the e-Assessment Association

Glossary of terms

The e-Assessment Association has been working on a new updated glossary of terms specifically for e-assessment. Please do comment, suggest amendments or additions. This is an ongoing project as terms are always evolving and new terms are regularly introduced. There are 76 terms below, including many question types.

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 Adaptive Feedback Feedback given to students on an assessment item, where the feedback is modified according to the student’s response , particularly where the response was marked as incorrect, and typically aims to provide guidance on why the answer was wrong.
 Advanced Question Types Advanced Question types are a level above Standard Question types. They typically require complex setup and/or marking, or they contain complex marking algorithms. Additionally, the level of interaction within the item may also be over and above that of a Standard Question Type, and therefore they could be considered as separate applications within a test.
 Application Programming Interface The software mechanism by which one computer program makes its functionality and data available to another computer program. For example, a test-marking program might use an API to request the correct marking key from the item bank program. APIs are widely used in internet applications where programs are distributed across different servers (for example in multi-vendor systems).
 Assessment An instrument (e.g. an on-screen examination) used to make a judgement about learning, skills acquisition or educational readiness or need against a set of pre-determined criteria. Assessment instruments include examinations and tests, but also portfolio and observation-based approaches to judgement.
 Assessment Delivery System A combination of software, hardware and communications components, as well as human processes that manage the end-to-end process of administering e-assessments. Note: this includes delivering the test package to centres, supporting the examination administration functions, delivering the assessment to the candidate, recovering their response, managing the marking and verification processes, setting standards and providing assessment outcomes. It generally does not include the writing and production of the assessment.
 Assessment Engine The software application that delivers an electronic test on a computer. The engine usually consists of generic components (such as a web server) and proprietary software (such as a specific e-assessment program). An e-assessment system typically consists of an assessment engine, an item bank and an item and test creation system.
 Audio Capture Question Type The audio question type enables the capture of sound created by the candidate. This could be spoken sentences such as in a language test, or music from a performance. Audio question types can sometimes start automatically as part of a question workflow, or be controlled by the candidate as part of evidence capture. If being used as part of language testing, it would be appropriate to combine the audio capture question with either on-screen text or sound files. Visual feedback on-screen is important so that the candidate is clear that the capture has started and is recording audio. Capture can be open ended, however this would generate larger file sizes. Consideration of file size is important, as language testing could be being conducted in a location with poor internet or power stability. Use of an on-screen avatar can sometimes help to improve the quality of the conversation, if the candidate feels like they are speaking to a real person, then the quality of the audio is less likely to suffer. Giving the candidate the opportunity to playback the capture can also be useful. Audio quality can be impacted by the confidence of the candidate, the quality of the microphone or the background noise from other candidates. Simple techniques of placing candidates completing an audio capture section of a test next to candidate undertaking a written component can be good ways of reducing background interference. The more practice a candidate has with this type of question, the better they will perform. Classed as an Advanced Question Type, audio capture questions are not typically auto-marked.
 Authoring Tool Software used to create items and tests for e-assessment. Note: the term is used more widely to cover tools used for creating any content for delivery on-screen (e.g. e-learning, general web pages, etc.).
 Classical Test Theory (CTT) CTT is a set of statistical measures relating to the performance of items within a test, and the test itself, and used to provide evidence about the quality of a test and the items within it. CTT’s most commonly used measures include facility (the difficulty of a question), discrimination (the extent to which candidates’ performance on a question mirrors their performance on the test as a whole) and Internal Reliability (the extent to which the test assesses a single construct). CTT is relatively easy to implement and understand, but it cannot distinguish between facets of the candidates and the questions (eg whether a question is hard or a candidate cohort is weak), and for this reason Modern Test Theory, including Latent Trait Theory, Rasch and Item Response Theory are increasingly widely used.
 Competency-Based Assessment An assessment process based on the collection of evidence on which judgements are made concerning progress towards satisfaction of fixed performance criteria which describe the competency. Note: the competency-based assessment of an individual takes no account of the performance of others in the wider group being assessed (as is the case in norm-referenced assessment), and is typically limited to a pass/fail grading (also called mastery/non-mastery). Competency testing is typically used for licence to practice assessments (for example for doctors, pilots, etc.).
 Computer Adaptive Test A CBA test in which successive items in the test are selected for presentation by a computer algorithm drawing primarily on the properties and content of the items, and the test taker’s response to previous items. Adaptive tests are typically used in summative tests where a more accurate test result (compared to a linear test) can be determined for a given test duration (or a shorter test can be provided). For diagnostic purposes, adaptive tests allow a more detailed exploration of strong and weak areas in a test taker’s knowledge within a given time for a test. Two key features of adaptive tests are that (a) test takers cannot return to questions once they have moved on and (b) the test taker’s responses to items must be computer-marked.
