Understanding NWEA MAP(RIT) Scores

Table of Contents

What is the NWEA MAP Test?

The NWEA MAP Test is an adaptive achievement test that allows educators and parents to measure student performance and growth.  The test creates a personalized assessment experience by adapting to student responses.  The NWEA MAP test is offered in more than 7,400 schools nationwide.  Unlike many tests, the NWEA MAP test provides each student with a unique set of questions based on their responses to previous questions.  If a student answers a question correctly, the questions become more challenging.  ​

If a student answers a questions incorrectly, questions become easier. Thus, the test can determine what level a child is at, regardless of their age or grade level in school.  For example, if a child is in third grade but is reading at a fifth grade level, MAP can tell us that.  

Schools may administer any combination of the following sections: Reading, Math, Language Usage, and/or General Science.  Within each of these subjects, schools have the option to administer the “full-length test” or a Survey option.  The NWEA MAP Survey tests are shorter than the Growth tests.  While these sections take less time to complete, they also provide teachers, administrators, and parents with less information.  Moreover, the Survey tests have a higher margin for error.

How is the NWEA MAP test scored?

The NWEA MAP test provides a RIT score.  This score represents student achievement.  Students will earn an RIT score for each subject test. Thus, students may have multiple RIT scores.  A student’s RIT score for math cannot be compared, numerically, to a RIT score in Reading.  A score of 215 on the NWEA MAP Reading is not equivalent to a score of 215 on the NWEA MAP Math.  


Unlike many standardized tests, a student’s RIT score should increase each year.  If a student scores a 195 on the NWEA MAP Reading then one should expect the student to earn a higher score during the following term or year.  The amount of growth that should be expected varies depending upon each student’s performance.  For example, the mean growth norm(Reading) for a third grade student is 10.3 “points”  from the beginning of the year(Fall) to the end of the year.  Since the average third grade student earns a score of 188.3 on the NWEA MAP Reading in the fall, the anticipated, or target, score to earn for Spring is 198.6.  We should expect a student to remain approximately at the same “percentile” range from one semester to another.  

What does this score mean?

RIT scores provide teachers, administrators, and parents with valuable information that should be used to make instructional decisions.  If your child is falling short of their target scores from year-to-year, you may want to consider making changes to your child’s education plan.  


An RIT Reading score can be converted to a Lexile measure.  It can, and should be, used to determine appropriate reading material for each individual student.  If your child’s school uses a different reading program, you can convert their Lexile score to any number of other reading programs including, but not limited to: A to Z Reading, Fountas and Pinnell, DRA, Accelerated Reader, etc.


An RIT Math score is a bit more complicated.  In theory, NWEA tells us that a child who earns a score of 240 or higher on the NWEA MAP Math test is ready to learn Algebra.  In reality, it doesn’t really work that way.  The NWEA MAP Math test is approximately 46 multiple choice questions.  This leaves a large margin for error.  Students with more grit and stronger test taking skills often score far higher on the NWEA MAP Math than they do on a paper-pencil end-of-year exam.  While we might see, from the MAP scores, that a child “knows” how to convert fractions to decimals, the student may have only been asked one question on this topic.  


One of the chief benefits of administering the NWEA test is its ability to track student progress.  One of the most important questions that any educator can ask is, “Is this child learning?”  The NWEA MAP test(s) can tell us that.  

Does the MAP test have a ceiling effect?

The MAP test works wonderfully for advanced students because it “removes the ceiling.”  A student can demonstrate above (or below) grade level skills and knowledge.  However, it still has its limits.  A student can’t demonstrate skills beyond a high school level because the test simply doesn’t provide college level questions.  I opt to stop testing students once they sustain a score greater than 250 on the MAP Math and 240 on the MAP reading for more than one semester.  Scores beyond this are often more indicative of strong test taking skills and experience with the test.  

The MPG(Map for Primary Grades) is intended for students in grades K – 2.  While students can demonstrate skills above a second grade level, scores beyond 190 on the MPG Reading and 200 on the MPG Math indicate that a child may benefit from taking the MAP 2- 5 assessment instead.  However, if a student has not been exposed to any content above a second grade level, this may not yield different results.  

What information is on the score report?

Test administrators have the flexibility to export multiple different types of reports.  The most common report that parents receive is the “Student Progress Report.”  The Student Progress Report shows the students’ most recent scores and all past scores.  It typically shows the district grade level mean in addition to the norm grade level mean, but the test administrator can opt to exclude this bar. 


This report also contains a growth projection; the dotted bar on the graph shows what score you should expect your student to reach.  If the growth comparison period is set as Fall to Spring, you should “expect” your student to reach this score by Spring. If it’s set as Fall to Winter, you should “expect” your child to reach this score by Winter.  More information on this can be found under “What is a growth projection?”

What are goal scores on the NWEA MAP?

Depending upon the settings your child’s school selected when they exported the reports, you may also see several goal scores for each subject.. “Goals” are simply strands within the content area; they are not “goals for your child to achieve” (those are called growth projections. See below).   The scores listed beside each goal tell you how your child did in that strand.   For example, the NWEA MAP 2-5 goals are operations and algebraic thinking, numbers in base 10, measurement and data, and geometry.  If you don’t have this information, you can try reaching out to the school for these scores. They tend to be more useful than the overall score as these scores will indicate your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  A difference of just a few points between their lowest goal score and their highest indicates that your child’s knowledge and skills are fairly well-rounded.  On the other hand, a very low score in one goal indicates a weakness for your child, and a very high score in one goal indicates a strength.  

