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Test Instrument Characteristics Essay

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Updated: May 18th, 2019

Conventional assessment

Standardized tests and essay exams are two examples of conventional types of assessments. Standardized tests are commonly used in academic institutions as a means of summative evaluation after the end of an academic period.

Essay tests involve a short piece of writing about a particular subject by a student as part of a course of study. Essays require that the students express themselves in writing from their understanding of a topic. However, there has to be key points that the examiner would look out for when reviewing essays.

Advantages of Conventional assessment

Standardized tests

  • Standardized tests have been proven statistically to provide objective, measurable and concrete verification that learning has either occurred or not. The tests are both reliable and viable because of the statistical vetting and as a result it is possible for teachers to measure student’s learning outcomes and progress using the test.
  • Standardized tests are used to provide meaningful feedback of student’s progress. Since the measure of learning is objective, the feedback can be used recommend appropriate learning programs for the students (McKenna & Walpole, 2005). The feedbacks are also helpful when it comes to rewarding deserving students for their performance.

Essay tests

  • Essay tests can be used as means of comparing one group of learners to another. This means that the tests can be administered to test the entry level of learners before introduction of a new topic and the same test can also be administered at the end of the topic to measure how much understanding of the topic has been achieved by the learners.
  • Essay test are also advantageous since they promote logical thinking in learners. The students are required to explain their understanding in their own words while describing every detail in full. This allows the learners to be self expressive.

Disadvantages of formal assessments

Essay Tests

  • Learners require a lot of time to respond to the essay test, and this probably is one of the reasons why this form of assessment is not liked among learners.
  • The teachers use a relatively long time to mark the tests and sometimes this can be tedious to them.
  • The essays are very specific. They only touch on one topic of a syllabus. This means that coverage is limited with essay tests.

Standardized Tests

  • Standardized tests are disadvantageous because of the high chances of the question items being biased. It is common to find items that are biased against certain crucial characteristics of the test takers. These characteristics may include ethnicity, race, religion, culture among many others.
  • Validity of the content may be low for some academic programs and therefore may lack sensitivity to measure student’s progress.

Alternative assessment tests


This is any written work that students do on their own at home or during their extra time in school. It can be a good way of assessing the progress of a student as the teacher offers guidance and the students are also allowed to correct errors committed.

Logs and journals

This basically entails individual writing method. Students can write on their experiences of the learning processes.

Peer teaching

Peer teaching and group discussion is another means of alternative assessment. This involves grouping students together after teaching a topic so that they explain discuss their understanding among themselves, however in the presence of the teacher. The teacher can also converse with students informally while noting important learning outcome about a topic taught in class.


Observation can be integrated with other alternative assessment types and be used to assess students. Observation involves taking a few minutes noting what individual students or a group of students are doing in the course of teaching and learning (Ruiz-Primo & Furtak, 2004).

Advantages of informal assessments


  • Homework assignments are good because they help learners review the items taught in class. It is an effective way of learning since some students learn best by doing exercises.
  • Homework assignments also help teachers complete or cover additional materials that they failed to cover during normal lessons (Cole, 1999, p. 225).

Logs and journals

  • Logs and journals are advantageous because they can be used by teachers to determine the experience and perception students are having towards their learning.
  • Logs and journals help the students shape their ideas and improve their writing skills which is needed for other activities.

Peer teaching

  • Presents immediate feedback since the teacher is able to identify how much students have understood concepts by listening to their discussions.
  • It is effective and provides room for teacher intervention.


  • Observation as type of informal assessment provides immediate feedback (Newark, 2007).
  • The teacher can use observation to ensure that learners are seriously working on a given task as well as noticing the learners who are experiencing difficulty with the work.

Disadvantages of alternative assessment


  • Homework is time consuming especially if several teachers give homework at the same time.
  • For the learners who are good at understanding materials during classroom sessions, homework may be disadvantageous to them. The use of homework to assess such students may not yield much because these students understand better when they listen during a lesson and perform classroom learning activities.

Logs and journals

  • Privacy is the main disadvantage of logs and journals. Sometimes the learners may fail expressing themselves openly for fear of being exposed.
  • It is also time consuming if considered a mandatory chore that learners have to fulfill.

Peer teaching

  • Peer teaching is disadvantageous because sometimes students may fail to get along.
  • Without the presence of a teacher, it is easy for learners to be misconceived.


  • Students may find it uncomfortable when a teacher walks around giving attention to what they do.
  • It requires regular performance lest the teacher loses track of the learners’ progress (Cole, 1999).


Cole, K. A. (1999). Walking around: getting more from informal assessment. Mathematic teaching in middle school, vol 4 no. 4 pp.224-227.

McKenna, M. C., & Walpole, S. (2005). How well does assessment inform our reading instruction? International reading associaition, 84-86.

Newark, D. (2007). Reading Well: A Synthesis of the International Reading Association’s Research on Teacher Preparation for Reading Instruction. Association International Reading.

Ruiz-Primo, M. A., & Furtak, E. M. (2004). Informal formative assessment of students’ understanding of scientific inquiry. Paper presented at the AERA Annual Meeting Assessment for Reform-Based Science Teaching & Learning, Stanford University, Stanford. Stanford: Stanford University.

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