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Z. Agatha Klaxovox, Intergalactic Test Security Specialist
June Edition
Ask Agatha
Dear Agatha,
My child is in 9th grade and just took standardized tests in our state. I’m concerned about the overall fairness of these tests, and more specifically, the unfair advantage that dishonest students, and students who rely on test-taking skills, may have over my child. What can be done to prevent this unfairness?
Concerned in Coatesville
Dear Concerned,

The issue of fairness is no small matter, even to us aliens. Parents in our galaxy (which is roughly 50 million lightyears from Earth) have similar concerns, so I can impart some wisdom to you on this topic. Regarding dishonest test takers, many states have test security protocols in place that help detect, deter, and prevent cheating and test theft. Ensuring that your state is following these protocols is a great place to start when it comes to ensuring dishonest test takers are not gaining an edge over your child. While rigorous processes are in place to ensure that test questions are of high quality, these processes cannot always eliminate the effect of test-wiseness on exam results. The undesired effect of test-wiseness can be particularly evident in certain testing formats where the test taker can compare answer options, such as multiple select and multiple choice. Did your child’s exams rely heavily on the multiple-choice format? Below are just a few test-taking cues that test takers may use:


Aside from using rigorous development methods that attempt to prevent cues from appearing in multiple-choice questions, alternative testing formats can be used. Item formats such as constructed responses and discrete option multiple choice (DOMC), which presents answer options one at a time, are promising for fairness issues related to the construct-irrelevant variance (CIV) of test-wiseness.
On behalf of the alien race, I wish you and your child luck in all things testing and support you in your concern for fairness.

Ask Agatha is an advice column written by Z. Agatha Klaxovox. Agatha is an intergalactic test security specialist who is only too happy to offer advice on what we should be doing on earth. To submit a question to Ask Agatha, email Questions will remain 100% confidential.