20th April 2001 at 01:00

Writing tests and exam papers can seem a deceptively simple task. But devising questions which are both reliable and provide a valid assessment of what a pupil knows, understands or can do, requires thought. A good test question should be accessible to the widest range of pupils and elicit an appropriate response. "Name this piece of equipment" could produce the answer "Eric the microscope" from the more creative candidate. All teachers will have their own personal collection of exam howlers.

Those who wish to write test questions, choose tests for classroom use, interpret test results or manage a large-scale testing project will find this book invaluable.

Readable and concise, the key points from each section are summarised helpfully at the end of each chapter.

The authr concentrates mainly on the principles of question setting, but also suggests a number of alternative ways of presenting a question to achieve greater consistency. The questions are, for the most part, taken from the primary maths and science curriculum, and wider issues of assessing English or project work are not covered.

The book starts with basic issues and moves on to cover writing questions in greater detail. A section on statistics for test users ranges from basic concepts to point biserial correlation coefficients.

The final section looks forward to the increasing use of ICT to support assessment and the use of computer-adaptive testing. There is an appendix on writing multiple-choice questions.

The clarity and brevity of this book is a model for others to follow.

Bob Welch is principal adviser for Bracknell Forest

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