 Computer Based Training A term from the 1980s describing learning which is mediated by a computer (typically a stand-alone computer). Note: the modern term ‘e-learning’ differs in that there is an expectation with e-learning that more of modern computing’s capabilities (rich media, interactivity, etc.) will be used, as well as the computer’s connection to internal networks and the internet.
 Computer-Assisted Assessment Computer-aided assessment (or “computer-assisted assessment”) describes assessments delivered with the help of computers. This includes assessments delivered to the candidate on-screen, developed on computer but delivered on paper, marked on-screen or electronically (eg using OMR).
 Computer-Based Assessment A subset of CAA where the candidate is presented with the question on-screen and responds to the question using the computer.
 Content Management System A general web term for a software tool which manages and maintains the technical and editorial content of a website. Note: in an e-assessment setting, it describes a software tool for managing assessment content (items and tests) and will generally comprise an Authoring Tool/System and an Item Bank.
 Delivery Method Delivery method refers to the way in which the test is taken by the candidate, this can be online, offline, secure locked down or open book.
 Delivery Platform The platform being used on the client device, for example PC running windows, Linux running Ubuntu, Smartphone running Android, Apple Mac running iOS or windows etc.
 Diagnostic Testing Non-accredited, assessment used as part of a learning programme to identify a learner’s strengths and weaknesses with a view to providing an appropriate learning programme. Generally undertaken at the start of a programme, diagnostic assessment therefore needs to evaluate learners’ existing levels of attainment across the range of relevant knowledge, skills and understanding, so as to inform personalised learning.
 Digital Logbooks An online record of practice experience and skills that are assessed. The logbook often complements formal examinations.
 Drag-And-Drop  Question Type The Drag and Drop question type requires candidates to drag answer options into the relevant drop zones; this can be useful for a number of question scenarios.Drag and drop items can be text, video or image-based. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 e-Assessment E-assessment describes a range of activities where technology is used to enhance some or all elements of an educational assessment process.  Common activities are on-screen tests (the candidate reads and answers the question on-screen), electronic marking (the marker marks on screen – either a scanned candidate script or an on-screen response), remote proctoring (candidates taking on-screen tests are invigilated remotely), item banking (test questions are stored in a database and assembled into tests electronically), and e-portfolio (candidates assemble digital evidence of their learning for skills assessments).
 E-portfolio An e-portfolio contains digital items – ideas, evidence, reflections, feedback etc., captured on the web which someone can present to a selected audience as evidence of their learning and/or ability.
 E-portfolio  Management system An e-portfolio assessment system enables the learning and skills of a number of individuals to be captured and assessed online.
 Either/Or Question  Type The Either/Or question type requires candidates to select the correct answer from two different answer options and is most often used for questions where the options are true/false or yes/no. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 End Point Assessment The final assessment in the UK’s reformed apprenticeship, which takes place after the student’s employer has signed off the student as ready for assessment. Typically the assessment is graded and designed to show that the student is competent across the range of skills and knowledge that have been covered during their apprenticeship.
 Equation Entry  Question Type The Equation Entry question type provides candidates with an equation creation tool, which allows them to enter complex equations into the answer box. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking depends on the complexity of the equation and the capabilities of the technology.
 Essay Style Question  Type An Essay question requires the candidate to write an extended response in answer to a question. Typically, this question type will provide the candidate with text formatting features, and sometimes the ability to insert symbolic information such as equations or symbols. Due the length of time a candidate may spend on this question, it is important that their responses are securely stored at regular intervals to prevent loss of data from due to computer error. Options around the permitted response length can often be set to control the amount of information the candidate provides. It is important that the candidate is able to view all information provided either through an expanding window or scrolling. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto- marking is not possible with this question and human-marking is required.
 Extended Matching  Question Type The Extended Matching question type allows item authors to create questions where candidates are required to respond by making correct links between two lists of options. There are a number of linking options available within this question type: these include a one to one relationship, one to many, or many to many. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Familiarisation Test A test used by either the candidate or the centre. The candidate would use the test to simulate the real assessment so that they can become familiar with the delivery interface, question types and test structure. A centre may use the test to highlight any technical or process problems ahead of the exam day.
