If you are a teacher, administrator, assessment professional or anyone involved in the assessment development process, you know the importance of getting it right—effective test questions are the most direct and accurate measure of intended learning outcomes. Quality assessment items drive how reliable and useful the results are in identifying and improving student achievement—the core goal of data-driven instruction.

The following tips can help you get more out of your classroom assessments.

  1. Focus on the stem
    Ensure stems reflect an appropriate level of reading difficulty for the intended grade level of the item and that only information necessary to answer the question is included. Unnecessary information drives up the reading level without adding assessment value. If you use graphics, make sure the image is not confusing and that it illustrates the relevant part of the question. Be sure you are following proper copyright laws when using images.
  2. Provide effective distractors
    Distractors should be plausible to students who have not learned the material. The key phrase to remember is plausible but clearly incorrect.
  3. Include various levels of complexity
    Bloom, Marzano, and Webb offer classification systems to recognize and identify cognitive complexity. Using assessment items across multiple cognitive levels helps determine whether a student has a basic or complex understanding of a skill.
  4. Be sensitive to bias
    Being cognizant of stereotypes and bias helps ensure that content is as free as possible from offensive material, allowing students to focus on the skill being assessed. It also helps reduce measurement error caused by lack of familiarity with words or scenarios that are not critical to what’s being tested.
  5. Consider text complexity
    Include a variety of texts. This helps reinforce the rigor and specifications of applicable academic standards.
  6. Allow time to review and edit items
    Carefully analyze the content and construction of each item, ensuring answer choices are parallel and don’t clue the correct answer. Include an independent review of aspects such as age appropriateness, bias, sentence structure, vocabulary, clarity, and grammar/spelling.
  7. Be consistent
    Make sure items, passages, and graphics adhere to the same style and format. Students attach meaning to every aspect of a test item and could be unintentionally misled by inconsistency.
  8. Identify appropriate scoring
    Points associated with items should reflect the relative weight of the skill and cognitive depth you are measuring. If you are including extended response items, provide rubrics to help with scoring.
  9. Evaluate the technology need
    Not every assessment requires technology-enhanced items. Sometimes multiple-choice items deliver the best results.
  10. Consider how you’re going to use results
    Think about why you’re giving the test. An end-of-unit progress check is different from an end-of-term exam, and a semester final may require still another approach.

Developing effective assessments is not easy—but you don’t have to go it alone. Scantron’s team of assessment experts can provide professional development, consulting, and item/assessment development services to help you transform your data-driven instruction and ensure you get the results you want.