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Explaining Sten Scores to Parents

The NCCA have provided some excellent information sheets for parents to understand the new end of year school reports that have gone out to parents this week. One of the new requirements is that schools are obliged to report the standardised test results that their children have received to parents on the report. This can be provided as a percentile or something called a STEN. STEN simple means “Score out of ten.”

A parent looking at a STEN score may be worried if a score of 5 was given to their child who seemed to be doing nicely in class all year. Some parents who see a score of 3 or less think their child has failed the year. However, a STEN is simply a marker to compare the child to the rest of the population who sat the standardised tests. If a child gets a STEN score of 5, it means they are performing in the average range. In other words, if the child was standing in a line with all the other children who took the test in order of how well they did, the child would be standing somewhere in the middle.

In fact, 68% of children should fall into the STEN score of between 4 and 7 – that is the average range. The graph below adapted from the PDST shows the percentage of children who fall into the various ranges.

Very few children get a score of 9 or 10, (approximately 2%), but those who do are children that a parent might look into seeing if their child has exceptional needs. Around 2% of children get a STEN score of 1. Children in this range will generally qualify for Learning Support. Often children with STEN scores of 2 and sometimes 3 will also be considered for Learning Support.

For further information about standardised scores, check out the NCCA’s great guide at the following location.

Last Update: August 9, 2017  

June 28, 2012   2358   simon    NQT Advice  
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Comments (10)

  1. IT Support 3rd July 2012 at 12:37 am Reply

    STEN scoring is something new that parents needs to learn in order to understand the results. Explaining thoroughly how the scoring works is really vital and important to prevent misunderstanding.

  2. shahzmum 21st May 2014 at 3:04 pm Reply

    Does sten score 10 mean the student did all the sums right or what?

    1. admin 21st May 2014 at 5:39 pm Reply

      Not necessarily. It does mean that they got most of them right. However, a score of ten in STEN means that if you lined up every child who did the test in order of how well they did, a score of 10 would be at or near the very top. 5 would be an average score for a child, which is what most children should get.

      1. shahzmum 21st May 2014 at 5:53 pm Reply


  3. mary 26th June 2014 at 5:04 pm Reply

    percentiles range from first percentile (the same as weakest 1% of same age group in the country ) to hundredth percentile (same as best brightest 100% in the country). Raw score (when marks are totted up ) is aligned to a standard score which goes from 70 to 130. percentile is alot easier to understand and more realistic at either end of scale. 97%ile is still only a STEN of 9 and a 19.%ile could get a STEN 3 . very misleading for the weakest and gifted. Why are we so shady about the results? Why not give reading age in english reading, STEN and %ile? All the info is available to us …..

    1. admin 26th June 2014 at 9:45 pm Reply

      I’m not really sure why we use STENs because percentile do tell us a lot more. I love the abbreviation though for its lack of inventiveness! 🙂

  4. mary 26th June 2014 at 5:09 pm Reply

    Did I read somewhere that Simon did Honours Maths ….. after the Minister’s comments at the Easter conferences…. correct the above article……

    1. admin 26th June 2014 at 9:44 pm Reply

      Not sure I understand this comment, Mary.

  5. mary 28th June 2014 at 6:09 pm Reply

    percentile is explained incorrectly in article above but diagram is perfect. this diagram should be given with report . parents understand percentile since they were told about how their child compares with others as regards height and weight at baby check ups. learning support teachers hate sten as a huge improvement can go unnoticed by parents.

    1. admin 28th June 2014 at 7:52 pm Reply

      Ah, yes. I got it mixed up with standardised score. My apologies and well spotted. Your comment about my ability in maths is duly noted.

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