Educational measurement and testing programs teach people how to use tools that help measure student progress and learning. Students learn how to choose and implement a form of assessment and interpret its results. They also learn how to analyze and report test data.
Which of the following is true about educational testing?
A. It is now more important than it's ever been before.
B. It is not the only way to assess a person's knowledge or abilities.
C. To understand it, you need to do a lot of course work in statistics.
D. You usually need a doctoral degree to be able to do it for a living.
E. All of the above.
The correct answer is E. Educational testing is very important now. Governments at all levels and in all states are mandating achievement tests for students. Voters are demanding them as evidence that young people are learning and that schools are doing their jobs. Also, more careers than ever before require testing for licensure. At the same time, testing organizations are under a lot of pressure to maintain high standards of test quality. Every year you may read headlines about scoring errors or accusations of test bias.
The field of educational measurement and testing is perhaps the most math-intensive branch of educational psychology. When you study this field, you can expect to take a number of courses in statistics. You study how to summarize data in meaningful ways. You learn how to measure the reliability and validity of a test; that is, you determine how consistent the test results are, and you gauge whether the test actually measures what it is supposed to. You learn about multiple-choice tests and other kinds of assessments.
There is a whole area of statistics called item response theory that was invented for this field and that you probably will study. It analyzes the way people respond to questions on tests. For example, you may learn how to identify test questions that people of a particular group (say, women) tend to get wrong even though they otherwise score high. This kind of analysis can detect biased questions.
You may take some courses in this subject as an undergraduate. But to work as a researcher in this field or as a test developer you need to study more than the four years it usually takes to get a bachelor's degree. You need to devote an additional one or two years for a master's, and perhaps three years beyond the master's to earn a doctorate. About 40 graduate schools offer each level of graduate program. In graduate school you not only take advanced courses in this subject, but you learn how to do original research to advance knowledge about assessment. This research is what you report on in your master's thesis and, if you continue, in your doctoral dissertation. You may spend part of your time in grad school assisting with teaching or research.