 File Attach Question  Type The File Attach question type allows test providers to present candidates with a file which they can change or edit before uploading back into the test for marking. This question type is perfect for any assessment that requires candidates to use external software, such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. The files can be pre-populated with information or can be left blank. The files can be launched securely to prevent the candidate accessing additional files or other applications. Typically both the candidate’s device and the marker’s device will require a licence to the file type’s software, otherwise access to view or edit the file might not be possible. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is not normally possible with this question type and therefore requires human-marking.
 Fill in the Blank  Question Type The Fill in the Blank question type requires candidates to fill in blank spaces in a passage of text. Multiple answer options can be set for multiple blank spaces within a passage of text. Fill in the Blank can be used as an alternative to using the Select from a List question type. The space provided for the response typically expands to the answer given so as not to provide the candidate with a clue to the response required. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Hotspot Question Type A Hotspot question requires the candidate to select one or more areas within an image. Variations of this include providing a single point answer with options for marking tolerance around the point. Multiple points can also be used along with area mapping. In most cases it would be unreasonable to expect the candidate to pick an exact pixel, therefore marking tolerance is normally recommended. Classed as a Standard Question type, automarking is possible with this question.
 Interoperability A feature of computer systems components which allow the components to interact to exchange information according to technical standards which define functionality useful to the user. The IMS QTI specification is an example of an interoperability specification within the e-assessment domain. IMS QTI allows the transfer of test questions (and their associated metadata) from one system to another.
 Item Response Theory IRT is a commonly used Modern Test Theory statistical approach to measuring the performance of candidates and test questions. Part of a wider group of Latent Trait Theory approaches (including Rasch analysis) it is based on the idea that the probability of a correct response to a question is a mathematical function of both the candidate’s ability and the item’s difficulty (in contrast to CTT where the difficulty of a question is fixed). IRT analysis is more complex to implement and interpret but provides analysts with information to distinguish between the ability of a candidate and the difficulty of an item, thereby allowing comparisons of different candidate groups and/or different tests.
 Likert Scale Question  Type Typically associated with surveys, the Likert Scale Question Type provides the candidate with the means to answer according to a scale (for example “Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree”). These question types are generally used in surveys. The scale may have fixed points and is therefore a horizontal MCQ, or have variable points which would therefore need a degree of marking tolerance. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Locked Down Locked Down refers to the delivery method used during the assessment. An assessment in Locked Down mode should prevent the candidate gaining access to applications or internet sites not permitted during the assessment.
 Manual Test  Generation The manual (human) process by which a test instance (a test form) is generated from a bank of items (according to a formal or informal set of rules which may involve a selection algorithm and randomisation). Note: this is widely used in e-assessment settings where the candidates do not all take the test at the same time, hence a variety of tests are required (to reduce the likelihood of test and question exposure) but where known comparability is required between the tests so that fair results can be given. Also see Automated Test Generation, which is increasingly used where large numbers of test instances are required.
 Metadata Reference data about a piece of information (e.g. an assessment item) that enables it to be systematically stored in and retrieved from a database (e.g. an item bank) according to a variety of selection criteria. In the context of assessment, metadata might typically refer to aspects such as qualification or test specifications, curriculum content and performance statistics. Note: metadata is most useful when it conforms to an open standard, e.g. IMS LOM or QTI.
 Mobile Learning A type of e-learning where the learning is undertaken using a mobile ICT device (e.g. a PDA, mobile phone or smartphone, handheld computer, etc.). The availability and popularity of handheld portable devices has led to some research into the use of m-learning techniques for e-assessment.
 Multiple Choice  Question Type A Multiple Choice question (MCQ) gives candidates a number of answer options (“distractors”) to choose from with only one correct answer (the “key”). These are the most common on-screen question types in use within Computer-Based Testing. Text is typically used in the answer options, but images or equations may also be used. In some versions of MCQ tests, candidates may be asked to provide their confidence level that the selected answer is correct, which can then be used as part of the scoring calculation. Typically answer options are randomised to reduce assessment malpractice, however care has to be taken not to use punctuation on the last item only, or to use terms like ‘All of the above’ if the intention is to randomise the answer order. Due to the correct answer being presented on-screen, consideration is required when authoring to prevent the correct answer from standing out, e.g. candidates can sometimes guess at the ‘longest answer option’ using the logic that the author has had to be explicit in the answer. This question type may also use weighted marking, where the award for one option may be greater than another. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Multiple Response  Question Type A Multiple Response question is similar to a Multiple Choice question, except more than one answer option is correct and candidates may be asked to respond by selecting all of the correct options. This type of question can sometimes use images or equations. Variations may also include combination responses and controls on how many responses can be given. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Navigation In an e-assessment context, the on-screen buttons and other controls that move candidates from screen to screen in an on-screen assessment (typically, from question to question), and provide access to other non-question specific features such as on-screen help, print functions, exit, etc). They are generally visually separate from controls that relate to the specific question.
