15 Testing Terms You Need to Know

Although many students, teachers and parents don’t like the process, testing is an essential part of every educational program. Assessments provide much-needed data. They allow educators to track their students’ progress and let concerned parties know what skills and content a student might be struggling with. In addition, they even provide data that helps make future academic decisions easier. They also give institutions like colleges and universities a way to measure potential candidates for future admission.

Testing is important. A whole field of research and practice accommodates it. This field is full of terms that, while important, are difficult for most people to understand. It’s impossible to go through each and every one of them. But here are 15 testing terms that everyone should definitely know, in no particular order.

Formative Assessment

When it comes to testing, there are a lot of different types of assessments out there, and each one does something different. In the classroom, the two most commonly used types of assessments are formative and summative. 

Formative assessments are tests given during the course of a lesson or unit and are designed to measure a student’s progress while his or her knowledge is still forming (hence the word “formative”). These might include CFU (Checking for Understanding) moments, quizzes, benchmark tests, diagnostics and other assessments that are meant to measure progress up to a certain point. The teacher uses this information to plan future content. 

When a teacher can determine what students know, it’s very helpful. When a teacher can determine what students don’t know, he or she can then help those students better learn and master that content. Formative assessments can be graded, but they don’t have to be, since that is not their main purpose.

Summative Assessment

In contrast to formative testing, a summative assessment takes place at the end of a unit or lesson. Summative assessments determine or “sum up” what a student does or does not know (hence the word “summative”). 

When a student gets a summative assessment, it’s expected that they previously mastered all the content presented up to that point. Usually, these sorts of tests are graded and often weigh pretty heavily. This is because summative assessments are used as the main tool to determine whether or not a student has actually learned what was expected of them. These tests can include final exams and unit tests. 

Diagnostic Testing

A diagnostic test is a specific form of formative assessment, usually given at the very beginning of a class, term or unit of study. This kind of test finds out what a student knows and what a student doesn’t know. 

Many students get upset when they get items wrong on a diagnostic exam, but that is actually the point – it’s the wrong answers that allow a teacher to design lessons that will meet the needs of the students in the class. For this reason, diagnostic tests should never be counted as a grade.

Aptitude Testing

An aptitude test measures a student’s potential. We often see these sorts of tests, including the SAT and the ACT, being used as part of an entrance package to colleges and universities. 

The idea is that these tests do not assess what someone knows as much as what they have the potential to learn and do. Colleges then use that information when deciding what sort of person to admit into their institution.

Performance Assessment

A performance assessment measures a student’s skill in a particular area. These tests are less about knowledge and more about ability. Of course, a performance assessment can only be used if there is some sort of performance aspect to assess. So, you will often see these type of assessments in fields such as art, dance or music.

Many academic activities require skills rather than content. For example, one could argue that being able to successfully construct an argument is an academic piece that requires skill, not just knowledge.


A portfolio is a type of assessment that asks students to collect samples of their work. An artist, for example, might put together a collection of his or her best drawings, or a writer might compile a file of their best short stories or poems. A teacher evaluates this collection of work. 

Overall judgement must take into consideration multiple works that showcase a variety of skills and ideas.

Validity Testing

With all of the various tests available, it’s important to know whether or not a test is any good. Does the test actually do what it is supposed to do? With that being said, one major quality that test-makers and users look for in an assessment is validity.

Validity pertains to what the test actually measures. Does the vocabulary test actually show if the student knows those words? Does the math test actually show if a student knows the math concepts being tested? This might seem easy to figure out, but it isn’t always so. Sometimes, a test is full of “hidden” issues that make it unreliable.


Many assessments use a rubric to help the teacher determine a grade. A rubric is nothing more than a matrix that determines what should be present in an answer for the student to earn a specific score. These are often great ways to take a seemingly subjective process (like writing, for example) and make it graded on more objective standards. 

In addition, a rubric is great for breaking down large pieces into smaller, more gradable bits. For example, rather than just grade an essay as a whole, a teacher can look at grammar, vocabulary, organization, etc. The teacher then gives each element its own individual score based on its criteria.

Scaffolded Assessment

A scaffolded assessment is a sequential type of test that starts off easy and then progressively gets more difficult as the test continues. Each item gets more and more difficult and relies more on student knowledge and skill. 

These assessments measure how far a student progresses in a particular area. Or summatively, to see whether or not a student has mastered something to the level required by the course standards.

Authentic Assessment

The term “authentic assessment” refers to any sort of test that seeks to recreate real-world situations. Think of language learning, for example. Instead of practicing awkward conversations about food in a classroom, an authentic assessment might involve setting up a fake restaurant table and simulating a customer and waiter having a conversation about the menu. This technique makes the skill easier for the student to apply and learn outside of the classroom. 

Benchmark Testing

A benchmark is a specific type of formative assessment. These are most commonly used when a unit of study has a predetermined set of standards that are supposed to be met by the end of the unit. 

