Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) and Retell

What is ORF?

Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) is a measure of advanced phonics and word attack skills, accurate and fluent reading of connected text, and reading comprehension. There are two parts to ORF: orally reading a passage and retelling the passage.

For the oral reading part, students are given an unfamiliar, grade-level passage of text and asked to read for 1 minute. Errors such as substitutions, omissions, and hesitations for more than 3 seconds are marked while listening to the student read aloud.

For benchmark assessment, students are asked to read three different grade-level passages for 1 minute each. The score is the median number of words read correctly and the median number of errors across the three passages. The oral reading part of the measure can be used from the middle of first grade through the end of sixth grade.

The passage Retell part of ORF follows the reading of each passage, provided that the student has read at least 40 words correct per minute on a given passage. Passage Retell is intended to provide a comprehension check for the ORF assessment, and provides an indication that the student is reading for meaning. The quality of a student’s Retell provides valuable information about overall reading proficiency and oral language skills.

During Retell, the student is asked to tell about what he/she has read. The assessor indicates the number of words in the Retell that are related to the passage by drawing through a box of numbers.

Retell can be used from the middle of first grade through the end of sixth grade. A quality of response rating allows the assessor to make a qualitative rating of the quality of the student’s response. The rating should be based on how well the student retold the portion of the passage that he/she read.



Essential Early Literacy and Reading Skill  

 Advanced Phonics and Word Attack Skills

 Accurate and Fluent Reading of Connected Text

 Reading Comprehension

Administration Time  

  1 minute plus 1 minute maximum for Retell

Administration Schedule  

  Middle of first grade through end of sixth grade


  • Median number of words correct per minute (Words Correct)

  • Median number of errors per minute (Errors)

  • Median number of correct words in the Retell

  • Median Quality of Response for the Retell

Wait Rule  

 On ORF, 3 seconds; On Retell, first hesitation 3 seconds

Discontinue Rule  

If no words are read correctly in the first line, say Stop, record a score of 0, and do not administer Retell.

If fewer than 10 words are read correctly on passage #1 during benchmark assessment, do not administer Retell or passages #2 and #3.

If fewer than 40 words are read correctly on any passage, use professional judgment whether to administer Retell for that passage.


Scoring Rules for ORF

The student receives 1 point for each word read correctly in 1 minute.

  1. Score all words the student reads correctly. Inserted words are not counted. To be counted as correct, words must be read as whole words and pronounced correctly for the context of the sentence.
    • Words that are repeated and phrases that are re-read are not scored as incorrect and are ignored in scoring.
    • A word is scored as correct if it is initially mispronounced but the student self-corrects within 3 seconds.
    • If the student reads a proper noun with correct pronunciation or with any reasonable phonetic pronunciation, it is counted as correct.
    • Abbreviations should be read in the way they would be pronounced in conversation.
    • Numerals must be read correctly within the context of the sentence.
    • Hyphenated words count as two words (and two errors) if both parts can stand alone as individual words. Hyphenated words count as one word if either part cannot stand alone as an individual word (e.g., x-ray, t-shirt).
  2.  Mark any errors the student makes. Errors include words read incorrectly, substitutions, skipped words, hesitations of more than 3 seconds, words read out of order, and words that are sounded out but not read as a whole word.
    • Students must read the whole word, not just the sounds, to be counted as correct.
    • If a student reads the same word incorrectly multiple times in the passage, it counts as an error each time.
    • Omitted words are scored as incorrect.
    • If a student skips a row of text, count the omitted words as errors.
    • If a student substitutes a word, it is an error.
    • If a student hesitates or struggles with a word for 3 seconds, tell the student the word and mark the word as incorrect. If necessary, indicate for the student to continue with the next word by pointing.
    • If a word is pronounced incorrectly given the context of the sentence, it is scored as an error.
    • Students should read contractions as they are printed on the page.
    • Words must be read in the order they appear on the page to be considered a correctly read word.

Scoring Rules for Retell

The student receives 1 point for every word in his/her Retell that is related to the passage.

  1. Count as correct any words in the response that are related to the passage. The judgment is based on whether the student is retelling the passage or has gotten off track on another passage or topic.
    • Contractions are counted as one word.
    • Mistakes or inconsistencies in the Retell do not count against the student as long as the student is still on topic.
  2. Count as incorrect any words in the response that are not related to the passage that the student read.
    • The portion in bold is NOT counted.
    • Only actual words are counted. If the student inserts exclamations or other sounds, do not count those in the Retell.
    • If the student recites the ABC’s, a poem, or sings a song, even if relevant to the Retell, the recitation, song, or poem is not counted.
    • The student has provided no information that is about the passage they just read. If this appears to be a coached response framework solely for the purpose of getting a higher score on Retell, we recommend interrupting that coaching and conducting a review of the fundamental purpose of the assessment. If it appears to be a general framework for building understanding of a passage, the response would be scored the same way, but a review of the fundamental purpose of the assessment would not be necessary.
    • Repetitions of words or phrases are not counted.

For more information please see the Assessment Manual located on the

Acadience® Reading K–6 download page.