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What is the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement?

It's been widely praised by leading figures in the educational occupation as a cleverly-produced mechanism for the measurement of cognitive abilities. The proof's in the pudding, really, considering that the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement are already in their third edition - meaning they're being well used by teachers across the USA, and that there is a demand for vigorous improvement. So, what do they actually address? And why are they so popular?

The tests were first introduced in 1997, after being developed by Woodcock and Johnson themselves. They've been revised twice since then, with the most recent update to ensure the concept matches the needs of modern schooling taking place in 2001.

One of the biggest advantages of these achievement tests is that they can be applied to students of any age - be they pre-schoolers or elderly citizens.

As mentioned, the small but effective tests can measure a range of one's cognitive capacities. Word and letter identification is used to check up on basic literacy, whilst editing tasks demand the correction of grammatical and spelling errors within an extract that contains purposeful mistakes.

It's not only English skills that are addressed by the Woodcock Johnson papers, either. Math and other academic subjects are covered by other elements of the 21 main tests. The calculations test asks students to complete simple arithmetic using their head only (no calculators!).

Applied problems are somewhat different than this, and focus more on the skills associated with solving worded math conundrums. To complete these, the student must be able to identify and extract key bits of information from the text, before looking at ways to tackle the problem and come out with a correct answer.

English and Math aside, one test that looks at a person's more 'general' abilities is academic knowledge. This examines the pupil's understanding of factual information relating to society, science, history and geography.

Each pupil who undergoes a selection of the tests not only has their oral and written abilities tested, but also their visual awareness. Tasks such as those relating to picture vocabulary ask the person taking part to recognize a variety of images, which may sound less demanding than it actually is.

Perhaps one of the most important areas of being a successful learner is having the ability to retain information over a period of time. Again, this is catered for by the Woodcock Johnson achievement tests in story recall tasks, where students are asked a range of questions on a story they were told or read some time ago. By seeing how much of the story the pupil can recall, the educational professional overseeing the tests can analyze the state of his or her memory.

As you can see, Woodcock and Johnson's tests really do assess a wide range of cognitive skills. Their flexibility makes them a popular choice amongst teachers and other educational staff. They're not as stressful for students as most other exams, due to their fun nature - though this isn't to say they aren't as detailed. In no time at all, the cognitive abilities of a pupil can be measured, thus allowing appropriate targets to be put in place to aid their personal progress.

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