A boy reading while sitting on a pile of books with the caption, how to conduce a running record assessment: a tool used to measure reading accuracy and fluency

How to Conduct a Running Record

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A running record is a way to assess a student’s fluency and other reading patterns. In a running record, both the instructor and the student view a copy of a passage. As this process is used for assessment purposes, the selected passage should be new to the student. As the student reads his passage out lout, the instructor will record any errors on her copy. The instructor also times the student for one minute to measure reading fluency.

Why should I complete a running record?

If you review the components affecting silent reading comprehension, a running record evaluates a student’s word identification skills and fluency level. A running record does not evaluate language comprehension directly. Other tools can be used to measure comprehension.

a running record evaluates the word identification and fluency components of silent reading comprehension

The information gathered from running records can be used to determine:

  1. the effectiveness of the current reading instructional methods in regards to word identification and fluency.
  2. if the current time spent on reading instruction is satisfactory.
  3. further areas in need of assessment and remediation.

How to select a passage for a running record

Select a passage that is at the student’s current reading level. You may want to start with a grade level text. If this is too difficult, move down to the grade equivalent for the child’s current instructional level. In order to get diagnostic information on word recognition skills from the running record, the child should be able to read the passage with 90-95% accuracy. The expected accuracy on a grade-level texts is 95-100%.

Link to free grade-level passages.
  • McGraw-Hill has free passages for 1st-6th grade. They have multiple passages for each grade level.
Link to subscription or paid passages.
  • Reading A-Z offers passages. Their passages are coded by an alphabet letter, but they do have a chart showing the grade level equivalent for their alphabet letter. You must pay to access their site; however, they do offer a 14-day trial period.
  • Evan-Moor has a lot of grade level books that could be used to take running records. Their e-books allow for easy printing of the 2 copies needed. Their Daily reading comprehension book would be an excellent choice as a running record.
Create your own passage from a printed text.

You can also take a passage from a book. If the child can read a section with an accuracy between 90-95%, the passage is a good choice for a running record. To calculate the accuracy, have a child read 50-100 words from the text. Count their errors as they read. Then subtract the number of errors from the total number of words. Divide this number by the total number of words. For example, 50 total words – 5 errors, is 45 words correct. 45 divided by 50 is 90% accuracy. The main downside of taking a passage from a book is that now you have to take the time to type up a passage the child has not read.

How to mark a passage

Since a running record is not a standardized assessment, you can mark the information in any way that makes since to you. Here are some common codes:

  • Incorrect word or mispronunciation -write the word said above the printed word
  • Inserted word -draw a carat where the word was inserted and write in the word added
  • Omitted word -draw a line through the skipped word
  • Self-corrected word -write the word said above the printed word and write SC over it
  • Repetition -underline the word or phrase that was repeated

Some evaluators like to check off each word that is read correctly.

Be sure to time the passage and include a mark after 1 minute of reading. I use a slash mark after the last word read at one minute. This will provide the student’s fluency rate.

You can see a sample of a completed running record here.

How to calculate errors

The following inaccuracies are counted as errors:

  • incorrect words
  • inserted words
  • omitted words

The following inaccuracies are excluded from the error count:

  • mispronunciations
  • repetitions
  • self-corrections

Repeated errors, such as if the child always says “to” every time the word “the” occurs in the passage, are counted as a single error.

First, calculate the total number of errors. Then subtract the number of errors from the total number of words. Divide this number by the total number of words. For example, in a 100 word passage with 10 errors, 100 words – 10 errors, is 90 words correct. 90 divided by 100 is 90% accuracy.

How to calculate fluency

Look at your 1 minute mark on the passage. Count all of the the words read prior to this mark. For example, if there were 100 words before this mark, the student is reading 100 words per minute.

Next Steps

Analyze the student’s errors

Look at the student’s errors. What types of words is he reading incorrectly? The error patterns can be used to guide further assessments. For instance, if the child frequently reads sight words wrong, test a list of sight words to determine which ones need to be retaught. If you see a clear pattern (e.g., always omits suffixes, like -ing), address this skill during a teaching session.

Fluency Analysis

Graph the fluency results and compare the students fluency rates to the target rates in the chart included in article, “The Importance of Reading Fluency.” If the child’s fluency is on target, then the current reading methods are working satisfactorily. If the child’s reading fluency falls below the expected rate, steps will need to be taken to improve reading fluency.

How often should running records be completed?

It depends on the individual situation. For most beginning readers who are progressing well, a quarterly assessment would confirm continued progress. For readers who are behind or clearly struggling, monthly assessments will provide valuable information on if current teaching time and methodologies are sufficient.


In summary, a running record is conducted to evaluate a child’s reading accuracy and fluency. The completed assessment will provide information on 1) areas that require further, more specific, assessment, and 2) areas that need remediation. The results can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of current reading methodologies for an individual child.


For more information on running records, consider reading “Running Records: A Self-Teaching Guide“:

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