In assessment, there are two categories that most test items fall into which are direct and indirect test items. Direct test items ask the student to complete some sort of authentic action. Indirect test items measure a students knowledge about a subject. This post will provide examples of test items that are either direct or indirect items.
Direct Test Items
Direct test items used authentic assessment approaches. Examples in TESOL would include the following…
- For speaking: Interviews and presentations
- For writing: Essay questions
- For reading: Using real reading material and having the student respond to question verbally and or in writing
- For listening: Following oral directions to complete a task
The primary goal of direct test items is to be as much like real-life as possible. Often, direct testing items are integrative, which means that the student has to apply several skills at once. For example, presentations involve more than just speaking but also the writing of the speech, the reading or memorizing of the speech as well as the critical thinking skills to develop the speech.
Indirect Test Items
Indirect test items assess knowledge without authentic application. Below are some common examples of indirect test items.
- Multiple choice questions
- Cloze items
- Sentence re-ordering
Multiple choice questions involve the use of a question followed by several potential answers. It is the job of the student to determine what is the most appropriate answer. Some challenges with writing multiple choice are the difficulty of writing incorrect choices. For every correct answer, you need several wrong ones. Another problem is that with training, students can learn how to improve their success on multiple choice test without having a stronger knowledge of the subject matter.
Cloze items involve giving the student a paragraph or sentence with one or more blanks in it that the student has to complete. One problem with Cloze items is that more than one answer may be acceptable for a blank. This can lead to a great deal of confusion when marking the test.
Paraphrasing is strictly for TESOL and involves having the student rewrite a sentence in a slightly different way as the example below.
“I’m sorry I did not go to the assembly”
In the example above the student needs to write the sentence in quotes starting with the phrase “I wish.” The challenging is determining if the paraphrase is reasonable as this is highly subjective.
In this item for TESOL assessment, a student is given a sentence that is out of order and they have to arrange the words so that an understandable sentence is developed. This one way to assess knowledge of syntax. The challenge is that for complex sentences more than one answer may be possible
It is important to remember that all indirect items can be integrative or discrete-point. Unlike integrative, discrete point only measures one narrow aspect of knowledge at a time.
A combination of direct and indirect test items would probably best ensure that a teacher is assessing students so that they have success. What mixture of the two to use always depends on the context and needs of the students.