Stey-by-step Tasks of Building Up the Test

By Hu Wo (Cuckoo’s Song)

The test is simply an essential thing that almost every instructor and scholar in the educational field must not abstain from along the road to their education. Most postgraduate students, sometimes undergraduates, have to sit a university entrance examination so as to study abroad or take up higher education. Currently, IELTS, TOEFL, and GED are the most popular test papers among adult and young learners. Tests are commonly undertaken in three types: written, oral, and practical. In the main, written tests are applied in nations where educational expenditure cannot be spent as much as needed due to their financial situation. Despite their pros and cons, several types of test formats have been used all over the world until today.
First of all, educators expect students to react to the subject matter of a course. As a student’s behaviours can overlap a wide variety of subject-matter areas or vice versa, it will be more convenient to list each behaviour and subject-matter area separately and then relate them in the way that the content of a course may be outlined in detail for teaching objectives and its major categories.
Tests have been used in every corner of the globe for such various purposes as measuring a student’s entry behaviour at the beginning of instruction (placement test), learning progress during instruction (formative test), causes of learning difficulties during instruction (diagnostic test), and general achievement at the end of instruction (summative test).
The learning outcomes measured by a test should faithfully reflect the objectives of instruction in education, usually identified as three domains – cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. The six basic hierarchical categories of educational objectives in the cognitive domain specified by Bloom are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The knowledge level of Bloom’s Taxonomy – knowledge of specifics, knowledge of ways or means of dealing with specifics, and knowledge of the universal abstractions in a field – describes learning activities that are fundamentally related to memory or recollection. At the comprehension level – translation, interpretation, and extrapolation, the learner knows what information is being communicated and is able to make use of it without necessarily seeing its implications or relating it to other material. At the application level, the learner will have had the ability to select a given abstraction, i.e., an idea, a rule of procedure, or the generalized method, appropriate for a new concrete or specific situation, as well as to apply it correctly. Behaviour in the analysis of elements, relationships and organizational principles involves breaking down communication into its constituent parts in such a way that the relations between the ideas expressed are made explicit. Synthesis, which is divided into the production of a unique communication or a plan and the derivation of a set of abstract relations, includes the process of arranging and combining pieces and parts to assemble them into a pattern or structure not clear before. Lastly, evaluation entails quantitative and qualitative judgements made on the value of methods and materials for particular purposes in terms of internal evidence and external criteria. Thus, the higher-ordered objectives can be obtained only after the foregoing ones are mastered.
One way to provide greater assurance that the test provides a representative sample of learning outcomes and subject matter content is the use of a table of specifications. The table of specifications is a two-fold table on which learning outcomes are listed along one side of a table and subject matter topics along the other. The purpose of this table is to define as clearly as possible the scope and emphasis of the test to relate objectives to the content and conduct a balanced test. The construction of a table of specifications often obeys the following steps: 1) List the topics to be tested and the amount of time spent on teaching each topic; 2) Allocate marks for each topic as a percentage; 3) Determine the learning outcomes necessary for each topic; 4) Fix % marks for different abilities in each topic; 5) Decide the type of test items to be given; 6) Cover the proportion of marks for selection and supplement types of question; 7) Calculate the marks for each topic, each level and type of question, and finally, 8) Describe the number of question items to be included from the table mentioned above. It should be noted that constructing a table of specifications by giving weight to certain topics and abilities holds subjective judgement. In order to reduce this subjectivity, the table had to be prepared in consultation with any group of teachers.
Assembling the test for use calls for reviewing and editing question items, also considering whether they are arranged in some logical order and clear directions. The pool of items for a particular test can be reviewed by the individual who constructs them or by a colleague, providing a check on the correct answer and spotting any obvious defects. A more careful evaluation of test items is made as follows: 1) Each item should be related directly to the type of learning behaviour specified in the table of specifications; 2) Each item should be suitable for the particular learning outcomes to be measured; 3) Each item should present a clearly formulated task, also stated in simple language; 4) Each item should be free from extraneous question clues; 5) Item difficulty should be appropriate; 6) Each item should be independent without overlapping as a group; and 7) Test items should give adequate coverage of the table of specifications.
After reviewing and editing test items, arrange them for the test and prepare the directions as shown above. For instructional purposes, it is usually desirable to group question items that measure the same learning outcome. Where possible, the items should be arranged so that all items of the same type are grouped together. At last, the items should be organized in order of increasing difficulty. Then, the concise directions for a test contain the information concerning the purpose of the test, the time allowed to complete the test, the specific ways to record answers, and the fact whether to guess when in doubt about the answer, not bluffing.
In conclusion, the administration of a test is primarily a matter of providing proper working conditions, keeping interruptions to a minimum, arranging enough space between students to prevent cheating, and giving clear directions to make the test self-administering, but in some situations where it may be desirable to provide the directions orally. With grouped students, a blackboard illustration may also be noticed, seeing that students’ answers to objective test items may be recorded either on the test copy itself or on a separate answer sheet. Answers to the test are documented in a test booklet. If a separate answer sheet is used, it would be better to punch out the letters of the correct answers on a copy of the answer sheet and use this as a scoring stencil. The instructor scores on most educational tests.

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