7 - Stages of test development  pp. 58-74

Stages of test development

By Arthur Hughes

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This chapter begins by briefly laying down a set of general procedures for test construction. These are then illustrated by two examples: an achievement test and a placement test.

In brief, the procedures I recommend are these:

  • Make a full and clear statement of the testing ‘problem’.
  • Write complete specifications for the test.
  • Write and moderate items.
  • Trial the items informally on native speakers and reject or modify problematic ones as necessary.
  • Trial the test on a group of non-native speakers similar to those for whom the test is intended.
  • Analyse the results of the trial and make any necessary changes.
  • Calibrate scales.
  • Validate.
  • Write handbooks for test takers, test users and staff.
  • Train any necessary staff (interviewers, raters, etc.).

Before looking more closely at this set of procedures, it is worth saying that test development is best thought of as a task to be carried out by a team. It is very difficult for an individual to develop a test, if only because of the need to look objectively at what is being proposed at each stage of development. This difficulty can be seen most clearly at the stage of item writing, when faults in an item which are obvious to others are often invisible to the person who wrote the item. Writing items is a creative process, and we tend to think of our items as minor works of art or even, it sometimes seems, our babies.