Create high quality assessments


Create classroom assessments

Why do we need this test?

Why am I administering this assessment?

Purpose of the assessment

The use of the data defines the aim of the test.

Questions to determine need

  1. How will this assessment help learning and instruction?
  2. Why do we need the student performance data?
  3. What use do we have for the student results?
  4. How will the data be used to help students improve learning?
  5. Will the results help instruction?
  6. Is the data going to be shared?
  7. How will feedback from the assessment help our students?
  8. Are all students expected to take the test?
  9. What accommodations are acceptable?
  10. What intervention will we use to improve future learning?

Focus each assessment on your instructional goals and needs.

  1. Outline or blueprint the assessment.
  2. Select a test format that best suits your data needs and instructional focus in the classroom.
  3. Add passages, items, and prompts that match the skills and concepts from your outline.
  4. Balance the rigor and complexity of the assessment including readings, graphs, and illustrations.
  5. Avoid items that cue or answer other questions on the test.
  6. Create an assessment a student will finish in your expected schedule.

Review and question the items

  • Does the item mix assess the standards in more than one way?
  • Does each standard or domain tested match instruction and the standards?
  • Does each item measure the expected learning in the classroom?
  • Is there a proper mix of item difficulty and complexity for the overall test and each concept?
  • Does every question measure a skill or content identified in the plan or outline?
  • Do the questions work together to create a complete picture of student learning?
  • Do any questions cue or help answer other items?

Review item quality on the test


The value of performance data relies on each item assessing the right learning outcome

Content review

  • Does the item measure important learning?
  • Is the content measured worth long-term learning?
  • Does the item measure instructional significant content or skills?
  • Does the student have to think to answer each question? Is it simple recall of information, or do they have to apply critical thinking, problem-solving, or creativity?
  • Is the item too specific or too abstract?
  • Does the question attempt to serve too many purposes? Can you tell from a student response that they understood the behavior or knowledge assessed?
  • If a student incorrectly answers an item, will you be able to tell what the student did wrong?
  • Is this item cueing an answer to another question?
  • Does this item measure facts, not opinions?
  • Is there anything tricky about the item? Will all students understand the question?

Format and style review

  • Does the item use a format appropriate for the content, and age of students?
  • Is the question so complicated that most students will not understand the topic?
  • Are the items formatted consistently? For example, vertically or horizontally.
  • Is vocabulary appropriate for the student population tested?
  • Does the item or passage, require too much reading? Is it worth the student’s time?

Stem or the question

  • Does the stem have correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation?
  • Is the stem written so all students should understand the problem?
  • Are there any words or phrases that do not need to be part of the stem?
  • Is all information in stem relative to answering the item? Does the student have to weed out unnecessary information to respond to the item?
  • Is there a better way to phrase the stem?

Correct answers and distractors (incorrect answers)

  • Does the right answer match the key?
  • Are all distractors reasonable and standard errors?
  • Is there too much repetition of phrases in the distractors? For example, repeating the same introductory term in each item answer choice.
  • Does the correct answer item choice vary in position across the assessment?
  • For numerical answers, are the potential solutions in logical or numerical order? Be careful in systems that let you scramble answers for multiple versions of assessment. It may create unfair versions of the item.
  • Is the length of each choice similar?
  • Are there any clues that give away the correct answer, such as silly distractors?

Haladyna, T. (1997). Writing test items to evaluate higher order thinking. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Quick review each classroom test

Quickly check and review


  • Will this assessment provide data and information I need to make important decisions?
  • Does the test overall, along with each question, measure the right content or skills?
  • Does the test match instructional focus and intended learning?

Content and skills

  • Does each item measure content objectives and their skills, accurately and appropriately?
  • Does the vocabulary for each item match instructional practice and content area specifications?
  • Does overall test content match actual instruction during the learning cycle?
  • Is the necessary background knowledge fair for students?
  • Are the questions free from bias?


  • Does the test require students to show grade level thinking at this point in the year? Critical, Creative, Problem-solving, etc.
  • Is the thinking required appropriate for our students?