 Non-question Items Non-question items include: introduction pages, seen at the start of a test; information pages, which may be seen by candidates during a test; and finish pages, seen by the candidate after they have submitted completed their tests and submitted their responses. Non-question items will not have a mark assigned to them. Typically non-question items may be visible outside of a timed section of a test.
 Non-scored Questions A non-scored item is a question (of any type) which has been included in a test to gather performance data, but does not impact the score or result of the test for the candidate. For example, it is a common practice to pilot new questions embedded within a live test, but where the scores on the pilot items do not count toward the candidate’s score.
 Numeric Entry  Question Type A Numerical Entry question allows candidates to only enter numbers as the response to a question. This can either be an exact value, or within a range set by the item author. Consideration should be taken regarding any symbols which are expected with the answer, such as $, £ or €. When considering international delivery the use of commas or decimals should be considered. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Objective Question A test item in which the response is evaluated against objective criteria. This might be a single simple response, such as in a multiple choice item where the criterion is whether the student has made a correct selection. It might be that the student’s response has certain properties which can be established objectively. In CAA this is usually done automatically.
 Offline Assessment An on-screen assessment which is conducted without using an internet connection during the test (although an internet connection may well be used to deliver the test to the client computer prior to the test starting, and to upload the candidate responses once the test has completed).
 On programme  assessment Assessment in the UK’s reformed apprenticeship, which takes place during the apprenticeship learning programme, and prior to the student being signed off by the employer for the End Point Assessment
 On-Demand  Assessment Used in public examinations. Assessments where there is a high degree of flexibility in the date and time that tests can be offered to suit the student or their learning programme (although it may not necessarily include all days, times and dates). In contrast to many traditional assessments which are provided on a fixed date and time (or a limited range of dates and times).
 On-Screen Assessment An assessment delivered to the candidate on a computer screen, and where the candidate provides their response on-screen (for example by typing, or clicking on the correct response).
 Online Assessment An on-screen assessment which relies on an internet connection during the test to download subsequent questions and upload candidate responses. Sometimes termed “conducting a test live over the internet”.
 Online/Offline  assessment application The ability to capture and assess evidence of learning and skills to an e-portfolio when àn internet connection is unavailable and for this evidence and assessments to be added to the e-portfolio once an internet connection is established.
 Open source e-portfolio This is a personal learning environment mixed with social networking, that allows an individual to collect, reflect on and share their achievements and development online in a space they control.
 Open Standards Shared, freely available and internationally agreed standards for computer-based systems, designed to enable communication and interoperability.
 Optical Character  Recognition Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a means by which a computer can recognise text and other marks in handwritten responses on paper that have been scanned, and convert these to digital format. OCR is often used in assessment to electronically mark paper responses to multiple choice tests (for example, on bubble sheets)
 Optical Mark Reader A device that scans paper-based tests and converts marks made by the student using pen or pencil into digital data.
 Parameterised Item  Type An item where parts of the question are generated according to a formula embedded within the question. This randomisation is usually undertaken dynamically, using the formulae, as the test is generated or delivered to the student, in contrast to cloning where item variants are generated during authoring by use of the randomisation parameters. The term parameter refers to the variables that are used by the formula to create the item instances. Many different types of questions (e.g. MCQ, gap fill, etc.) may use parameterisation.
 Personalisation The configuring of an IT system by students to suit their personal requirements (e.g. selecting preferred font sizes and colours, volume levels for audio, et al). Also refers to more complex customisations of the user experience to meet personal learning needs.
 Polytomous Item An item having more than two response categories. For example, a 5-point Lykert type scale where items can be scored 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or a partial credit question where candidates can score between 0 and 4 marks. Polytomous is a term typically associated with IRT and other forms of latent trait analysis.
 Portfolio Assessment An assessment where a student’s portfolio of assembled work is assessed. This type of assessment is distinct from a test (which is administered on a single occasion)
 Practicability The feasibility of an assessment in terms of operational efficiency and viability. A valid and/or reliable assessment may not be practical due to the cost or time required to carry it out. High quality assessments are valid, reliable and practicable, although there are typically trade-offs to be made between these three key elements of test quality.
 Proprietary Software Software requiring a licence (for which a charge is usually made) from a particular company.
