PREPARING EXAMINEES FOR TEST TAKING. Guidelines for Test Developers
N. Scott Bishop and Susan Davis-Becker
Since the publication of the 1999 edition of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association [AERA], American Psychological Association [APA] & National Council on Measurement in Education [NCME], 1999), some old concerns regarding test preparation activities have continued to gain importance (e.g., students, teachers and other school personnel unethically transforming test preparation into cheating). Topics that have implications for test preparation, such as access for students with special needs and use of performance and innovative item types, continue to receive emphasis (see Lane & Iwatani, this volume, and Swygert & Williamson, this volume, for a discussion on performance assessments and Sireci & Zenisky, this volume, for a discussion on computerized innovative item types).
Readers of this chapter likely have taken a test they considered “high-stakes.” These experiences may have influenced their thoughts about test preparation. Test developers may empathize with individuals who are preparing for high-stakes tests and should understand that these students may consider any reasonable resources for assistance. Unfortunately, news headlines remind us that some students facing tests as well as others who are affected by test results (e.g., teachers, administrators) are willing to cheat to gain an advantage. (See Wollack & Fremer, 2013, for more information about test security.)
Some test developers have strong differences of opinion regarding test preparation. Some stakeholders are concerned that test preparation (a) focuses only on low-level skills that are part of the test content, (b) sacrifices instructional time better spent on other content or (c) imparts skills that do not generalize to other thinking processes (Crocker, 2005). Conversely, other commentators (e.g., McPhail, 1981) view test preparation as a means to improve the validity of test score interpretations and uses and to provide equal opportunities for all examinees. Some examinees opt for using all possible resources before testing; however, test developers may need to limit the information given to examinees to protect the security of their tests and to allow for flexibility to make small modifications to the test format or structure if needed. Given the diverse opinions about test preparation, any treatment of it (including this one) will be disputed by some readers.
This chapter discusses several topics:
- • Test preparation drawbacks
- • Key terminology and jargon
- • The focus and format of common test preparation activities
- • The relationship between test preparation and the validity of test score inferences
- • The efficacy of test preparation
- • Disparate access to some test preparation options
- • The ways research can inform test preparation practices.
Test developers also are referred to the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association [AERA], American Psychological Association [APA] & National Council on Measurement in Education [NCME], 2014) for additional information on test preparation.