The benchmark is used along the way to see how close students are to meeting those standards. It also determines what learning gaps need to be addressed. The teacher uses this knowledge to help plan future content.


Many standardized tests, report student ability in the form of a percentile. This is a number between 1 and 100 (like a percent) that shows how the student compares to other similar students across the area. A student in the 75th percentile on a skill can be said to have performed better than 75% of all the students who took that same assessment.

Standards-Based Assessment

A standards-based assessment is a test that specifically measures a student’s progress or understanding of certain standards. The standards might be teacher-chosen, school-wide or created by some other governing entity. In today’s educational system, it’s usually a state-wide government choice. 

The assessment then measures a student’s knowledge of those particular standards. Other content or skills don’t undergo assessment.

Standard Deviation

The statistics of a test reveal the standard deviation. Standard deviation measures how varied the scores on a particular assessment might be. A test with a wide distribution of scores, from very low to very high, has a high deviation. A test where most students all score similarly to one another has a low standard deviation.


A student’s individualized needs will determine if they need accommodations. Most often, students with a disability receive allowances. The accommodation is an exception to the normal testing rules. It gives the student a more even playing field and compensates for the disadvantages that stem from that disability. 

Common accommodations include extra time on tests, special seating, a change in a testing environment (a small group setting, for example) or the use of extra tools such as a calculator. It is only after a medical professional documents a disability that students receive accommodations.

Contact Make the Grade

Of course, experts use many other terms when it comes to testing and assessment. If you would like to know more about testing and how Make the Grade can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Managing Information to Do the Big Job in Small Steps

Managing all of the information that you need to absorb as a student can be a delicate balance. It can become difficult at times to find enough time to study properly, manage your time, prepare for exams and organize all of your information. The following is how to manage information by doing the big job in small steps.

Set Your Schedule

It can become overbearing to deal with all of your responsibilities if you don’t create an organized schedule and stick to it. Rather than waiting until the day before an exam to study a large amount of material, set times during the prior week to chunk out your study sessions. This will allow you to absorb the information easier, and relieve some of the stress and anxiety that is associated with studying for an important exam. Spending an hour out of each day to study is much more manageable than studying for several hours in one day.

Center Your Focus

Having assignments due for multiple classes at once is a tough reality, but you will need to complete all of the work on time in order to maintain your grades. Avoid multitasking on material from different classes all at once. Try to knock out the assignments for one class at a time, this will make it easier for you to stay concentrated on that subject.

Ask About the Details

The job of your professor is to explain the material in a way that you can understand, so don’t be discouraged about asking for more information. Even the smallest details on a study guide or assignment can have significant meaning, so ask for clarification on anything that you find confusing. Knowing as many details as possible about the work that you need to do will increase your ability to knock out large projects.

Contact Make The Grade

If you’re a student that is currently struggling with classwork and managing their schedule, contact Make the Grade. Our high-quality tutoring and consulting services are available at an affordable rate. Our tutoring sessions are able to be conducted directly in our office, or virtually through an online classroom. We can teach you valuable skills that will help you improve your grades and your overall life as a student. Give us a call at (215)-540-8378 or visit our website at https://makethegrade.net/ to get in touch with us and learn more about our services.

Best Practices for Virtual Learning in Middle School

Traditional education methods are not the best choice for everyone. Some students work best outside the classroom in a virtual environment. Middle school is a great time to introduce virtual learning options to students, as this is a time of great change. So, trying out new learning methods to see what works best is ideal. If you and your middle school-aged child choose to try out virtual learning, here are some best practices to follow to get the most out of the experience.

Have a Plan in Place

The best way to fail at virtual learning is to jump in without a solid plan in place. Developing a solid plan before you begin will help to keep you on track. Start by creating a plan for the entire school year and then break it into semesters. Finally, break it down into monthly and weekly plans. When your work is broken into smaller chunks, it will help keep you organized and focused.

Communicate With Your Teachers

Being in a virtual learning environment does not mean you will be completely cut off from school. It is crucial that you remain in regular contact with your teachers. Your teachers are your best source of academic support. As a virtual learner, you will have access to all your teachers’ contact information. Use it as often as necessary. They are there to answer your questions, offer assistance and help solve your problems. Use the resource of your teachers as much as possible to make your virtual learning experience an easy one.

Keep a Notebook

Keeping a notebook is a great way to keep all of your schoolwork organized and easy to find. A great option is to have one large binder with a section for each class. You can take notes and work out problems in the notebook, so you will always know where to find them. Separate all of your subjects with dividers so your work has a specific place to go, and it can be accessed more easily when you need it.

Do Work for all of Your Classes Every Day

In the self-paced environment of virtual learning, it can be easy to procrastinate and let some schoolwork wait until the last minute. But, it is crucial to stay on top of assignments so you do not fall behind. The best way to do that is to get in the habit of doing some work for all of your classes every day. That way, you can ensure that everything stays fresh in your mind, and you do not fall behind in your work.

