Types of Tests

by Allan Olson
The advantages and disadvantages of the computerized versions of five major test categories are described below.

* High-Stakes Standardized Tests. Technology streamlines administration time, simplifies results reporting, and offers an easy way to screen and place students. However, technology offers only a computerized version of the tests’ paper-and-pencil cousins; they still provide only normed scores.

Criterion-Based Tests. Quick reporting with computerized versions enhances the ability of these tests to provide instructional focus, and represent progress toward state performance standards. Infrequent test administration should be considered in light of the cost to implement and maintain a computerized version.

* Supplemental Tests. Technology shines brightest in this category, leading to custom-built “on the fly” adaptive tests that are appropriately challenging, provide normed and growth scores, and show progress toward state standards. With fast reporting, data can also be used to screen and place students and provide instructional focus. Well- designed computerized tests in this category are a practical, beneficial addition to test programs.

* Performance Assessments. Computers simplify the test-taking process in this category. As technology that fully automates scoring is refined, computerized versions will be more beneficial.
* Learning Program Assessments. These tests are excellent additions to technology-based instructional materials and offer many of the same benefits as supplemental tests. However, they represent only the materials they are mapped to. They do not represent overall district curriculum, or standards and do not provide normed scores.