Iowa Testing Programs Our sites: Primary Website | Login to Online Tools | Login to Bar Coding | Login to eITP   
The University of Iowa College of Education The University of IowaCollege of Education Iowa Testing Programs

Description of Iowa Tests of Basic Skills Tests, Levels 5-8 (Primary Grades)

The descriptions below are brief summaries of the content and skills measured by the separate tests. In addition to these tests, a Practice Page, which consists of six questions covering several test areas, precedes the first test in the Levels 5 and 6 booklets.


At Levels 5 and 6, the Vocabulary test measures listening vocabulary. Students hear a word, and sometimes they also hear the word used in a sentence. Then they choose one of three pictorial response options. The Vocabulary test at Levels 7 and 8 measures reading vocabulary. For each question, a pictorial or written stimulus is followed by a set of written responses. Approximately equal numbers of nouns, verbs, and modifiers are tested at all levels.

Word Analysis

The questions on the Word Analysis test assess how well students can recognize letters and letter-sound relationships. No written words are used at Level 5, but in subsequent levels, both pictures and words are used as stimuli and response choices.

Reading Comprehension

There is no Reading Comprehension test in the Level 5 Battery, and the one in the Level 6 Battery allows several options. The Reading test presents students with a variety of tasks, which progressively require more independence in reading as the test level increases. The tasks in Levels 6-8 include using print, context, and picture cues to identify unfamiliar words; completing sentences that tell about a picture by choosing a word for filling in a blank; and answering multiple-choice questions after reading a brief story. The questions associated with pictures and stories often ask students to make inferences or to generalize about what they have read.


In the Listening test, short oral scenarios are presented, and then one or more multiple-choice questions are read. Since all response options are pictorial, the scores from this test do not depend on students' reading abilities. Like the Reading Comprehension test, the Listening test requires students to demonstrate both literal and inferential understanding. Students' abilities to follow directions, understand sequences, and predict outcomes are also measured.


The Language tests of Levels 5 and 6 measure students' abilities to understand linguistic relationships -- how language is used to express ideas. These are developmental language skills that include aural language usage and word classification tasks. Questions are presented orally by the teacher, and students choose from a set of pictorial responses. For Levels 7 and 8, a major portion of the test deals with skills in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and skills in usage and expression in writing. For these tasks, the questions and response choices are read by the teacher as students read silently. A separate score is provided for spelling.


The Mathematics test at Levels 5 and 6 consists of questions measuring beginning math concepts, problem solving, and math operations. Areas covered include numeration, number systems, geometry, measurement, and the use of addition and subtraction in word problems. Questions are presented orally, and response options are pictures or numerals.

In the Levels 7 and 8 batteries, there are separate tests for Math Concepts, Math Problem Solving, and Math Computation. The Math Concepts test deals with numeration and number systems, whole numbers, geometry, measurement, fractions, currency, and number sentences. The Math Problem Solving test has two parts. In the first, students solve brief word problems; in the second part, they interpret information presented in graphs and tables. The Math Computation test presents addition and subtraction problems. One section of it is timed so that information about students' rates of work on computation can be obtained.

Social Studies

Only the Levels 7 and 8 batteries contain a Social Studies test. The questions on this test measure objectives of the social studies curriculum that are not measured elsewhere in the ITBS tests. All questions are presented orally, and all response options are pictorial. The content of the questions is taken from the areas of geography, history, government, economics, sociology, and the other social sciences.


Like the Social Studies test, the Science test is included in only the Levels 7 and 8 batteries. Its content focuses on aspects of the science curriculum that are not measured on other tests in the battery. The knowledge and skills measured by the Science test questions come from the areas of life science, earth and space sciences, and physical sciences. Considerable emphasis is also given to the nature of science -- the methods and process skills used in science.

Sources of Information

Only the Levels 7 and 8 batteries contain a Sources of Information test. The questions are read aloud by the teacher, and students choose answers from among words or short phrases that they read themselves. The main skills measured are alphabetizing, using a picture dictionary, using a table of contents, and using maps to determine location, direction, and distance.