Standards for Educational & Psychological Tests

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

We've all taken a test or two in our lifetimes, but where exactly do those tests come from? How are they made? In this lesson, we will summarize the 'Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing' as created by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME).


How do test developers, education administrators, and psychologists make sure that the tests they create and use are of high quality and are implemented properly? The AERA, APA, and NCME collaboratively created 'Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing' as a guide for professional test administrators. Let's examine these standards.

Test Construction, Scoring, and Evaluation

The validity of a test is perhaps the most important quality of any assessment. Validity shows how well the test measures what it claims to measure. For example, if the purpose of a test is to determine kindergarten readiness, it would not contain long division problems because that is not a pre-kindergarten skill. Long division on this test would make it an invalid measure, as none of the children would know the correct answers.

A test cannot be considered valid if it is not reliable. Reliability is the degree to which a retest would yield similar results. While standard measures of error exist in any assessment, if the test is unreliable, then it should not be used for making decisions. A test may be considered reliable even if it is not valid. For example, students may fail that division test every time it is given, making it reliable, but that doesn't mean it should be used for measuring kindergarten readiness - it still remains invalid.

The process of selecting items for a test, weighing test items, and norm-referencing should be based on field tests to representative population samples. Norm-referencing refers to scoring students based on the average scores of other students who are the same age or in the same grade. If a test question meant for third graders was asked to 100 third graders in the same way, the question has been norm-referenced.

The process for determining scores should be clearly stated in the test documents, as should instructions for standardizing test conditions and scoring.


Test developers should take steps to reduce bias. Bias refers to test items that produce higher or lower scores for certain groups of students. For example, students in rural agricultural areas may know the word 'irrigate' while students in urban areas may not. The use of this word would give an unfair advantage to students who live on farms.

The degree to which a test is fair is dependent on the individual needs of the test-taker. For example, non-verbal tests may be an appropriate alternative for students with language barriers. Accommodations and modifications may also be appropriate for disabled students.

Test-takers have a responsibility to keep tests secure, but also have a right to be notified if test security is breached or if there are other testing irregularities.

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