EXPANDING THE BREADTH AND DEPTH OF ADMISSIONS TESTING
Richard E. Snow
This commentary focusses on the two contributions, by Hunter Breland and by Howard Everson, on research aimed at expanding admissions testing. In Chapter 8, Breland gave us a comprehensive survey of writing assessment covering the types of tests, the pros and cons of each, the evaluation standards and needed research, and a good sense of the driving forces and potentials for the future in this domain. In Chapter 9, Everson did a similar job for reasoning and knowledge assessments, with special emphasis on the potentials of computerization in these domains. I'll not review or comment in detail on their ideas here. Rather, I will elaborate on their research directions and also add some other directions I think deserving of attention in this domain.
The motivating question for this effort might be: What is missing in admissions testing today? Or, more constructively: How can we expand the breadth and the depth of admissions testing in valuable and useful directions for both individuals and institutions in higher education today? Breadth means expanding the spectrum of cognitive, conative, and affective aptitudes that are assessed. This emphasis argues that we ought to be promoting increased diversity in the talents and personal qualities that get considered and developed in higher education. Depth means gaining a deeper, richer description and understanding of the psychology of the constructs being assessed. The point here is that we ought to be pursuing construct validation in admissions testing with a renewal of both vigor and rigor.
Both breadth and depth expansions have been severely limited over the history of the development of admissions testing. As Everson's review suggests, admissions testing grew out of the practical need for prediction and was evaluated primarily on empirical grounds. The development of testing technology far outdistanced the development of relevant psychological theory through most of this