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Educational Testing: Clarity of Language & Appropriateness of Level

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Clarity of language and appropriate reading and content level of educational assessments are critical for valid testing. This lesson will focus on how these areas factor into assessment evaluation, selection, design, and administration.

Developing Clear and Appropriate Assessments

Karla anxiously sits in her classroom waiting for her test booklet. She has been preparing for the state exam for months with her teacher, and the day has finally arrived. She has a case of the worries, but she knows she is ready. Her teacher approaches and hands her the booklet. After a few minutes of clear directions, read by the administrator of the test, Karla is on her way to a perfect score.

You might think writing assessments is an easy task, but it takes months of work to get the test from the writers' hands into the school. Why, might you ask? Writers need to take care to write educational assessments so that language is clear, reading level is appropriate, and content level is appropriate.

Educational assessments use clear language and appropriate content.
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Clarity of Language

Test questions are made up of prompts and stems. Prompts give student-specific directions on how to answer a question or how to complete a task. Stems are the actual questions or statements that describe what a student's task is. Assessment writers take great care when writing these two pieces and often have multiple editors check their work.

Language must be so clear that there should be no reason to believe that students like Karla do not understand how to answer a question or complete a task. When language is unclear, the risk is invalid assessment data that doesn't show what a student knows. Students should be able to read prompts, stems, passages, and other materials associated with questions because the reading level matches their grade level.

Appropriate Reading Level

Karla should be able to read everything on her exam without much problem. Readability is an essential factor when judging the appropriateness of educational assessment. Most commonly, a measure such as Lexile is used to gauge appropriate grade level texts. Lexile measures how difficult a text is by looking at how long sentences are and how often words are repeated. Other factors, such as grade level vocabulary and standard language, are also taken into account when writing stems, prompts, and passages.

Appropriate Content Level

Educational assessments should be valid, which means they should measure what they intend to measure. When Karla gets her test results, they should be a clear indication of her performance against what the test claimed to assess. Questions should have a clear alignment to the standards or objectives that they claim to test.

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