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EGR Barometer data are from the USAID-funded EdData II: Iraq Education Surveys—MAHARAT (Arabic word for “skills”) study (Task 1). The Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) was administered in 54 primary schools in the 6 provinces of Anbar, Baghdad, Karbala, Maysan, Najaf, and Wasit. A total of 1,153 grade 2 and 3 students were assessed.

EGRA Subtasks

An EGRA measures children’s pre-reading and reading skills. The subtasks used in this assessment are described below.

Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)

The oral reading fluency (ORF) subtask measures how quickly and accurately a student can read. It is a core component of EGRA because it brings together lower-level reading skills (such as decoding and familiar word recognition) with how quickly and easily the student can read a given word (called automaticity).

Students were given a short, 82-word written passage on a topic that was familiar to them. They were asked to read it out loud “quickly but carefully” and were given 60 seconds from when they begin to read. The EGRA administrator timed the student, making note of any mistakes the student made while reading the words aloud. The score is reported as correct words per minute (cwpm).

Letter Sounds

The letter sounds subtask tests students’ ability to recognize letters and speak their corresponding sounds.

Students were presented with a sheet listing 100 letters and asked to say out loud the letter sound for as many as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could, in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator timed the child and recorded the number of correct letter sounds per minute (clspm).


The nonword subtask tests students’ skill in using letter-sound connections to figure out (“decode”) words. While many students learn to memorize a broad range of "sight" words, they need skills to decode less-familiar words.

In this subtask, students were given a list of 50 made-up words that do not exist in the language tested but follow a typical spelling/sound combination of the language. This ensures that the student is not recognizing the whole word and must “sound-out” the non-word in order to correctly read it. The student was asked to read out loud as many words as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could. The EGRA administrator timed the student and recorded the number of correct words per minute (cnwpm).

Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is a measure of students’ oral language skills, which also contributes to reading.

In this subtask, the EGRA administrator read a passage to the student, who did not see it. The student then responded to questions or statements read by the EGRA administrator. The listening comprehension score is the total correct answers, with a maximum possible score of six.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension is the main goal of reading—understanding what is read. Comprehension is a complex task that requires some ability in all other reading skills.

This subtask is paired with the ORF subtask. Depending on how much of the ORF passage the student was able to read, the EGRA administrator asked the student up to five questions about the story. The EGRA administrator recorded the number of questions answered correctly.

Governorates Included in the Study

Not included in the study
Governorates included in the study
Map of Iraq

Key Findings

  • 1/4

    Grade 2 students had an average oral reading fluency (ORF) rate of 11 correct words per minute (cwpm), while grade 3 students read an average of 21 cwpm.

    Bar chart showing average oral reading fluency for grades 2 and 3. Numerical values presented in bar chart: Grade 2 11, Grade 3 21.
  • 2/4

    Thirty-four percent of grade 2 and 17 percent of grade 3 students were unable to read a single word.

  • 3/4

    Reading comprehension was low in both grades. More than one half (53 percent) of grade 2 students and more than one-quarter (29) percent of grade 3 students were unable to answer a single reading comprehension question.

  • 4/4

    Reading comprehension improved as average ORF rates improved. Among grade 3 students, the average ORF rate for students answering 1 comprehension question was 18 cwpm, increasing to 83 cwpm for those answering 5 comprehension questions.

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