Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE)
The Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) series of tests was developed by a testing company that originated in the 1920’s as the “Research Service Company,” now known as CTB. CTB’s first product was a diagnostic test for elementary school students developed for the Los Angeles school system. A few years later, CTB introduced the “Progressive Achievement Test,” more familiarly known as the California Achievement Test (CAT). Additional assessments followed in the 1930’s and, in 1938, CTB became an early adopter of the first automated test scoring machines.
In 1965, CTB was acquired by McGraw-Hill, a well-known publishing company, and in 1967 the first edition of the TABE was introduced. Significant refinements were made over the following two decades, and in 1987 the TABE 5&6 was introduced, along with a Spanish-language basic adult education assessment tool, the Spanish Assessment of Basic Education (SABE). Many more subjects were added over the coming years and in 1995, TABE 7&8 was released. This newer version added applied math and mathematical computations, language, reading and spelling subtests and an expanded correlation capability which allowed educators to use TABE scores to predict success on the General Education Diploma (GED) exam.
The current version of the exam, TABE 9&10, was rolled out in 2003. TABE 9&10 includes basic assessments in reading, language, and math and the optional tests have been updated to correlate directly with the current version of the GED advanced content areas. Also in 2003, the basic skills assessment portion became available as TABE Online, the first adult basic skills assessment tool to use this advanced delivery platform, which continues to add new functionality.
Function of the Test
TABE tests are used in a variety of adult education settings, including adult basic education classes, adult secondary education (GED preparation), and English literacy (EL) programs run by local organizations and educational agencies, community colleges, correctional institutions, and volunteer literacy programs.
The TABE tests are used in adult education to measure proficiency in a number of areas, from basic language and mathematics to more advanced subjects. The TABE 9 & 10 assessment can be used to set a baseline for students by identifying areas of competency and areas needing improvement in the basic skills categories of reading, math, language and language mechanics, vocabulary and spelling. It may also be used to test learning in the adult education classroom. More advanced optional tests in the areas of social studies, science, algebra and geometry, and writing can be used to measure readiness to take the GED exam and apply the basic skills they have learned within the workplace.
TABE is approved by the US Department of Education as an assessment tool for federally-funded adult education programs, and its assessments are used by the National Reporting System (NRS) to provide annual status reports to congress on the performance of adult education programs throughout the United States. The TABE Complete Language Assessment System – English (TABE CLAS-E) is also available to assess English language skills in English Language Learners (ELL) whose primary language is other than English. 
TABE tests are typically given in the adult education classroom or in the workplace in cases where employers use the TABE for assessing skills of current or potential employees. Each subject area can be tested using two different forms (9 and 10) and may be purchased as a pencil-and-paper test or online assessment. A complete battery of tests covering reading, math, and language skills includes both test forms for each of 5 different levels of mastery: Literacy, Easy, Medium, Difficult, and Advanced to assess students throughout the learning process. The complete battery is also available in diagnostic format which allows educators to develop learning profiles for individual students. Advanced level tests in writing, science/social studies and algebra/geometry are sold separately as is more sophisticated computer-based adaptive testing software, which allows for dynamic exam delivery based on individual, real-time test performance. Special “Locator” tests can be used to place students at the appropriate level for testing on TABE 9&10.
CTB provides teachers and administrators with guidelines for accommodating test-takers with special needs, categorized based on possible impacts that accommodations may have on student performance of the test. It is up to the discretion of the test giver whether and what accommodations may be made for individual students.
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The TABE is made up of 100 multiple choice questions that have to do with four major topics: Reading, Mathematics Computation, Applied Mathematics, and Language. Estimated testing time is around an hour and a half to complete all 100 questions. The test is offered on paper and pencil format or on a computer.
The exam is available both with pencil and paper as well as on a computer. Software is offered that enables the test taker to take, score, and report the exam.
The total number of items in the complete battery of basic tests is 225. Scoring may be performed manually via CTB’s scoring stencils or “Scoreze” answer sheets, or automatically through TestMate software using scannable answer sheets. 
The TABE is a criterion-referenced assessment, meaning that individual performance is compared to a single standard of mastery, rather than to the performance of other individuals within a classroom, peer group, or demographic. Each test form and level is scored individually by comparing the number correct to a scaled score which then can be correlated to a National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS) functional level and a standard grade equivalent. Scaled scores on the basic reading, math, and language assessments can range from 0 to 600, and the corresponding educational levels can range between beginning literacy and adult education (up to grade 4) to high adult secondary level, which is equivalent to high school junior or senior skill levels. To achieve high adult secondary level, an individual’s scaled score must be at or above 596 for reading, 595 for math, and 586 for the language portion of the TABE.
Test results for all federally funded adult education program participants are summarized in the NRS and provided to Congress each year to assess outcomes by state and for the nation as a whole. This system provides accountability for performance and guidance for the continued improvement of state adult education and workforce development programs as required by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998.
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- Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998 Annual Report to Congress Program Year 2010-11 January 13, 2015
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- Guide to Administering TABE: A Handbook for Teachers and Administrators January 13, 2015
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- Guide to Administering TABE: A Handbook for Teachers and Test Administrators January 13, 2015
- National Reporting System: Getting Started January 13, 2015