Item Development

The foundation for fair, valid and reliable assessments is high-quality test items. What makes a test item one of quality? At ETS, test items go through rigorous content and editorial reviews and are:

  • developed by a team of experienced assessment specialists
  • aligned to your state standards
  • written in formats that reflect current teaching practices
  • in adherence with the principles of fairness that meet industry standards
  • designed to measure a range of cognitive levels within grade level and on a scale

Creating High-quality Test Items

ETS item creation relies on the following:

Writing Guidelines

ETS staff follow a rigorous set of guidelines to ensure creation of high-quality assessment items that meet industry standards for the highest technical quality.

Experienced Item Writers

Because variety, creativity and diversity are essential to high-quality item development, ETS assessment specialists work with a pool of experienced item writers (most are current or former teachers), and all receive extensive training on the principles of good item writing.

Internal Review

Every item must pass internal review. ETS accepts items only if they:

  • meet our criteria for matching the objective or standard being measured
  • have excellent technical qualities (like balanced response options with no single conspicuous answer choice)
  • have appropriate difficulty and cognitive levels

Fairness Guidelines

Every item must go through a fairness review, during which we verify that the item meets the fairness guidelines. All ETS assessment specialists who perform this review receive specific training and certification, ensuring that they can recognize and eliminate the use of discriminatory language or content and bias in assessment items.

Style Consistency, Grammar and Accuracy

ETS maintains an expert editorial and proofreading team with significant test item review experience to ensure accuracy.

How We Approach Testing

Learn more about how we perform our work in assessment development.

Promotional Links

How We Use Technology to Improve Assessment

Learn more about how we improve the student test experience through technology.

How We Approach Testing

Learn more about how we perform our work in assessment development.

How We Apply Standards of Quality and Fairness

Learn how we use research to design assessments that are fair to all groups.

Join the Conversation

Explore the big ideas in educational assessments. Sign up for our new e-newsletter, Trends & Innovations.