Teach Wire magazine ‘Ask the Expert’ feature - March 2018

With so many assessment products on the market, NFER’s Liz Twist highlights the questions you should ask before you buy.

Liz Twist has been developing assessments for over 20 years and oversees all NFER assessment research and development projects, including NFER’s own assessment products and work for clients.

How well do the tests cover the curriculum?

If you want to be able to say how well pupils are performing in reading and maths, for example, you need to ensure that the tests you use provide appropriate coverage of the national curriculum. In subjects where the programme of study covers several years, you need to be confident that there is appropriate coverage in the test for each year.

Are the tests valid?

Alongside other evidence, teachers draw conclusions about a pupil’s attainment or progress based on test results, but not all tests have good validity. For example, a maths test that contains only questions about number will not provide a valid assessment of a pupil’s understanding of shape. If you’re going to use the results to report on pupils’ maths attainment it’s important that there is a good match to the curriculum.

Have the assessments been standardised?

A crucial element of robust assessment is standardisation. A standardised test is one that has been trialled with a nationally representative sample of pupils, which not only means they are reliable but also enables you to benchmark your pupils’ results against the national average. It might surprise you to learn that some published tests have never been trialled in schools.

How large was the nationally representative sample?

The size of the pupil sample is important if you wish to benchmark your pupils against attainment nationally. Usually this requires a minimum of around 1,200 pupils per test across a range of schools representing different regions, types and performance bands. Larger samples will give more accurate standardised scores, which is why NFER Tests for Y1-5 were standardised with over 60,000 pupils.

Are the results reliable?

Reliability has a very specific meaning in test development, but for classroom assessment purposes you need to be sure that the tests are administered and marked in a consistent way. This means that the administration guidelines must be clear. In addition, assessments which have been properly developed and trialled will have mark schemes which reflect what teachers actually see in children’s responses.

What results does the test provide?

The most straightforward outcome when a pupil takes a test is their raw score, but this doesn’t enable you to compare results across tests or over time. Standardised scores enable you to do this. NFER Tests offer both standardised scores and age-standardised scores, which can be particularly useful for putting the performance of younger pupils into context. In addition, NFER’s summer term tests identify how children are performing against age-related expectations.

More information

To find out more about NFER assessments for Y1-5 and view sample materials visit the NFER Tests page or call 01753 637007.