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January 31, 2012

WJIII Achievement: Two Common Errors


The WJIII is one of the easiest tests to administer.  It has both the administration instructions and the stimulus items in the same easel.  It’s astonishing that other publishers haven’t copied this elegant design. Instead we’re often confronted with an awkward manual and many different sized stimulus books.  However there are still some common errors that people make when administering and scoring the WJIII.

The two errors I’m referring to deal with the basal and ceiling rules.  Often tests simple say when you get X number of errors that is your ceiling.  But the WJIII says it’s the X highest incorrect.  That often-overlooked superlative is important when you couple it with the second error, which is testing by complete pages when the examinee is viewing a stimulus page.  In those cases it’s possible (and not that rare) to have X incorrect errors but have remaining items that the examinee may get correct.  Therefore the test must continue until you get the X highest incorrect.

Let’s walk through an example to make it less abstract.  First let’s tackle the “testing by complete pages” rule. We’ll use Test 1 in the WJIII Achievement which is Letter-Word Identification (LWI).  The examinee will have a page of words to read that might look like this:

33. Pay

34. Attention

35. Otherwise

36. Mistaken

37. Inferences

38. Materialize

If testing stopped at #35 the examinee could be rattled. There’s three words sitting in front of them and they stop? That won’t seem right.  In general, we try not to unnerve the examinee. So clearly we want the examinee to finish the page.  And that is the reasoning behind the “test by complete pages” rule.

Since we’re testing by complete pages the “highest incorrect” rule sudden comes into sharp focus because from the examiners vantage point the protocol (or Test Record) might look like this:

21 1  First

22 1  Obtain

23 1  Basal

24 1  Then

25 1  Pursue

26 1  Ceiling


27 1  Ignore

28 1  the

29 1  Rules

30 0  At

31 0  Your

32 0  Peril


33. 0 Pay

34. 0 Attention

35. 0 Otherwise

36. 1 Mistaken

37. 0 Inferences

38. 0 Materialize


First of all lets assume we started with item 21; so we have a basal (items 21-26).  The ceiling is where it gets dicey for people.  It seems we may have a ceiling with items 30-35 which would give us 6 consecutive errors.  But are they the highest six errors?  Sure, while we’re on item 35 they certainly are the highest.  But, we have that “test by complete pages rule” so we must continue and this examinee managed to get #36 correct.  So items 30-35 no longer constitute the highest 6 incorrect.  We must now continue testing until we obtain the highest six errors (with no dangling correct answers after it).

I’m often greeted with gasps from those that first hear this so if you’ve been doing it wrong then you’ve got company.  If it’s any consolation lemmings as a group may have a bad reputation but no individual lemming is ever singled out for ridicule.