How to Test Reading Level Online: The Ultimate Guide

I decided to start hunting for a reading level test for my kid during my first year of homeschooling.

I had a first grader who had completed her phonics curriculum, but wasn’t really interested in chapter books. She loved for me to read to her, but was not interesting in reading very much herself – which stressed me. 

As a frazzled, first-time homeschooler, I wanted to test her reading level to see if she needed more reading instruction, more practice, or if she was right where she needed to be. 

I have tried a number of online reading tests over my homeschooling years and have found that they are not all created equally. 

In this post I am going to share with you everything you wanted to know and more about giving your kid a reading level test. 

But First, Avoid Reading Level Tests If…

Find out the three best ways to test your kid's reading level online for free! It's a great way to pinpoint weaknesses, identify gifted students, and pick better books for your kid! Also find out how to get the most accurate scores and what to do when you don't get the result you were hoping for.

Your kid is still going through a high-quality phonics program, such as All About Reading, Explode the Code, or Primary Phonics.

Let your kid finish the program before worrying about what grade level they may be at. 

Most reading tests do not assume that the child is learning phonics (since most kids aren’t) and will rely more heavily on sight words they think the child should have learned by a certain grade. 

Taking a reading test with a kid who hasn’t finished their phonics reading curriculum is probably not going to be helpful to a parent or child.

Do Take a Reading Level Test If…

  • You have just started homeschooling and have no idea where your kid should be placed for reading.

  • You have finished a phonics program, but are still unsure if your kid is where they need to be. 

  • You think your child might be gifted reader and want to see what level they are testing at.

  • You want to make sure your student is progressing, even though they’re not reading aloud to you anymore

  • You need to make sure you are buying the right level books for your child to read. 

  • You want to see if your kid is smarter than someone else’s kid and you want proof.

These are all great reasons, well except for that last one. Definitely do not test your kid for homeschooling glory.

Hopefully that gave you a laugh, so let’s dive in!

4 Tips for Getting the Best Results When You Test Reading Level

Kid happily reading at an appropriate reading level

1.Take the Reading Test Yourself

I took a lot of time to explain how the test runs below, but it would be helpful to run through the test yourself first. Make sure you know how to administer the test and confirm that the reading assessment is a good fit for your kid.

2. Administer the Reading Test at the Best Time

Make sure that your kid takes the test when they are their best. Is that first thing in the morning, in the evening, or right after lunch (probably not)?

Ensure your kid has plenty of energy, isn’t hungry, and is in a comfortable environment with minimal distractions. 

3. Prep Your Kid Mentally

If you are giving a reading assessment to your kid, there is a good chance that your kid is already a little insecure about reading. Do not put the pressure on them that this test evaluating them. 

I have given several reading tests and I make a point to tell them it is no big deal, but I do need them to do their best. I go on to say that I need to evaluate our curriculum. Depending on how they do on the test, I will make decisions about what books I need to buy for the next school year. 

This takes the pressure off of them.

The are not being evaluated – the curriculum is being evaluated. 

4. Do Not Share Their Results with Them

When the reading level test is complete, tell them they did well and that you are happy with their effort. 

If the score is less than you were hoping for, you don’t want to destroy their confidence. If it’s really high, you don’t want them to be prideful and brag about it. 

Either way, tell them they worked hard and you’ll use the scores to make the best decisions for their education. 

This also helps if you plan to test their reading in the future. They will go into the assessment with no expectations – positive or negative. 

3 Free Ways to Test Reading Level Online!

1. MacMillian Reading Level Test

The MacMillian Reading Level test seems to be one of the most popular and trusted reading level tests out there.

I used it with my daughter a couple years ago and I recently tested my own reading level to refresh myself on their process. 

How the MacMillian Reading Level Test Works

Everyone starts at the easiest level. You are provided a picture and a fill-in the blank question. There will be 4 multiple choice options to choose from.

MacMillian Reading Level Test Example 

As you answer questions you progress through the levels until you have missed a certain number. Then you are immediately told what level reader you are – Starter, Beginner, Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate, or Advanced. 

Interestingly, I found the questions to be a bit slanted towards an understanding of grammar and reading comprehension.

Here is an example of a grammar question. Your kid may be able to read all the words, but does he understand the correct verb agreement? 

Mcmillian reading level test example

Pros and Cons of MacMillian Reading Level Test

The benefits of this online reading level test are that it is free, simple to use, and provides you an answer right away (no need to wait for an email). 

It is also a great test for a kid who can read, but struggles with comprehension.

The negatives to me are that it seems to be testing more than reading and the results do not provide a grade level. You may not know what to do with an “Elementary Level” result. It is kind of a broad answer. 

One More Thing to Know About MacMillian Reading Level Test

The test does not tell your child when they miss a question. I intentionally missed questions in order to see what would happen and it just went to the next question.

This might help if your kid would be stressed by a reading level test – no big red X when they make an error. 

2. San Diego Quick Assessment

San Diego Quick Reading Level Assessment

I have also used this reading level test with my kid – twice actually – and it lives up to its name!

It really is quick!

How the San Diego Quick Assessment Works

Go to this online PDF and print off the four pages.

You will see grade level words in columns from Pre-Primer through 11th grade. There are 10 words in each column.

Give your child the student portion and ask them to start reading down the first column. Use your grader sheet to check off if they read the word correctly or not. 

The test helps you break down the results in terms of Independent Level, Instructional Level, and Frustration Level.

Pros and Cons of San Diego Quick Test

The benefit of this online reading level test is that it does give a quick and free snapshot of your kid’s reading level. No lengthy test that your child gets bored with.

It is also on paper, which many kids do better with than reading off a screen.