 In my experience, high-achieving students that are performing above grade level tend to have lower scores in geometry and measurement and data.  This is largely due to the vocabulary required to understand and answer these questions, and the increased emphasis that’s placed on operations and algebraic thinking in most tutoring centers, online classes, and workbook series.  For example, students that go to Kumon Learning tend to know their math facts (add, subtract, multiply, and divide) very well, but they do not receive the same level of support or practice in other strands and topics.  

What is a growth projection?


NWEA MAP does generate “goals” for each student, but they’re called growth projections.  A growth projection is based on your child’s performance and the average growth for students at a similar percentile ranking.  The actual “number of RIT points” that a student is expected to gain from one semester to the next varies; however, schools do have the ability to adjust student (and class wide goals), and some schools set arbitrary RIT goals for all students (e.g all students should gain x number of points) 

My child didn't meet their growth projection. What should I do?

If your child doesn’t hit this growth projection, you may want to meet with your child’s teacher. 


If your child was already testing significantly above grade level, (s)he may not meet the growth projection because they may not have acquired new skills at school.  This is an indication that your child may need a higher level curriculum. Alternatively, if your child has access to appropriately challenging curriculum, this could be an indication that your child is underachieving.


If your child is testing at or below average, and (s)he doesn’t meet their growth projection, you should meet with your child’s teacher to determine underlying causes.  This may be an indication that your child needs additional support and resources.

What should I do with my child's RIT score?

You don’t necessarily need to “do” anything with your child’s RIT scores.  When you receive your child’s RIT scores, take some time to assess what they mean.  You can view the 2015 Mathematics Student Achievement Percentiles Report here You can view the 2015 Reading Student Achievement Percentiles Report here.  You can view the updated 2020 NWEA Math Student Achievement Percentiles  You can view the updated 2020 NWEA Reading Student Achievement Percentiles here.

These reports are based on the performance.of students across the nation.  To use this chart, start by finding the correct semester.  If your child took the NWEA MAP Math test in the Fall, find the fall semester. Then, find their grade.  Follow the column down until you find your child’s score.  The first column indicates your child’s percentile ranking.


You can use the same chart to determine an approximation for your child’s current learning level.  Is your child performing average (50th percentile) for one year above grade level? two? three? five?  This information can help you decide whether or not it makes sense to explore acceleration options.  Remember, this is only an approximation.  It’s one multiple choice test.  Student achievement is often overstated by these types of tests.  A student scoring at the 50th percentile for 8th grade math is not necessarily prepared for Pre-Algebra, but it might make sense to conduct further testing.  


Use these scores to track your child’s progress.  The MAP test is designed to be taken over and over again.  Schools may administer it one, two, or even three times per year.  You should see growth.  Your child’s scores should increase each time (s)he takes the test.  MAP also provides growth metrics.  Check to see if your child is meeting his/her growth projections.  If your child is not, you might want to investigate why.  Was your child distracted? tired? stressed? Is this an indicator of a bigger problem?  Is your child learning new skills at school? Use the MAP test to make decisions about further testing and investigations.  

Students may qualify for HEROES using a variety of assessments; however, all students must take the placement test.  We use the placement test to determine what a child knows and what they are ready to learn.  The placement test at HEROES Academy includes the NWEA MAP Math and Reading.  Register your child here.  

If your child scored lower on Numbers in Base 10 than other goals, try these engaging math activities.  

2nd Grade

If your child scored below 190 on the Numbers in Base 10 goal (or overall RIT for NWEA MAP Math), your child needs to develop number sense.  Work on developing number sense with hands-on manipulatives like counting bears, place value cubes, tens frames, and more.


If your child scored above 200 in Numbers in Base 10 and/or on their overall RIT, AND they are in 2nd grade, try these first. Then, check out the 3rd grade Numbers in Base 10 activities for enrichment and acceleration options.

3rd Grade

If your child scored below 200 on the Numbers in Base 10 goal (or overall RIT for NWEA MAP Math), back-track and work on the 2nd Grade NBT standards instead. 

If your child scored above 215 in Numbers in Base 10 and/or on their overall RIT, AND they are in 3rd grade, try these first. Then, check out the 4th grade Numbers in Base 10 activities for enrichment and acceleration options.

4th Grade

If your child scored below 215 on the Numbers in Base 10 goal (or overall RIT for NWEA MAP Math), back-track and work on the 3rd Grade Numbers in Base 10 Standards instead.

If your child scored above 230 in Numbers in Base 10 and/or on their overall RIT, AND they are in 4th Grade, try these first. Then, check out the 5th-grade Numbers in Base 10 for enrichment and/or acceleration options.

5th Grade

If your child scored below 230 on the Numbers in Base 10 goal (or overall RIT for NWEA MAP Math), back-track and work on the 4th Grade NBT standards instead. 

Not sure if your child’s taken the NWEA MAP Test?

Ask your child if they’ve seen this dog!  

Graphic is the property of NWEA.

Did your child score above the 90th percentile in both math and reading on the NWEA MAP test?  

Your child may qualify for classes at HEROES Academy.  We offer accelerated math and language arts classes specifically for gifted and talented students.

HEROES Academy offers accelerated math and language arts classes exclusively for gifted and talented students.  To find out more about classes at HEROES, click here. To apply to HEROES Academy, click here.

HEROES Academy also runs a microschool for gifted and talented students ages 6 to 10.  Find out more here.

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