Interpreting STEN & Drumcondra Test Results

This time of year is not just the ‘season to be jolly’ but also parent/teacher meetings season, so I thought I’d write again about STEN & Drumcondra tests. Parents often contact me regarding their child’s ‘Drumcondras’ or STEN results because they are not exactly sure what they mean.

The first thing to remember is that it is a test rather than an exam. It is just an information gathering exercise to see how children are performing against their peers throughout the school system. Schools are required to use standardised tests at three identified stages during your child’stime at primary school:

  • English-medium schools are required to implement standardised testing in English reading and maths during the period May/June for all children in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes with effect from 2012 onwards
  • Irish-medium schools are required to implement standardised testing in Irish reading,
  • English reading and Mathematics during the period May/June for all children in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes with effect from 2012 onwards.

However many schools use standardised tests in other classes too. It is used as a tool to help the teacher assess whether additional teaching resources are required or if your child is gifted in the subjects tested.  It is really important to remember that it is just those subjects above that are tested. Nothing else.  If your child is fantastic at history or sport, those subjects are not tested.  If your child is not good at history or sport, those subjects are not tested.  It does not take into account emotional intelligence, common sense or how kind and loving your child is.  What I’m trying to say is; it is a very narrow examination of your child’s abilities, based on a certain set of questions and your child’s answers at a particular time, on a particular day,which is now in the past.

Interpreting the results of these tests can be done in various ways and some schools inform parents of the results giving the Standard score and STen score from these tests, while others just use the STen scores.  Standard scores usually range from 55 to 145 with the average score being 100.  STen scores are derived from Standard scores and give a ten point scale with 1 representing the lowest category and 10 the highest.

The following tables explain these:

 Interpreting Standard Scores:

Standard Score Range Descriptor Coverage
130 and above Well above average 2% of   pupils
120-129 Above average 7% of   pupils
110-119 High average 16% of  pupils
90-109 Average 50% of  pupils
80-89 Low average 16% of  pupils
70-79 Below average 2% of    pupils
Below 70 Well below average 2% of   pupils

Interpreting STEN Scores:

Standard Score Range STEN Score Range Descriptor Coverage
116 and above 8-10 Well above average Top 1/6 of pupils
108-114 7 High average 1/6 of pupils
93-107 5-6 average Middle 1/3 of pupils
85-92 4 Low average 1/6 of pupils
84 and below 1-3 Well below average Bottom 1/6 of pupils

It’s really important to remember that children may not always perform as well as expected in these tests for a variety of reasons e.g. exam fright, illness or off form on the day or difficulty of working on their own for a long period.

While important, the results from Standardised tests should not be taken in isolation and should be understood in conjunction with teacher observations, teacher designed tasks and tests and the child’s general progress.

Here is a text we got from a mum;

“Just wanted to let you know that we got J’s school report today and we are delighted with his results! His English STEN went up to 7 this year from 4 last year and his Maths STEN went up to 6 from 4 last year and his teacher said she saw a great improvement in his reading.  So as you can see we are delighted and want to convey our thanks for all your help. Great results from Hummingbird.  Thanks again R & J”




  1. Maura Lane says:

    Hello, can you tell me what the highest score possible is for these tests? Also wondering how many questions there are on each of the tests for 2nd class – Reading and Maths?


    • Hi Maura

      Getting access to the Drumcondra tests is like trying to find the holy grail – only more difficult! The department is really strict on ensuring that the tests are not accessible because if they were, then teachers & parents may be tempted to coach the students and the results would then be void. So I have not seen a second class test. I have seen a more senior class test and there were over 60 maths questions in one section & almost 30 in another. It is really important to remember that the pupils are not expected to be able to complete all of the questions, they are just to attempt as many as they can in the time allowed.

      The highest possible score is 10. This is a scale used to explain where the student is in relation to every other child in their class throughout the country. So the scale runs from 1 to 10.

      For more here is the link to my latest blog on the standardised tests

      If you have any concerns about your child’s results please ring me on 087 2996054 and I can talk you through it and explain how we might be able to help.

      Take care


  2. Lucy Cheung says:

    Do you have any online English course as we are living in Wicklow?

    • Hi Lucy
      Thank you for your message. My apologies for the delay in replying, I am just back from holiday today. I do work with clients online. Please call me on 087-2996054 and we can discuss your needs. Thanks, Elaine

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