Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

ETS Research Focus on Computer Testing

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

ETS Research Focus on Computer Testing

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Educational Testing Service officials announced earlier this month that the organization is launching a three-year, multimillion dollar research project to improve the quality of its tests based on data gleaned from the use of computer adaptive tests.

Since 1993, ETS, the nation's largest private, nonprofit organization devoted to educational measurement and research, has administered graduate school admissions exams and other tests through a format known as computer adaptive testing.

"CAT, as we call it, uses computer technology to adapt the difficulty of test questions to the performance of each

test taker, allowing more reliable testing with fewer test questions," explains ETS president Dr. Nancy Cole.

ETS officials say the information collected from assessing students who take computer adaptive tests

can provide researchers with valuable insight into the test-taking experience of individuals, which contrasts to the group testing model underlying traditional pencil-and-paper standardized tests, such as the SAT.

"Instead of dealing with an undifferentiated group of test takers, we can now examine the individual test taker and explore new ways to make the test as effective as possible for each," Cole says.

"Now, for the first time, we see the possibility for developing our measurement models and describing test performance at the individual level. This is a great challenge, but it suggests the possibility for some real breakthroughs in the science of educational measurement," says Dr. Drew Gitomer, ETS vice president of research.

The project's goal, she says, is for the research to enable ETS to improve the quality of the computer adaptive tests as well as standardized ones. She estimates that $6 million to $8 million will be spent on the initiative. Currently, ETS offers computer adaptive testing with the Graduate Record Exam, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the Graduate Management Admissions Test and the National Council Licensure Examination. …

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