Understanding Placement and Benchmark tests in Imagine Language & Literacy


This article does not apply to students taking the Imagine Galileo ELA Benchmark or the NWEA™ MAP® Growth Assessment. It only applies to students taking the default embedded assessments in Imagine Language & Literacy (IL&L). If you aren't sure which assessment your school is using, read Checking which assessment option your organization is using.

The content below provides more detail about the Placement and the Benchmark assessments in IL&L and highlights the similarities and differences between the two assessments.

What is the purpose of each test?

Both tests are adaptive assessments that provide estimates of student-specific point-in-time skill level. The results of the test give a Language score and an Oral Vocabulary score for each student up to three times per year.

The Placement test: 

  • Is a one-time test for new students that determines students’ proficiency in key skill areas and then places students in their personalized starting points across several literacy and language development curricula in the Imagine Language & Literacy curriculum. It ensures that students receive the "just-right" sequence of instructional content and activities to match their skill level. 
  • Serves as a baseline for later growth measures. This score stays in the students' Growth report year over year. 

The Benchmark tests: 

  • Are a series of three assessments per year designed to show evidence of student growth over time. Administrators and Teachers can compare the latest student Benchmark test results with Placement test results and other Benchmark test results within the same school year. 
  • Determine or refine students' placement in their learning paths throughout the year.
    • The BOY directly determines returning students' entry point in the program for the new school year and can place them forward or backward in certain strands of the content.
    • The MOY and EOY scores do not immediately change a student's position in their learning path. Instead, they can eventually contribute to a change in activities given to the students when students encounter predictive checkpoints later in their sequence. MOY and EOY scores only influence a student to be moved forward, not backward, in certain strands of the content. 

When the tests are administered

Provided that their account is never deleted and then recreated with a new student ID, students take the Placement test only once throughout their entire tenure using IL&L. After the Placement, all further assessments the students take in that first year of usage and in all subsequent school years are called Benchmarks

The Placement test is always available and is automatically administered to eligible students upon their very first login to the program. No action is needed on the part of a teacher or administrator to enable it, and it cannot be turned off or disabled.

All three Benchmarks are enabled by default and are administered during 3 different testing windows throughout the school year. The Test Window dates are firm and cannot be edited. The program also ensures that 93 or more days pass between the time the students complete the Placement test and start their first Benchmark.

The following table describes the testing windows in more detail:

Assessment Test Window Dates Time Limitations


N/A no time limit

Beginning-of-Year (BOY) Benchmark Test

August 1-October 31 Once a student begins a Benchmark test they have 28 days to complete it, even if they begin the test on the last day of the test window. After 28 days, the student's testing status is labeled as Expired and the student must wait until the next Benchmark.

Middle-of-Year (MOY) Benchmark Test

December 1-February 28

End-of-Year (EOY) Benchmark Test

April 1-June 30
Click here for further information about the testing windows
  • Students will not receive a Benchmark test during the same testing window when they took the Placement Test. 
  • Students who take the BOY Benchmark before their school is reset for the new school year should not be assessed again, as long as their student account is reactivated with the same username and/or student ID. 
  • Because all students taking the Placement test must wait 93 days until they take their first Benchmark, most students taking the Placement test in July won't take the BOY Benchmark until October. However, students who complete their Placement test between July 29th and July 31st will skip the BOY Benchmark and will be eligible to take the MOY Benchmark at the start of the second testing window on December 1st.
  • The MOY and EOY Benchmarks can be disabled by a School or District Administrator, but we don't recommend this because multiple Benchmark scores are needed in order to track student growth. 
  • Disabling the Benchmark does not disable the Placement test. The Placement test can never be disabled.

How the tests are structured

The overall Literacy and Oral Vocabulary scores the test provides are scaled scores statistically derived from the scores of various subtests. The results of the different subtests are placed on the same scale, which allows for meaningful comparison of student scores, no matter which subtests students take. Each assessment contains a series of possible subtests in the areas indicated in the table below. Due to the adaptive nature of the program, no student will receive all of the available subtests; they only receive enough subtests as necessary to collect sufficient data for program placement or to show point-in-time skill level. 

