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FAST Feature Focus: Assessments for Vocabulary and Comprehension

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September 16th, 2016

FastBridge Learning has added two new computer-based reading assessment tools in FAST™: AUTOreading and COMPefficiency. These new measures complement existing reading assessments and offer additional ways to measure reading subskills. Both assessments are currently in “Lab” phase, meaning that they’ve been validated by our research team and made available for use by schools for continued feedback and refinement. The measures do not yet have benchmarks and norms.

AUTOreading.  AUTOreading measures a student’s automaticity with phonics, decoding, vocabulary and comprehension. Automaticity is important because when a reader can recognize and understand words with automaticity, overall reading comprehension is improved.  In order to measure automaticity, a test must be timed. In AUTOreading, each item is displayed for 3 seconds and if a student does not respond during that time, the next item will appear. There are nine AUTOreading subtests:

  • Picture Naming
  • Letter Names
  • Letter Sounds
  • Encoding
  • Word Identification
  • Vocabulary
  • Synonyms
  • Decoding
  • Morphology

The Picture Naming subtest is a “warm-up” practice exercise for students to learn how to complete the test items.  Usually, students do not complete all the subtests. Instead, teachers select which ones to use. Below is a table showing the recommended AUTOreading subtests by grade levels.

Grades Pictures Letter Names Letter Sounds Encoding Word ID Vocabulary Synonyms Decoding Morphology
Kindergarten: Fall X X
Kindergarten: Winter & Spring X X X
Grades 1-4 X X
Grades 5-12 X X X X

AUTOreading scores are reported as raw scores. The measure can be used for both screening and progress monitoring. Although there not yet benchmarks and norms for AUTOreading, student progress on individual subtests can be observed by examining the amount of growth a student makes over time.

COMPefficiency.  Another brand new reading measure in FAST this school year is COMPefficiency, which measures a student’s reading comprehension while reading. This assessment includes two types of items. First, the student reads a passage with one sentence shown at a time. After several sentences, true or false statements about the basic details of the story appear on the screen. The student clicks to indicate whether the statement is correct. After the student reads all of the sentences, a second type of question appears. These are multiple choice questions designed to measure the student’s understanding of the overall passage, including inferences about how the passage relates to other content not in the passage. COMPefficiency uses open-ended timing, and there is no time limit. The student’s elapsed time is recorded. During the 2016–17 school year, COMPefficiency can be used for screening only, however, versions for progress monitoring are being developed and examined in additional research studies.


While in Lab phase, AUTOreading and COMPefficiency are not recommended as replacements to other FAST™ reading measures. Rather, we suggest that teachers use them alongside aReading, earlyReading, and CBMreading to learn more details about students’ reading skills. Specifically, AUTOreading can be used to gain more information about a student’s basic and foundational reading skills, such as decoding and vocabulary. Although AUTOreading also provides some information about reading comprehension, it does so at the word level, instead of at the sentence or passage level. AUTOreading is likely to help identify the specific nature of a student’s basic reading skill deficit. It does this by having the student complete multiple subtests in a narrow area of focus to show whether there are gaps in certain skills.  

For example, if a third grader had a low score on aReading or CBMreading, a teacher might want to learn more about the reason for that score. By having the student complete both the word identification and vocabulary AUTOreading subtests, the teacher could examine if the student’s difficulties are related to recognizing and reading words quickly, or are the result of vocabulary deficits. If the student’s AUTOreading scores on these two subtests were very different, the teacher can use that information to develop and implement an appropriate intervention.

COMPefficiency is designed to focus on the end goal of reading, which is the overall understanding of the text. This skill is particularly important for students in higher grades. As is often noted, in the early grades (e.g., K–3), students are learning to read, but starting in about fourth grade, students begin reading to learn. Those students with poor comprehension will likely struggle in content area courses because they will not understand the texts.  Like AUTOreading, COMPefficiency provides more details about a student’s reading skills by comparing performance on two types of comprehension tasks: process and product. The student’s score for the true and false questions during reading shows whether the student made sense of the text during the process of reading. By contrast, the multiple choice questions at the end of the passage show whether the student understood the overall passage, or the product of reading. Both fact understanding and connections to other information are essential skills for overall reading comprehension.

COMPefficiency could be used by middle school teachers who want to learn why certain students do not appear to make connections based on assigned readings. The COMPefficiency test include three scores: text-to-text, text understanding, and overall comprehension. If a student scores well on text-to-text (questions during reading) but lower on text understanding (questions after reading), it is possible that the student has adequate word recognition and vocabulary skills, but needs to learn how to synthesize information from different parts of a passage. Alternately, if a student does better on the text understanding questions, it might be that he or she is not reading carefully for meaning. Students who score low on both types of questions, might need instruction in all parts of reading for meaning.

AUTOreading and COMPefficiency are two new FAST assessments that will be in Lab status for the 2016–17 school year. Teachers can use these measures alongside other FAST™ reading assessments to learn more about their students’ reading skills. FastBridge Learning encourages teachers and other educators who use our tools to send us feedback about them so that we can make improvements over time. To share your feedback, please send us an email to

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