Testing Technology

Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT)

A core feature of Smarter Balanced assessments is that they are customized for each student for a more accurate measurement for every student. To accomplish this, the computer-based test adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment based on the student’s response. If a student answers a question correctly, the next question will be harder; if a student answers incorrectly, the next question will be easier. This system is called computer adaptive testing, and it is part of the summative (end-of-year) assessments.

By adapting to the student during test time, CAT assessments provide a set of questions that is individually tailored to each student and can quickly identify which skills students have mastered. This approach represents a significant improvement over old fashioned, fill in the bubble, paper-and-pencil assessments used in many states today, providing more accurate scores for all students.

  • More efficient and more secure: Computer adaptive tests are typically shorter than paper-and-pencil assessments because fewer questions are required to accurately determine each student’s score. The assessments draw from a large bank of questions, and because students receive different questions based on their responses, test questions are more secure and can be used for a longer period of time.
  • More accurate: CAT offers teachers and schools a more accurate way to evaluate student achievement, readiness for college and careers, and growth over time.
  • Faster Results: Computerized assessments allow teachers, principals, and parents to receive results in weeks, not months. Faster results mean that teachers can use the information from optional interim assessments throughout the school year to differentiate instruction and better meet the individual needs of their students.

For more information:

Technology for Learning

Smarter Balanced sponsors the development of innovative open-source technology to improve both the testing experience and the ability to measure students’ skills. Employing new technologies allows us to:

  • Accurately and efficiently measure student achievement and growth through computer adaptive testing;
  • Develop real-world test items that assess the breadth of the Common Core State Standards for virtually all students, including those with disabilities and English language learners;
  • Enhance professional development and capacity building for teachers and administrators at the local level; and
  • Leverage members’ resources to deliver assessments and produce reports that are cost-effective and timely, as well as useful for teachers, students, and parents to track progress towards college- and career-readiness.

We have developed an open-source platform for delivering assessments. Details about this software and how it may be used to benefit other organizations are available at SmarterApp.org.

Test-Taking Devices

Smarter Balanced requires that testing devices meet certain minimum requirements and that they run in an approved secure browser. The official Smarter Balanced policy regarding testing devices is encompassed in the Technology Strategy Framework and Testing Device Requirements. The following links provide information on universal requirements, the current list of approved secure browsers and corresponding devices, and a list of sunset dates after which certain operating system versions will not be supported.