The test doesn’t have any context or pictures to help your child. It will really tell you if they can read or sound out the word or not.

Parents will also like that they get a solid grade level result – a little easier to understand and work with.

The only con I have is that determining grade level with just 10 words is pretty arbitrary. You child may know many other grade level words, but not necessarily the ones on this list. 

3. Pioneer Valley Reading Test

Pioneer Valley is the most recent online reading level test we’ve used and by far my favorite. I found it to be much more comprehensive and I felt the results were a much more solid reflection of my daughter’s true reading skills. 

How the Pioneer Valley Reading Test Works

This online reading assessment is broken into two parts.

Part One: High Frequency Word Reading

Part One of Pioneer Valley Reading Level Test

The first part consists of words coming across the screen for your child to read. The words are simple at first and then get more complex. The parent sits with the child and clicks “Correct” or “Incorrect” as the child reads each word. 

Once the child misses two words, she moves on to the next step.

Part Two: Reading

Part two of Pioneer Valley Reading Assessment

You will be asked to sit with your child while they read through an interesting story. Make a mark on a piece of a paper every time your child misses a word in the story. 

At the end of the story you will be prompted to record the total number of words your child missed and whether or not they struggled to complete the story. Based on those results your child will either move forward or backward on a scale of A-Z. Eventually your child will be assigned a Letter Level and you will see a chart that corresponds to a grade level:

Pioneer Valley Reading Level Assessment Grade Chart

Pros and Cons of Pioneer Valley Online Reading Assessment

I thought this was much more involved and thorough than other tests we have tried.

Even if your child encounters words he doesn’t know in the first part of the assessment, there are still many other chances in part two to show their reading skills. 

Other benefits include: it is free, the stories were interesting to read, and there was an option to test reading comprehension after each story. 

Cons for me would be that the scale does not go beyond 6th grade. It just says 6 grade +. I would have liked to see a scale that goes into high school level.

Other Free Online Reading Level Tests to Try

There are many other resources to try out there to test your kid’s reading level!

Here are some other tests that might be the perfect fit for you and your kid:

Red Cat Level Reading Assessment

Oxford Owl Online Reading Test

Oxford English Reading Test

Good and the Beautiful Reading Level Assessment

Wide Range Reading Test

Not Happy with Your Kid’s Reading Level Test Results? Try these ideas! 

disappointed mom

1. Take a Different Reading Assessment

It is possible that the test you chose just didn’t jive with your kid. If you are unsure about the results, don’t be shy about waiting a day or two and then doing another reading test with your child. 

2. Think about what they struggled with the most during the the Reading Level Test

These reading level tests are excellent tools to help you pinpoint exactly where your child needs help.

Did your child struggle because of any of these issues:

  • Sounding out

When your child came to an unfamiliar word, did he freeze up, meltdown, or give ridiculous guesses? If so, consider working with your kid on their phonics. 

A high-quality, low-cost phonics program we love is Explode the Code. These simple workbooks are known for giving kids confidence and raising reading levels. 

  • Vocabulary

Did your child manage to sound out a word, but have no idea what it meant? As your kid climbs the reading levels, increasing their vocabulary is crucial. 

Some simple ways to increase vocabulary are reading aloud to your child regularly, using higher levels of vocabulary around the house, and including vocabulary curriculum in your homeschool. 

I recently bought Word Roots for my 4th grader and we are so excited about it. It teaches the Latin roots of English words so that kids can break down AND understand a large number of difficult words. 

  • Comprehension

Is your kid reading beautifully, but has no earthly idea what he just read? Many parents would be jealous of the beautiful reading, but the comprehension is just as important – if not more so. 

Providing your kids with a continuous flow of interesting books that spark their imagination will help a lot in this area. And I hate to say it, but decreasing their screen time will also dramatically help.  

If your child continues to struggle with comprehension, consider looking into the Reading Detective series. We have added this workbook to our homeschool curriculum and I think it has really stretched my daughter. The workbooks teach children how to analyze a short story while answering multiple choice questions AND citing the paragraph or sentence number that proves their answer.  

  • Fluency

Did your child painstakingly struggle through sounding out just about every word? Even the short vowel words?

The best thing for fluency is a high quality phonics program as mentioned before and practice, practice, practice.

I am a huge fan of easy phonics readers and keep multiple sets around the house.  Here are some of our absolute favorites:

Recap Reading Level Test Guide for Kids

Remember above all else that a reading level test is a tool to help you customize your kid’s education and help them succeed. 

It is not a grade for your parenting. 

Or a grade for your homeschool.

You are not necessarily a failure or a success no matter how your child scores. 

Use these free online reading tests to drive you forward and you can’t go wrong! 

Have you tried an online reading test that isn’t mentioned here? Please share in the comments!

Do you want to make sure you save all this information for later – smart thinking! Just pin this article to your favorite Pinterest post and definitely share with your friends and followers!

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  1. Lilian Rogers says:

    I am a recently retired public school teacher who was recruited to teach my grandsons. I was used to having mandated tests provided free. I truly appreciate this blog post which is a blessing to us. I plan on trying them. Thank you so much! God bless you!

  2. Adam Callis says:

    Thank you. I’ve been struggling to find a straightforward test. The Pioneer Test was great with my kids.

    1. Lauren Schmitz says:

      That’s great to hear, Adam!

  3. Thank you so much. I read this blog and decided to go with Pioneer Valley based on your Pros and Cons. Now I’m looking for a blog post exactly like this but for math. Do you have one?

    1. Hi Christin! I’m sorry, I don’t have that on my blog. If you are a homeschool parent, I would recommend choosing a math curriculum and then taking a placement test to see where your kid is at. Hope that helps!

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