Assessing Fluency

In order to assess oral fluency, one must look at all three components of fluency: accuracy, automaticity (rate), and prosody. One common way of assessing fluency is administrating the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI-5). According to Leslie and Caldwell, the QRI-5 “provides graded word lists and numerous passages designed to assess a student’s oral reading accuracy, rate of reading, and comprehension of passages read orally and silently.” (ix) Accuracy and rate are evaluated based upon correct words per minute (CWPM). Correct words per minute can be calculated as follows: (number of words – number of errors) x 60 = __/ __ seconds = __ CWPM. Prosody is rated in various scales such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Multidimensional Fluency Scale.

Here is an example of a QRI-5 assessment sheet from Qualitative Reading Inventory- 5 by Leslie & Caldwell.

NAEP Oral Reading Fluency Scale, Grade 4: 2002

Fluent Level 4 Reads primarily in larger, meaningful phrase groups. Although some regressions, repetitions, and deviations from text may be present, these do not appear to detract from the overall structure of the story. Preservation of the author’s syntax is consistent. Some or most of the story is read with expressive interpretation.
Level 3 Reads primarily in three- or four-word phrase groups. Some small groupings may be present. However, the majority of phrasing seems appropriate and preserves the syntax of the author. Little or no expressive interpretation is present.
Nonfluent Level 2 Reads primarily in two-word phrases with some three- or four-word groupings. Some word-by-word reading may be present. Word groupings may seem awkward and unrelated to larger context of sentence or passage.
Level 1 Reads primarily word-by-word. Occasional two-word or three-word phrases may occur—but these are infrequent and/or they do not preserve meaningful syntax.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2002 Oral Reading Study.

Multidimensional Fluency Scale

Use the following rubric (1-4) to rate reader fluency in the areas of expression and volume, phrasing, smoothness, and pace.


Reads words as if simply to get them out. Little sense of trying to make text sound like natural language. Tends to read in a quiet voice.

Begins to use voice to make text sound like natural language in some areas of the text but not in others. Focus remains largely on pronouncing the word. Still reads in a quiet voice.

Make text sound like natural language throughout the better part of the passage.  Occasionally slips into expressionless reading.  Voice volume is generally appropriate throughout the text.

Reads with good expression and enthusiasm throughout the text. Varies expression and volume to match his or her interpretation of the passage.


Reads in a monotone with little sense of boundaries; frequently reads word-by-word.

Frequently reads in two- and three-word phrases, giving the impression of choppy reading; improper stress and intonation fail to mark ends of sentences and clauses.

Reads with a mixture of run-ons, mid-sentence pauses for breath, and some choppiness, reasonable stress and intonation.

Generally reads with good phrasing, mostly in clause and sentence units, with adequate attention to expression.


Makes frequent extended pauses, hesitations, false starts, sound-outs, repetitions, and/or multiple attempts.

Experiences several “rough spots” in text where extended pauses or hesitations are more frequent and disruptive.

Occasionally breaks smooth rhythm because of difficulties with specific words and/or structures.

Generally reads smoothly with some breaks, but resolves word and structure difficulties quickly, usually through self-correction.


Reads slowly and laboriously.

Reads moderately slowly.

Reads with an uneven mixture of fast and slow pace.

Consistently reads at conversational pace; appropriate rate throughout reading.

Scores range from 4-16.  Generally, scores below 8 indicate that fluency may be a concern.  Scores of 8 or above indicate that the student is making good progress in fluency. 

Adapted from Zutell & Rasinski, 1991.