Tailored tests

The 'tailored test' is a multistage computer adaptive test design that delivers different sets of questions ('testlets') to students depending on their achievement on previous questions. Online delivery of assessments allows the use of adaptive testing to better match questions to an individual student's achievement level in a way that is not feasible for paper-based testing.

The tailored test design for reading and numeracy was developed and trialled in schools in 2013 and 2014.

The diagram and discussion below illustrate the proposed design for NAPLAN online tests:

20161004 TTD 800


All students at each year level start with the same set of questions (testlet A). The computer system scores the student's answers automatically and the student then progresses to a second testlet. The second testlet may be easier (B) or more difficult (D) than testlet A, depending on the student's achievement.

At the end of the second testlet, the student is directed to a third testlet, again depending on achievement. The final testlets are of varying difficulty: hard (F), medium (E), easy (C).
Benefits of this tailored test design include the following:
  • Tailored tests provide a more precise measurement of student performance. This design allows for greater differentiation of students by using a wider range of question difficulty, without adding to the length of the test for each individual student.

  • Trials of the tailored test design suggest that students are more engaged with tests that adapt to their achievement. Students who struggle with the initial set of questions are given questions that are more suited to their ability, so that students are less likely to become discouraged as they progress through the tests. High-achieving students are given questions that better challenge their abilities.

  • The tailored test design has the potential to reduce anxiety in students who may find the current paper-based format of NAPLAN too challenging.

  • While each student will still answer the same number of questions as for the paper tests, the number of items in the whole test is larger. As a result, a wider range of aspects of the curriculum can be tested across the NAPLAN cohort.