Article published in the International Journal of Educational Development. Volume 40, January 2015, Pages 315–322. Published abstract: The rise and widespread adoption of the early grade reading assessment (EGRA) has produced an ample supply of critics and converts. This paper seeks to clarify the purpose of EGRA and its limitations. EGRA was created to inform education systems and programmes and alone, is not an intervention. Designed to measure some of the foundational literacy skills that readers need for beginning reading, EGRA is a collection of subtasks, each with a specific purpose. This paper includes a description and rationale for each subtask, as well as the conceptual framework that underpins the assessment. Key results from multiple surveys provide informative, grounded examples of how the assessment results are being used to inform both classroom practice and system-level policy. We conclude with a brief discussion on the potential uses of EGRA and similar oral assessments of early learning for informing the monitoring of the post-2015 education indicators.