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Why would a student of mine have a low phonemic awareness score in DORA?

Q:  Why would a student of mine have a low phonemic awareness score within DORA, 56%, but still be in the H category within the DORA profile?  In other words, the report says he is at grade level within decoding.
A:  The DORA Phonemic Awareness sub-test within DORA is considered a screener, so the margin of error is higher for this particular sub-test.  This is true for two reasons.  First, there are only 9 items in this sub-test, which is too few to provide a clear diagnostic conclusion.  Next, the tasks are very hard and can be a bit confusing, especially for younger students.  Manipulating audio, if students haven't done it before, can be difficult.  So sometimes a low score can be a result of the task being too difficult.
The PA score within DORA comes into play when a student, over a period of time via multiple DORA assessments, consistently scores low in phonics, and you also see that he or she has consistently low scores in PA.  This student would potentially have a true phonemic awareness issue.  So in other words, PA allows us to identify over time potential auditory processing issues in students.  If phonics was low but PA was medium to high (over multiple tests), then I wouldn't think audio processing was the issue but rather that the student is not grasping English phonics.  He or she may be an EL student and is consistently confusing another language's phonics principles.
If you have a student whom you suspect has a true auditory processing issue, we do have DORA Phonemic Awareness, which is a stand-alone diagnostic assessment.  It is a longer assessment and gives the students a practice question for each auditory processing task that is being diagnosed.  Schools with a regular DORA license get DORA Phonemic Awareness for free.  Ask customer service if your school needs this assessment series turned on.  Home users can purchase DORA Phonemic Awareness as a single-use assessment like they can purchase DORA.


  1. Richard Capone
    Reply 05/09/16

    This means that the PA score within DORA can have some false low scores in some circumstances. So you need to look at the PA score in the context of the entire assessment and the child or person taking the assessment.

  2. Karen Davis
    Reply 03/01/16

    Does this mean that if the PA assessment is only administered one time, the results are not a significant or accurate diagnostic tool?

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