The ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) and the Iowa Assessments are standardized tests measuring a wide range of skills for students in grades K-12. They are used by some states and by private schools around the United States, in whole or in part, as a component of the admissions process.
These wide-ranging assessments can be challenging, but in this article we’ll discuss the difference between the two tests, plus provide helpful test prep tips and even an ITBS practice test. With the proper knowledge and preparation, your child will be ready to ace either assessment.
We also offer ITBS practice tests to download. You can access these tests by clicking on the buttons below. When you receive your test, you will also get a bonus PDF "5 Proven Test Prep Strategies for Using Practice Tests" to help you develop a study plan.
What is ITBS Testing?
The ITBS is a series of content-specific tests, with test sections and timing varying according to grade level.
Test levels on the ITBS are as follows:
What Are the Iowa Assessments?
The Iowa Assessments, while similar to the ITBS, is generally a more rigorous set of assessments asking higher level questions.
The Iowa Assessments has the same levels as the ITBS, but content varies slightly.
Levels 5-6 are tested on Vocabulary, Word Analysis, Listening, Language, Mathematics, and Reading.
Levels 7-8 answer questions related to Vocabulary, Word Analysis, Reading, Listening, Language, Mathematics, Computation, Social Studies, and Science.
At Levels 9-14, students are tested on Reading, Written Expression, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Vocabulary, Spelling, Capitalization, Punctuation, and Computation.
Finally, Levels 15-17/18 take tests on Reading, Written Expression, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Vocabulary, and Computation.
The test is intended to assess students on the high level skills needed for college and careers.
ITBS vs. Iowa Assessments: What’s the Difference?
These two tests are so similar that the names are sometimes used interchangeably. So what are the key differences between these assessments?
The ITBS was created using standards developed by curriculum groups like the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).
On the other hand, the Iowa Assessments was released in 2011 to reflect the Common Core State Standards(CCSS), as well as individual state standards, surveys of classroom teachers, and responses from students in research studies. As a result, the Iowa Assessments is a more rigorous test than the ITBS.
Because the CCSS specifically cover English Language Arts and Mathematics, the other tests in the Iowa Assessments program were created using the Iowa Core.
The content has changed a bit from the ITBS to the Iowa Assessments as well. Maps and Diagrams and Reference Materials are not tested on the Iowa Assessments, and the Mathematics sections have been revised.
Mathematics subtests now focus on the strands identified by the CCSS: Number Sense and Operations, Algebraic Patterns and Connections, Data Analysis/Probability/Statistics, Geometry, and Measurement.
Additionally, the Iowa Assessments put a greater emphasis on tracking student growth and college/career readiness. Beginning in sixth grade, the Iowa Assessments connect student performance on the test with the four areas measured by the ACT—Reading, English, Math, and Science.
Overall, the Iowa Assessments is more aligned with national standards regarding English Language Arts, Mathematics, and college and career readiness.
The Iowa Assessments' Core Curriculum
The Iowa Core, used in the development of the Iowa Assessments, outlines what students in Iowa should know and be able to do in the areas of Mathematics, English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies.
Along with the CCSS, the Iowa Core was used as a blueprint for the Iowa Assessments. Questions on the test are aligned with the skills described in both the Iowa Core and the CCSS, but only the Iowa Core addresses Social Studies and Science.
Due to these standards being used to create the test, the Iowa Assessments is rigorous and requires higher level, analytical thinking and problem solving.
What’s the Format of ITBS Test and Iowa Assessments?
Both ITBS and the Iowa Assessments are a series of multiple choice subtests. Although the ITBS is slightly longer than the Iowa Assessments, both tests take about two hours to complete for younger students and closer to 4.5-5.5 hours for older students.
Although administration of the tests may vary, they are typically administered over the course of several school days.
For students who transition from the ITBS to the Iowa Assessments, the two tests will not look any different.
ITBS Scores - What You Need To Know
The ITBS score report provides parents with helpful information about a student’s performance on the test. Students are given both status scores and growth scores , so the emphasis is not only on how well the student performed, but also on student growth and improvement.
First, the child’s raw score is found by simply tallying the total number of correct answers. This information is used to find the percentile rank, a score from 1-99 that demonstrates how well your child performed in comparison to other children of the same age.
For example, if a third grade student scores in the 88th percentile, that student performed as well or better than 88% of third graders. More than half of all students tested on the ITBS fall between the 25th and 75th percentile.
Based on these percentile rankings, your child will also be given a stanine, a number from 1-9 that groups students according to percentile ranking. A stanine score of 1-3 is considered Low, 4-6 is Average, and 7-9 is High.
Grade Equivalents show the grade level at which the average student has achieved a given raw score, helping you determine if your child is on track relative to other students. For example, if your child has a grade equivalent of 4.2, this means her performance is similar to a student on the second month of fourth grade.
The Developmental Standard Score similarly shows your child’s location on a continuum of student achievement. You will also receive a Standard Age Score, which is a scale ranging from 50-150, with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 16.
The new Iowa Assessments also include a National Standard Score, which compares your child’s performance to the most current estimate of national student performance available. The score report also provides information about which NSS scores indicate proficiency in Reading, Mathematics, and Science.
The score report also lists Iowa Core content domains and the percentage of questions related to this domain that your child answered correctly, as well as the average percent correct for students of the same age in the nation.
Another difference in the new Iowa Assessments score report is the college readiness benchmark score, which shows if the student is on track for college readiness. These scores are based on ACT scores of 21 in Reading, 18 in English, 22 in Mathematics, and 24 in Science.
The Iowa Assessments also list an expected range of scores for each student on the ACT Composite, SAT Math, and SAT Critical Reading. These college benchmark scores are provided for students starting at Level 12.
Iowa Assessments Sample Questions
We’ve provided you with an ITBS Practice Test, so let’s also take a few minutes to look at some Iowa Assessments sample questions.
An Iowa Assessments Mathematics question may look something like the following:
Below are examples of Iowa Assessments Vocabulary and Capitalization questions. Notice that there is very little context provided for these questions.
Science questions also tend to be lacking in context; students must remember the information they learned in Science classes throughout the year.
Although there are not many sample questions available for the Iowa Assessments, keep in mind that the test is based on the Iowa Core and the CCSS, both of which direct teacher instruction throughout the school year. This means that test content should be familiar to students and should reflect what they have been learning for the duration of the year.
How to Prepare for ITBS and Iowa Assessments
Since these tests should measure how well students have learned previously taught material, it is important for students to work hard in school, particularly in the core areas of Social Studies, Science, Math, and Language Arts.
Remind your child to pay attention in class, take notes, keep up with classwork and homework, and study. If your child is struggling in one of these core areas, consider hiring a tutor or asking the teacher for extra help.
Reading more frequently can help enhance your child’s vocabulary and reading comprehension. Have your child set a goal to read a certain amount of pages or minutes weekly. Reading consistently should lead to noticeable improvement.
Most importantly, your child should complete sample questions and work through practice tests. This will help him build familiarity and confidence with test content.
Ask your child how she decided on both correct and incorrect answers. This gives you the opportunity to praise and reinforce strong logic, as well as to correct misconceptions as needed. For wrong answers, work together to develop a better approach to this question type in the future.
Make sure your child understands why wrong answers were incorrect and why the right answer is correct. Practicing without taking the time to discuss and consider the answers is not productive.
Your child should also be aware of general test-taking tips like the following:
Now you know the difference between the ITBS and the Iowa Assessments, plus some information about the content on each test. By taking a look at our ITBS Practice Test and using the tips provided here, your child should be on her way to acing the Iowa.