Unit 4 : Planning Classroom Tests and Assessments

Unit 4 : Planning Classroom Tests and Assessments


Achievement tests are tests that measure the extent of present knowledge and skills.  Test takers are given the opportunity to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and skills in specific learning situations.


Types of achievement tests

There are two types of achievement tests.  These are (1) standardized achievement tests and (2) teacher-made/classroom achievement tests.


The major difference between these two types of tests is that standardized achievement tests are carefully constructed by test experts with specific directions for administering and scoring the tests.  This makes it possible for standardized achievement tests to be administered to individuals in different places often at the same time.


Characteristics of standardized achievement tests

  1. Standardized specific instructions are provided for test administration and scoring. Directions are so precise and uniform that the procedures are standard for different users of the test.
  2. The test items are developed by test experts and specialists who follow well-formulated procedures for test development. The tests are thus of high quality.  Reliability is often over 0.90.
  3. They use test norms which are based on national samples of students in the classes/forms where the tests are intended for use.
  4. Test content is determined by curriculum and subject-matter experts and involves extensive investigations of existing syllabi, textbooks and programs.
  5. Equivalent and comparable forms of the test are usually provided and administered.
  6. A test manual is available as a guide for test administration and scoring. It provides information for evaluating the test for technical quality and interpretation and use of the results.
  7. They are useful for measuring broader curriculum objectives and for school, district, regional and national comparisons.

Teacher-made/classroom achievement tests

These tests are constructed by classroom teachers for specific uses in each classroom and are closely related to particular objectives.  They are usually tailored to fit the teacher’s instructional objectives.  The content of the test is determined by the classroom teacher. The quality of the test is often unknown but usually lower than standardized tests.

Stages involved in teacher made/classroom achievement testing

The main goal of classroom assessment is to obtain valid, reliable, and useful information concerning student achievement.  It is therefore important that good and quality tests and assessment tasks are constructed.  Four principal stages are involved in classroom testing.  These are:

  1. Constructing the test,
  2. Administering the test,
  3. Scoring the test,
  4. Analyzing the test results.

Stage 1:  Constructing the test


There are eight steps in the construction of a good classroom test.


Step 1.  Define the purpose of the test

The basic question to answer is, “Why am I testing?”.  The tests must be related to the teacher’s classroom instructional objectives.  Several purposes are served by classroom tests and the teacher has to be clear on the purpose of the test.  The teacher has to answer other questions such as ‘Why is the test being given at this time in the course?’, ‘Who will take the test?’, ‘Have the test takers been informed?’, ‘How will the scores be used?’.


Step 2.  Determine the item format to use

Test items could either be essay, objective or performance types.  Objective-type tests include multiple-choice, short-answer, matching and true and false.  The choice of format must be appropriate for testing particular topics and objectives.  It is sometimes necessary to use more than one format in a single test.  Mehrens and Lehmann (1991) mentioned 8 factors to consider in the choice of the appropriate format.  These include:

  • the purpose of the test,
  • (2) the time available to prepare and score the test,
  • (3) the number of students to be tested,
  • (4) skill to be tested,
  • (5) difficulty desired,
  • (6) physical facilities like reproduction materials,
  • (7) age of pupils,
  • (8) skills in writing the different types of items.


Step 3.  Determine what is to be tested.

The teacher asks himself or herself the question, ‘What is it that I wish to measure?’  The teacher has to determine what chapters or units the test will cover as well as what knowledge, skills and attitudes to measure.  Instructional objectives must be defined in terms of student behaviour and linked to what has been stressed in class.  A test plan made up of a table of specifications or blue print must be made.  The specification table matches the course content with the instructional objectives.

To prepare the table, specific topics and sub-topics covered during the instructional period are listed.  The major course objectives are also specified and the instructional objectives defined.  The total number of test items is then distributed among the course content and instructional objectives or behaviours.

Example:  Terms and Concepts in Assessment


Content Behaviour
Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation Total
Assessment 1 1 1 3
Test 1 1 1 3
Evaluation 1 1 1 3
Continuous Assessment 2 1 1 4
Test Reliability 2 1 3
Test Validity 1 1 1 1 4
Total 4 7 5 3 1 20



The table of specifications has a number of advantages.

  1. It makes sure that justice is done to all the topics covered in the course.
  2. It helps the teacher to determine the content validity of the test.
  3. It helps to weight the score distribution fairly
  4. It avoids overlapping in the construction of the test items.
  5. It helps students to determine the content and behavioural areas where they have difficulty. Teachers can also determine areas where the class has difficulty.


Step 4.  Write the individual items.

In writing the individual items, the specific principles guiding the construction of each type of test must be followed for the item format chosen.  However, the following general guidelines must be considered.

  1. Keep the table of specifications before you and continually refer to it as you write the items.
  2. Items must match the instructional objectives.
  3. Formulate well-defined items that are not vague and ambiguous and should be grammatically correct and free from spelling and typing errors.
  4. Avoid excessive verbiage. Avoid needlessly complex sentences.
  5. The item should be based on information that the examiner should know.
  6. Write the test items simply and clearly.
  7. Prepare more items than you will actually need.
  8. The task to be performed and the type of answers required should be clearly defined.
  9. Include questions of varying difficulty.
  10. Write the items and the key as soon as possible after the material has been taught.
  11. Avoid textbook or stereotyped language
  12. Write the items in advance of the test date to permit reviews and editing.


Step 5.  Review the items.

Critically examine each item at least a week after writing the item.  Items that are ambiguous and those poorly constructed as well as items that do not match the objectives must be reworded or removed.  Items must not be too difficult or too easy.  Check the length of the test (i.e. number of items against the purpose, the kinds of test items used and the ability level of the students.  The test must discriminate between the low achievers and the high achievers.  Assemble the test in the final form for administration.


Step 6Prepare scoring key

Prepare a scoring key or marking scheme while the items are fresh in your mind.

List correct responses and acceptable variations for objective-type tests.

Assign points to the various expected qualities of responses.

Assign values to each item and ensure representative sampling of content covered.


Step 7.  Write directions.

Give clear and concise directions for the entire test as well as sections of the test.  Clearly state the time limit for the test.  Penalties for undesirable writing must be spelt out.  Directions must include number of items to respond to, how the answers will be written, where the answers will be written, amount of time available, credits for orderly presentation of material (where necessary), and mode of identification of respondent.  For selection-type tests, indicate what will be done to guessing.


Step 8.  Evaluate the test.

Before administration, the test should be evaluated by the following five criteria:  clarity, validity, practicality, efficiency and fairness.


Clarity:                  Who is being tested?

What material is the test measuring?

What kinds of knowledge is the test measuring?

Do the test items relate to content and course objectives?

Are the test items simple and clear?

Validity:                Is the test a representative sampling of the material

presented in the chapter, unit, section or course?

Does the test faithfully reflect the level of difficulty of material

covered in the class?

Practicality:           Will students have enough time to complete the test?

Are there sufficient materials available to present the test to

complete it effectively?

Efficiency:             Is this the best way to test for the desired knowledge, skill or


What problems might arise due to material difficulties or


Fairness:                Were the students given advance notice?

Have I adequately prepared students for the test?

Do the students understand the testing procedures?

How will the scores affect the students’ lives?







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