 Psychometric Test Provides one or more measures of a candidate’s personality traits. It is most commonly used as part of the selection process for employment, or to support careers guidance. Typically it seeks to place candidates on a number of scales according to their preferred behaviours or aptitudes for aspects such as working with others, managing pressure, preferred working environment and thinking style.
 QTI Lite A simpler-to-implement version of the QTI technical interoperability specification for tests and items which allows tests developed in one system to be delivered to candidates on other systems (currently at version 1.2). See
 Question and Test  Interoperability A technical specification for tests and items which allows tests and test items to be authored and delivered on multiple systems interchangeably. It specifically relates to content providers (that is, question and test authors and publishers), developers of authoring and content management tools, assessment delivery systems and learning systems. It is designed to facilitate interoperability of assessment content between systems.
 Rich Feedback Feedback which goes beyond providing the correct or model answer to an item, and a simple explanation of why the student’s selected response was wrong. Rich feedback is usually personalised to the candidate’s response and designed to deal with the underlying misconception.
 Select from a List  Question Type The Select from a List question type requires candidates to select missing word(s) from a passage of text by choosing from a drop-down list of answer options. Select from a List items can often be used multiple times within a passage of text. Random ordering of the answer options may be enabled to help prevent malpractice opportunities during the assessment. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question.
 Short Answer Question  Type A Short Answer question will allow candidates to respond to a question with a word or short phrase, as specified by the test author. Multiple answer variations can be provided and settings such as case sensitive can be included. Classed as a Standard Question type, auto-marking is possible with this question, although some responses may need to be human-marked.
 Source Materials Source materials are files such as images, PDFs or editable material that are made available to a candidate during an assessment (for example containing reading material, formulae, etc.). It is useful for the candidate to be able to interact with this material by making notes or highlighting sections.
 Spreadsheet Question The Spreadsheet question type is common in assessments of accountancy. By embedding a spreadsheet within a question, the candidate does not need to access a third party application. The question can be pre-populated with data to be statically visible to the candidate or enabled for editing by the candidate. The question can also be provided to the candidate as blank so that they may present their data in a form deemed suitable. The spreadsheet question type allows the formatting of text and data, and also supports the inclusion of formulae and other common spreadsheet features. The spreadsheet question may also provide candidates with the ability to justify their responses with annotation. Classed as an Advanced Question type, auto-marking can be achieved by logic-based marking rules which can mark a fully correct answer or an answer where the calculation is correct however the source data is incorrect.
 Standard Question  Types Standard question types are typically QTI supported items; however, definitions vary. In some locations, standard question types like Drag and Drop can be considered Advanced. A preferred way to define standard question types is where the authoring and marking do not require complex coding, and that the item can typically be auto-marked by the computer, or marked by a human without the need for complex marking tools.
 Table Question Tables are commonly used for the presentation of data or to provide a means by which a candidate can record their responses in table form. The table question type can either be created by the test author and then presented as static information for the candidate, or provided as a partially completed table for editing by the candidate. The question type could also be provided as a response option alongside other options such as graphs and charts. The table question may also feature formatting of text and alignment of cells. Classed as a Standard Question type, automarking is possible with this question type.
 Test Package The electronic package of files in an eassessment system which includes the test content as well as any embedded applications, resources, and sometimes the test player, which is delivered to the Client PC for the student to undertake. The test package may have travelled from a central server at the Awarding Body/Certification Agency, to a local server in the test centre and then to the Client PC, and will be subject to considerable file and channel security in the case of a high stakes assessment.
 Test Player or Test    Driver A piece of software which resides on the client PC and “runs” the test content package, i.e. displays the questions on-screen, collects the student responses, controls the exam clock, and access to other resources, etc. Some test players are considerably more complex than others. For example, a test player for MCQ items may be little more than some scripts embedded in standard HTML pages, whereas the test player for innovative items or a sophisticated test made up of simulations and embedded applications would be a substantial computer application in itself. Sometimes test players are pre-installed on client PC’s and sometimes they are delivered to the client PC along with the test content itself.
 Video Capture Question  Type The video capture question type enables the capture of audio and video. Associated more with evidence-based assessment, files can either be recorded directly into the assessment or attached as evidence. Classed as an Advanced Question Type, marking would typically be undertaken on-screen by a human marker.
 Web-Based Assessment An assessment delivered from a server via the Internet or an Intranet (such as a centre or education authority Intranet) and where candidates access the assessments using a standard browser. If Internet-based, the assessments could be online with candidate responses delivered to the server in real time for automatic marking and immediate feedback.