A Lexile score indicates a student’s ability to comprehend a particular text, as well as the difficulty of the text itself. It can be useful when trying to find a text that a student can read independently in the library. In the classroom, if a teacher knows her students’ Lexile scores, she can find readings at the right reading level. If a student reads texts with a Lexile score within range of his own score, he can make gains in comprehension skills over time.
A text’s Lexile score is passed on a proprietary formula that measures two things:
- Word frequency (semantic difficulty)
- Sentence length (syntactic difficulty)
Word frequency refers to how common a word is in general usage. In other words, a word like computer appears in many books, magazines, and other texts. It is familiar enough that a student could probably figure out the meaning with context clues if it is not familiar. A word like plethora is much less common and harder to figure out.
Sentence length is also a predictor of difficulty. Researchers have found that longer sentences with multiple parts and ideas take longer to read and more time for students to comprehend. These two components help determine the text’s Lexile score.
Lexile scores range from BR (beginning reader) to 2000L, with the scores loosely correlating with grade levels from 1st-Graduate School level texts.
1 Up to 300L
2 140L to 500L
3 330L to 700L
4 445L to 810L
5 565L to 910L
6 665L to 1000L
7 735L to 1065L
8 805L to 1100L
9 855L to 1165L
10 905L to 1195L
11-12 940L to 1210L
Notice there is a range of scores for each grade level with overlaps at each level. The scores were derived from a national sample of students who had their comprehension tested halfway through the school year. The scores correlate with what the “typical” student in that grade is able to read. The ranges in the chart show the levels for the middle 50% of each grade level sample. The lower number is the 25th percentile and the upper is the 75th.
Lexiles don’t correspond exactly to a specific grade level because readers could be at a variety of lexile levels in any grade. And a text with content appropriate for a high school student could be at a much lower level Lexile than indicated for 9th grade. A Lexile score shouldn’t be the only measure for determining the appropriateness of a book, but it is a good start.
How do I match a student with a text using a Lexile score?
The Lexile Framework is linked with many common reading assessment programs, so teachers can test their students to determine their Lexile score if they have access to these programs. We have the Scholastic Reading Inventory at our school, so some of your students may already have been tested.
When selecting reading material, the suggested range of scores is 50L above and 100L below a reader’s Lexile score. If the text measures too high, it may beyond the student’s comprehension level and he might not be able to “construct meaning” when reading independently. If it is too low, the student might be bored and unchallenged, therefore making no gains in his reading skill.
Knowing the scores for both the reader and text can help you predict how much of a text the reader will be able to comprehend. For instance, when the score of a text and a reader match, you can predict that the student will be able to comprehend 75% of the material.
The table below what level of comprehension a student with a Lexile score of 1000L would have with texts at different levels. The Lexile website suggests that the “sweet spot” for reading is between 65-80% comprehension.
1500L – 25%
1250L – 50%
1000L – 75%
750L – 90%
500L – 96%
Of course, the teacher can have the student read outside her range for specific educational purpose. A student who struggles with reading might be able to gain confidence and background knowledge by reading a text below his Lexile score. Teachers can also pre-teach vocabulary or other background knowledge before reading so that students manage the reading.
What do the codes next to the Lexile scores mean?
Lexile scores occasionally have accompanying codes that offer clues to characteristics of the text.
AD: Adult Directed
The books is for children, but the design and text difficulty is more appropriate for adults. Picture books are the most common example. The design elements, text difficulty, etc. are best read to or with children.
The Lexile score of the book is a lot higher than expected for the publisher’s intended audience or appropriate developmental level for the book. These titles would be useful when matching a reader who is reading above their grade level.
These books have a much lower score than the average reading ability of the intended audience. These books work great for older struggling readers who are looking for a book that they would interest them.
IG: Illustrated Guide
These books consist of independent sections of text that could be moved around without affecting the “linear flow of the text.” Examples include reference books like encyclopedias or informational texts with glossaries, illustrations, pull quotes, factoids, pronunciation guides in the text, definitions of words on the page, etc. These characteristics don’t necessarily affect comprehension, but they can give a teacher an how idea of how he or she might use the text in a lesson.
GN: Graphic Novel
A graphic novel, or book length comic book, will have this code. The text is mainly voice or thought bubbles in comic book style illustrations. They contain much more dialogue than most books. The illustrations help support comprehension, but they do not affect the Lexile score of the book.
BR: Beginning Reading
These texts have a Lexile at or around 0L. They are appropriate for emergent reader and they are not used for independent reading, but are read aloud by an adult or with the child.
If a book has more than 50% non-standard or non-conforming prose, there is no Lexile score, just a designation of NP. Examples include poems, plays, songs, recipes, text with non-standard or absent punctuation (not complete sentences or missing punctuation entirely).
Where can I find Lexile scores for texts that I can use in class or have students use for their independent reading?
LRC Electronic Card Catalog
The catalog records in our LRC catalog have Lexile scores for many of the materials in the LRC. Although, only a relatively small number of materials have been Lexiled (compared to the total number of materials in print), we are able add scores in the catalog as they become available.
Some of the LRC research databases we use have Lexile scores for their vast collections of magazines, newspapers, ebooks and other materials.
These databases have Lexile scores for most, if not all, of their materials.
Biography in Context
Please ask our librarians for help if you need assistance using the databases.
The Lexile website also has a few useful tools the Find a book feature that you can access from Lexile.com contains a database of suggested books targeted to a student’s Lexile score. The site also has a Lexile Analyzer Tool. You just upload a text file to the site and it will analyze the information and return a Lexile score. This is useful if you are trying to analyze a text that doesn’t have a score, like a website.
How do the Common Core Standards use Lexile scores?
The new Common Core State Standards Initiative suggests that educators use Lexile scores as benchmarks for the level of reading that students should be achieve at different grade levels. They adapted the Lexile scale as a set of goals for students to reach by the end of each grade. With their “grade bands,” students in 9th and 11th grades are expected to read at grade level, but during their 10th and 12th grade years, they should be asked to read a certain proportion of texts that “stretch” and challenge them. In this way, students are theoretically showing a steadily increasing ability to “discern more from and make fuller use of text."