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Everything you need to know about standardised tests
By RS Assessment from Hodder Education
07 May

What are standardised tests and how are they used?

Download: A Guide to Standardised Assessments

What are standardised assessments?

A standardised assessment is any form of test that requires all test takers to answer the same questions in the same way and is then scored in a ‘standard’ or consistent manner. This makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students. The term is primarily associated with large-scale tests administered to large populations of students.

How are standardised tests developed?

Standardised tests are developed in a rigorous way to ensure that they are both valid (the test measures what it has been designed to assess) and reliable (the test results are consistent, dependable and replicable). This process typically takes at least 18 months and involves:

  • developing a robust test framework that defines the content or skills to be assessed

  • writing and reviewing the test questions

  • trialling the questions and tests with a representative sample of students (aiming for at least 1,000 per year group). Trials take place at the time the tests are designed to be used

  • statistically analysing these ‘trial’ results to produce standardised scores and other information, so that the results can be interpreted and used by teachers in a meaningful way

  • producing the final test(s) on the basis of the outcomes of the trial(s).

What are the benefits of standardised tests?

  • Fair and consistent: standardised tests are considered to be fairer than non-standardised tests because all students take the same test and the mark scheme is clearly defined. This consistency allows a more reliable comparison of outcomes across all test takers.

  • Provide comparison data: test results can be used to benchmark students’ performance against the nationally representative sample involved in the trials. They give an indication of how a student (or group) is performing in relation to students in other schools.

  • Measure progress: tests can be used before and after an intervention to measure the impact of that intervention. The use of standardised tests over time enables progress to be tracked in an independent way.

What information is produced from standardised tests and what does it tell you?

  • Raw score: the total number of marks that a student has scored in a particular test.

  • Standardised score: derived from the student’s raw score and placed on a scale that makes a comparison with the nationally representative sample of students.

  • Percentile score: gives you a better feel for the significance of a student’s performance because it shows the percentage of students obtaining any score or lower.

  • Age-standardised score: based on the student’s raw score, adjusted for age (in months) and placed on a scale that makes a comparison with those involved in the standardisation trial.

  • Reading/mathematics age: a quick measure of attainment against the age at which a student’s performance is typical.

Standardised assessments for Key Stage 3 and beyond

PiRA (Progress in Reading and Language Assessment) and PUMA (Progress in Understanding Mathematics Assessment) KS3 are suites of standardised tests that enable schools to accurately measure and predict students’ progress in reading and maths, and compare their performance against national averages. These tests monitor progress as students develop the skills needed for GCSE. They work alongside any teaching scheme. Curriculum maps are provided to help schools check they have taught all content covered in each test.

AMT (Access Mathematics Tests) and ART (Access Reading Tests) are wide-ranging, standardised and flexible assessments for KS3 and KS4 that provide valuable diagnostic information about students’ maths and reading ability. Schools can use them to baseline and screen new cohorts, identify areas that may be limiting a learner’s overall success and measure the impact of subsequent targeted interventions.

All four assessment suites include free online access to performance reports with MARK (My Assessment and Reporting Kit). These can be shared with key stakeholders to support teacher judgements.

Find out more

Download A Guide to Standardised Assessments for more insight into standardised assessments and to see how they can benefit you.

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