Following these easy best practices will help you get the most out of your virtual learning experience. For more information about best practices for virtual learning in middle school, contact Make the Grade today.

Virtual Learning Best Practices for High School Level

High school is an important time in a young person’s life. It’s the period when they really begin to develop, both physically and emotionally, into the kinds of people they will be. Therefore, it is vital that you help give your child the best homeschooling experience possible. Here are some ways to know if virtual learning is right for your high schooler, and some of the best online resources for them to use.

Should I Homeschool my High Schooler?

There are a lot of myths about homeschooled kids that cloud people’s judgment on the subject. Some people believe that homeschooling makes kids socially stunted, shy and distant from reality. These myths are completely untrue, but that doesn’t mean that homeschooling is right for everyone. If your child is independent, highly organized, disciplined, and works best by themselves, homeschooling can be a highly enriching experience. Some kids thrive under the structure of public or private school and some kids are more productive by working on their own schedule. Either way is fine, just make sure to assess your child’s personality and temperament before you make a decision.

What Online High School Should I Choose?

There are thousands of accredited, online high schools in the United States, and many more throughout the world. No virtual learning program is a one size fits all school, and you should thoroughly research several of them before you make a decision. This can be a long process, so to help you out, here are some factors to consider before you start looking.

First, look at the range of courses they offer. Then, research how flexible their courses are for achieving a diploma. Also, consider the academic support offered by faculty members, the technology they use, testimonies from graduates and tuition rates. Do this research alongside your son or daughter and listen to the sort of features they value in an online high school before deciding. It’s a lot of work, but it’s for your child’s education.

There’s no one way to homeschool your child. The nature of homeschooling is that the child’s schedule, methods, study habits and recreational time is mostly theirs to decide. However, that doesn’t mean that the quality of education a homeschooled child receives will always be the same. If you are interested in homeschooling your child, do the necessary research so that you’ll know they are getting the most out of their virtual learning.

Best Practices for online Preparation for the ACT and SAT

Obtaining a college education is a critical step for many high school graduates. Getting into a good college or university is often contingent on a student’s ACT or SAT scores. So, being well-prepared for these tests is crucial. Here are some best practices for you to follow if you plan on preparing for these tests online.

Create a Study Plan

No matter how you decide to study for the SAT or ACT, it is crucial to create a study plan before you begin. Include both short and long-term goals and schedule a specific time to focus on problem areas. Do not forget to also schedule time for breaks, as they will be necessary. Also, keep in mind that studying for these tests requires a large time commitment. Start your plan months ahead of your anticipated testing date.

Manage Your Time

When working in an online environment, it can be incredibly tempting to start visiting other sites. This practice can be an incredible time-waster. Stick to your study plan and create daily goals to keep you on task and manage your time properly. Using your online studying time to focus on preparing for your tests rather than surfing the ‘net will help you out in the long run. Resist the urge to visit your social media sites during your study breaks, as it will be difficult to separate yourself from them once break time is over. Instead, save your internet surfing for times when you are not trying to prepare for your exams.

Practice Tests

Practice makes perfect. This adage applies to just about everything in life, including preparing for the ACT and SAT. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources online that will give you access to practice for both of these standardized tests. Taking practice tests will give you a good idea of what to expect on the scored assessments, determine challenging sections of the tests and allow you to learn from your wrong answers. The more practice tests you take, the better you will get, and when the time comes to take the ones that count, you will be more than ready.

Vary Your Study Topics

Change up your study resources and content regularly. By dedicating different study sessions to different areas, you can stay fresh, remain motivated and prevent burning out.

Preparing for your ACT or SAT online is a great way to get ready for the tests and help to ensure you do your best on them. For more information about the best practices for preparing for the ACT and SAT online, contact Make the Grade today.

No Online SAT this fall – or ever?

The ETS announced that there will be no online / home based SAT this fall .. September 2020.

Their reason was simply that they did not feel that the test takers would universally have access to 3+ hours of strong reliable internet.

Personally I suspect that there were other reasons as well… including the fact that many students taking the AP exams (online/virtually) in May had access issues and issues submitting their scores.

Where do you stand on this issue?

Would you like to be able to take the SAT at home?


What’s going on with the SAT the ACT and the college Admissions process??

What’s going on with the SAT the ACT and the college Admissions process??

Here is the replay from the live presentation May 28, 2020. 

Are you a parent with a 10th or 11th or 12th grader?

Are you uncertain about what’s going on with the SAT/ACT exams and the college admission process?

Thursday 5/28 – 7pm – I am hosting a brief informational workshop to answer questions:

  • What is the same?
  • What is different?
  • What is your recommended test prep timetable?
  • What options does your child have at this point?
  • What are the college admissions people thinking now?
  • Will this impact my child’s college plans?
  • And time for Q/A as well.

Register here: You can register here: https://bit.ly/SATACT2019