)

Set 3 (Stage 1 alignment)

Set 4 (Stage 2 alignment)

Set 5 (Stage 2 alignment)

Set 6 (Stage 3 alignment)

Set 7 (Stage 3 alignment)

Note: Each teacher material set (PDF) includes an analysis guide at the end. An interactive spreadsheet version of the analysis guide is also available.

Feedback and support

Provide feedback or suggestions relating to the assessment via the online feedback form.

Additional support resources

Spelling skills require higher levels of English language proficiency.

EAL/D students develop English language proficiency across the 4 language modes – speaking, listening, reading and writing – at different rates, and often have greater proficiency in receptive language (listening and reading) compared to productive language (speaking and writing).

The Spelling diagnostic assessment may provide a more detailed understanding of students’ knowledge of English language phonology, orthography and morphology.

  • Spelling requires significant exposure to spoken and written English and an understanding of phonology, orthography and morphology in English. These skills take time to develop in students learning English as an additional language or dialect.
  • Consider the student’s phase of English language proficiency before using the assessment. Refer to the K-2 EAL/D progression tool for assistance. The detail in the pointers in Reading/Viewing, Speaking and Listening may indicate when a student has the English language proficiency to engage with the Spelling diagnostic assessment.
  • Typically, students in the Emerging phase in the EAL/D Learning Progression are beginning to develop the skills assessed in the Spelling diagnostic assessment. Seek advice from the school’s EAL/D specialist teacher.
  • Students develop the ability to distinguish and pronounce sounds in English and then be able to associate these sounds with a grapheme at differing rates. This depends on their home language, their home language literacy and degree of explicit English language teaching. Explicit language teaching helps students notice the relationship between sounds and graphemes in meaningful contexts.

Resources and support

  • Multicultural Education advice on assessing EAL/D learners, including links to the EAL/D progression tool
  • ACARA advice on EAL/D learners and the EAL/D Learning Progression

For more information on using the Spelling diagnostic assessment with EAL/D learners in the early phases of learning English, contact: EALD.education@det.nsw.edu.au

About this resource

Quality assurance

The Spelling diagnostic assessment has previously been provided to schools on a trial basis and has been revised and refined to ensure that it is relevant, informative and underpinned by evidence-based practice.

The resource has been updated based on feedback received from a trial conducted in schools. Subject matter experts from the Assessment team and Literacy team have reviewed all teacher and student materials for this assessment, to ensure accuracy of the content.

Advice on use

The Spelling diagnostic assessment can be used as both a formative and a summative assessment with any student from kindergarten onwards. It can be administered with individual students, small groups or the whole class. 

Teachers have the flexibility to use sets as needed, administer one, some or all sections in a set or administer the assessment with individual students, small groups or whole classes.


When using this resource, it is important for teachers to consider the needs of all students, including Aboriginal and EAL/D learners.

EAL/D learners will require explicit language support and scaffolding, informed by the Enhanced EAL/D enhanced teaching and learning cycle and the student’s phase on the EAL/D Learning Progressions. For further information visit English as an additional language or dialect education.

Learning adjustments enable students with disability and additional learning and support needs to access syllabus outcomes and content on the same basis as their peers. Teachers can use a range of adjustments to ensure a personalised approach to student learning.

A range of tools to identify, assess and challenge high potential and gifted learners are available to support teachers in the classroom. Identifying contributors to achievement helps teachers identify and target areas for students’ growth and improvement. A differentiation adjustment tool can be used to plan effective teaching strategies.

Alignment to system priorities and/or needs:

This resource reflects the following existing frameworks: 

Alignment to School Excellence Framework

Learning domain

  • Assessment: Formative Assessment, Summative Assessment 

  • Student Performance Measures: Internal and external measures against syllabus standards 

Teaching domain

  • Effective classroom practice: Lesson planning, Explicit teaching, Feedback 

  • Data Skills and Use: Data Analysis, Data Use in Teaching 

  • Learning and development: Expertise and Innovation

Word search engines:

Cambridge Dictionary Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2021. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/

Collins Dictionary Copyright © Collins 2021. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/

Dictionary.com Copyright © 2021 Dictionary.com, LLC. https://www.dictionary.com/

Macmillan Dictionary Copyright © Macmillan Education Limited 2009–2021.


Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Copyright © 2021 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.


Online Etymology Dictionary Copyright © 2001-2021 Douglas Harper. https://www.etymonline.com/

The Free Dictionary Copyright © 2003-2021 Farlex, Inc. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/

Reviewed by: Literacy and Numeracy team

Last updated: December 2023

Anticipated resource review date: December 2024


  • Teaching and learning


  • Student assessment

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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