Linear test questions are the most common type of assessment item, whether used in the classroom or as part of a standardized test. We've all answered thousands of linear test items, in all kinds of settings and for many different purposes. Most assessment programs around the country—indeed, the world—make regular use of linear test items. So they're likely to be among the first options you consider when planning or evaluating a technology assessment.
Exactly what makes a good linear test item, and how hard is it to develop these items? As noted in the previous chapter, linear test items are extremely useful—and, in fact, are the best item format—for assessing certain types of objectives, especially the demonstration of knowledge. Linear test items can be deployed on paper, on computers, or over the Internet at relatively low cost. This makes them a popular choice for large and small testing projects. Figure 8.1 shows the range of linear test items.
In theory, linear items are also easy to write. As a teacher, you've probably created hundreds of tests with multiple-choice questions and other types of linear test items. However, looking at how professional test developers create linear test items can teach us a lot about a process most of us approach on instinct, as in, [I know a good test question when I see it!] Linear items you create for a classroom quiz may never need to go through the rigorous statistical analysis applied to standardized exam items. But the practices test developers use to create items that will withstand analysis and scrutiny can improve any test-development process.