  Placement test BOY, MOY, and EOY Benchmarks
# of available subtests     13     10
Subtest Domains
  • Print Concepts
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics and Word Recognition
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Oral Vocabulary
  • Grammar 
  • Print Concepts
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics and Word Recognition
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Oral Vocabulary
Initial subtest given to students


Oral Vocabulary:
Students receive Basic and/or Academic vocabulary at the strand correlated to their Literacy score. If they have a high Word Recognition score, they'll skip Basic Vocabulary.

Given to students at Grade 1 or higher in the Literacy strand.
Literacy: Varies based on grade level as well as performance on previously administered Placement and Benchmark tests 

Oral Vocabulary: Students receive Basic and/or Academic vocabulary at the strand correlated to their Literacy score. If they have a high Word Recognition score, they'll skip Basic Vocabulary.

Grammar: N/A. The Grammar subtest is given in the Placement test only.
Click here for more detailed information about the subtests.
  • The proficiency level demonstrated within each sub-test is displayed as the student’s percent of correct responses. 
  • Subtests for the Benchmarks are alternate forms of the Placement subtest in design, content, depth of knowledge, item type, number of items, and statistical characteristics.
  • Each subtest in a Benchmark has four equivalent forms. Students rotate through these tests so that they don't take the exact same test three times a year. This also helps prevent cheating—since different students take different forms of the same subtest, they can't copy answers by looking over their peers' shoulders.
  • Of all the available subtests, some are pilots, so results are not reported on the Benchmark report for all subtests that a student takes.
  • After the initial subtest, subsequent subtests are determined by student performance on the initial subtest and all other preceding subtests. Students receive different sub-tests until Imagine Language & Literacy has enough assessment data to determine a student’s current skill level.
  • Students in lower grades receive fewer subtests than students in higher grades.
  • Basic Vocabulary includes basic nouns (animals, food, people, things in a house, etc.) and adjectives (smooth, narrow, dark, light, etc.) and verbs (crawl, look, draw, etc.). Basic Vocabulary is available to students working at the PreK and K level.
  • Academic Vocabulary is available to students who are working in Grade 1 content and above. The words taught in Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced vocabulary are Tier 2 academic vocabulary words that were selected from Marzano word lists and the Cunningham reading model, modified slightly to adjust for reading versus oral vocabulary.

How scores display in the educator portal

Both assessments provide a scaled score for two areas—Literacy and Oral Vocabulary. In the Growth > Benchmark Test page of the educator portal, the Literacy score displays first, followed by a vertical line and then the score for Oral Vocabulary. For Literacy, you can compare your students' scores in each area to the grade-level ranges provided at the bottom of the Benchmark Test page to see the grade level at which the students are performing. For Oral Vocabulary, a different set of ranges identifies students' vocabulary as Basic, Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced


The Benchmark Test page displays all assessment scores as the year progresses, with columns for the Placement test as well as three columns for Benchmarks—Beginning, Middle, and End.

      • Students who finish the Placement test in the BOY window or in November will have their results reported in the Placement column throughout their IL&L tenure as well as the Beginning column the school year they take the test.
      • Students who finish the Placement test in the MOY window or between March 1st and March 31st will have their results display in the Placement column throughout their IL&L tenure and the Middle column the school year they take the test.
      • Students who finish the Placement test in the EOY window or between July 1st and July 31st will have their results display in the Placement column throughout their IL&L tenure and the End column the school year they take the test.
Click here to see examples of how the Placement scores display based on the time of year the student takes the test.

The following examples from the Growth > Benchmark Test section of the portal demonstrate how the Placement and Benchmark scores display.

Example 1: 

Kyle logged into IL&L for the very first time in December 2021. His Placement test score carried over from the 2021-22 school year and will display as 12/5/21 in the Placement column throughout his entire IL&L tenure. The screenshot below was taken in the 2022-23 school year, so Kyle's BOY, MOY, and EOY scores for the 22-23 year populate during this time frame. At the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, Kyle's Placement score from December 2021 will carry over in the Placement column, the 22-23 Benchmark scores will no longer display, and he will receive new scores in the Beginning, Middle, and End columns for the 2023-24 assessment data.

Example 2:
Caroline began IL&L for the very first time in November 2022. Her Placement test also counted as the BOY Benchmark for the 2022-23 school year, and the same score is listed in both columns. Just like Kyle, at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, Caroline's Placement score will remain in the Placement column, and she will receive new BOY, MOY, and EOY scores for the 2023-24 assessment data.