Test Specifications

Owen, Nathaniel (2018). Test Specifications. In: Liontas, John I. (Editor-in-Chief) ed. The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp. 1–6.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118784235.eelt0354


Test specifications are iterative, generative blueprints of test design. They are written at the item level, and allow test developers or item writers to produce new versions of a test for different test-taking populations. The specs serve as guidelines so that new versions can be compared to previous versions. Specs may detail the properties of individual items or the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are encoded in specific items. A series of specs that make up a complete picture of a test are known as a table of specifications. Various models have been proposed for writing specs. This entry uses that proposed by Davidson and Lynch (2002) with a worked example of an IELTS reading test specification for a multiple-choice item to elucidate what a spec looks like and how it can be written.

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