Tag Archives: question difficulty

How is a test like a duck? They may appear unruffled and serene on the surface, but underneath they are usually paddling frantically. Great tests, meaning those designed to be valid, fair, and reliable, require tremendous effort and insight to put together. Casual observers may see a random assemblage of items, but those in the know can glimpse the many hands–not to mention reams of data and decades of experience–that go into crafting entire tests, specific sections, and even individual questions for standardized exams like the SAT and ACT. Basically, assessment design goes very, very deep. If you are going to spend weeks, months, or perhaps even years of your life analyzing test questions, some insight into testing terminology can’t hurt. ITEM A test question–both the problem itself and any answer choices–is called an item. Tests can feature all sorts of objective and subjective items. The standardized tests used for…

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All things, according to English scholar, preacher, and wit Thomas Fuller, are difficult before they are easy. Some things, however, just stay difficult, as is the case with many questions on the SAT & ACT. Success lies in knowing where the really hard questions can be found. Clearly, some test questions pose more of a challenge than others in terms of complexity of content or subtlety of traps. Less evident are degrees or patterns of difficulty. The SAT currently rates test questions on a three-point difficulty scale, though you’ll have to wait until you get your score report to learn each question’s rating. ACT, on the other hand, continues to hide internal classifications of question difficulty from the public. Nonetheless, we can see general difficulty trends on both tests: READING: Completely random passage and question difficulty on the SAT & ACT. GRAMMAR: Completely random passage and question difficulty on the…

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The esteemed creators of the ACT have long been admired for their prudence, rarely seeking the spotlight or attracting animosity the way their competitors at the College Board cannot help but do. Circumspection is the word over at the ACT offices in Iowa City, which means that significant changes in a significant exam often go unannounced. They didn’t tell us in advance when they started included paired passages on every test. They didn’t alert us to the gradual but apparently enduring change to six rather than seven passages on the Science section. And, without telegraphing their intention, they appear to be making the ACT Math Test harder. How can we read the cards held so close to ACT’s proverbial vest? Unfortunately, the bad news is plastered all over The Official ACT Prep Guide, 2016-2017. I would be remiss in hiding my disdain for this book, in which ACT has violated…

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