DRA Reading Assessment Levels

Instructor: Bill Sands
For the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), students are classified into distinct reading levels, which are based on their overall performance. Read on for more information on the standards and groupings for this assessment that tests reading comprehension skills.

DRA Reading Levels

Based on a student's performance on the DRA, he or she will be given a score that corresponds to their reading abilities. These numbers range from 1 to 80, and are classified as the following:

  • Kindergarten: 1-3
  • First Grade: 3-16
  • Second Grade: 18-28
  • Third Grade: 30-38
  • Fourth Grade: 40
  • Fifth Grade: 50
  • Sixth Grade: 60
  • Seventh Grade: 70
  • Eighth Grade: 80

DRA Grade-Level Expectations

The DRA scoring system explicitly defines exactly what skills and abilities readers should possess at each grade level.


This is the most basic level and refers to students with only a rudimentary reading ability. Students at this level understand fundamental concepts such as left-to-right progression and word identification but will require extensive support when reading new texts. Though students will know the sounds and names of most letters, they may need to use picture or oral language clues to understand important ideas in the text.

First Grade

Early readers show signs of progress but still require significant support. Students at this level know the sounds and names of all letters and typically read one word at a time. These students may require support when encountering new texts, but they possess basic problem-solving skills for dealing with unfamiliar content and should be able to read and understand familiar texts without any assistance.

Second Grade

This level is for students who have developed enough skills to read independently. These students are capable of selecting their own reading materials and are able to self-correct any mistakes during the reading process. Students are able to read text silently and possess the focus and concentration to begin reading longer passages. At this level, students also begin to pick up on expression and punctuation and draw connections from a story to their own lives and experiences.

Third Grade

This level is reserved for students with exceptional reading comprehension skills. These students are able to select their own reading materials, including those that require background knowledge in order to be fully understood. These students can read longer texts and are able to take breaks and continue in multiple sessions without losing focus or track of the story. Students at this level also begin to draw connections between the story they are reading and other texts they may have encountered.

Fourth Grade

Students at this level are expected to comprehend multisyllabic words using a combination of morphology, orthography, and word relationships. These students should also be able to fluently read persuasive and informational texts.

Fifth Grade

By the end of elementary school, students should not only be able to read literary, informational, and persuasive texts with ease, but they should also be able to use a variety of reading strategies to analyze these passages and compare them to other texts.

Sixth Grade

At the start of middle school, students will need the ability understand the structure of a text and how it can be used to gather information. When encountering unknown words, students are able to use context and word design to determine the meaning.

Seventh Grade

Once students reach seventh grade, they have surpassed the simple ability to read and understand texts and have begun to acquire the ability to look for literary concepts such as tone, purpose, and meaning. Students at this level can use literary components to analyze texts.

Eighth Grade

The most advanced level features a combination of new skills and previously-acquired talents. When analyzing text, students can use old skills such as word choice along with new skills such as context and grammar to understand and evaluate a given passage. Students at this grade level have the ability to monitor and self-assess.

Resources for Literacy Instruction

If you're a teacher helping students improve their reading skills, you may want to check out this Instructional Reading Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension course, which contains plenty of helpful lessons and creative ideas to help you create an effective and informative learning experience.

You may also benefit from this Literacy Instruction in Elementary School course. Featuring more than 100 lessons, this course offers a comprehensive review of important teaching strategies that are sure to be an enormous benefit to your teaching efforts.

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.