General Guidelines

Before designing the test

  • Focus on what the student is being tested for, not the mechanics of responding to a test item. You can ask the following questions to clarify the test item's intentions:
    • What an item is attempting to measure?
    • What elements of the item are not essential in the measurement of skill and knowledge?
    • What information can we present in alternate ways so that we can make it easier for students to access content, be engaged with it and reveal what they understand?
  • If you use assistive technology to make the standardized testing more accessible, ask yourself if the student is being required to learn to use new technology at short notice, and whether this constitutes fair treatment. Introducing assistive technology to students with an exam deadline looming would place an added learning cost on the student.

Designing the test

Be aware of the following issues:

  • Some people become more fatigued when reading text on a computer screen than on paper, specially reading long passages and text blocks.
  • The inability to see an entire problem on screen at one time is challenging for many users.
  • The speech recognition technology may not be an accessible alternative for collecting user responses, especially for those whose native language is not English or those with speech impairments, can be frustrated by the software’s lack of ability to differentiate many of the sounds that they make.
  • Use of an online calculator is challenging for some students, especially if they have not had practice with this tool in their daily work.

Try to avoid the following items:

  • Placing great demands on certain skills such as typing, mouse navigation, and the use of key combinations which may not be accessible for many users.
  • Solely relying on sensory characteristics of the component such as shape, size, visual location, orientation, or sound.
  • Use of multiple screens to recall a passage since it requires greater mental efforts.

Include the following items:

  • Make testing items adaptable, so they can be presented in different ways without losing information or structure.
    • Make sure information, structure and relationships conveyed through presentation can be programmatically determined or available in text.
    • If the sequence in which content is presented affects its meaning, determine a correct reading sequence.
  • Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are in the test.
    • Bypass blocks of text that are repeated on multiple pages.
    • Include titles to describe the purpose of each page.
    • Focusable components should receive focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability, if the sequence affects the meaning or operation.
    • Include more than one way to locate a page within a set of pages except where the page is a result of a previous page or a step in a process.
    • Enable self-selection of subtest order.
  • Provide text alternative (e.g. large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language) for any non-text content item, except in the following situation:
    • If non-text content is a test or exercise that would be invalid if presented in text. In this case, text alternative should provide a descriptive identification of the non-text content.
  • Provide users enough time to read and use content.
    • For items that have a time limit set by the content, enable users to turn it off, adjust it or extend it.
    • Allow students to set their own transition times between questions (but bear in mind that extra time may make the total exam burden more onerous).
    • One of the exception is when the time limit is essential and extending it would invalidate the activity.
  • Provide students with an option to have instructions repeated as often as they choose .
  • Maintaining place and saving completed responses during breaks.
  • If an error is automatically detected and suggestions for correction are known, then the suggestions are provided to the user, unless it would jeopardize the validity of the test.
  • To prevent errors, for pages that submit test responses at least one of the following should be included:
    • Submissions are reversible.
    • Data entered by user is checked for input errors and the user is provided an opportunity to correct them.
    • A mechanism is available for reviewing, confirming, and correcting information before finalizing the submission.

Resources