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Items in the Placement Test Suite

What is an "item"?

A test item in the Maplesoft - MAA Placement Test Suite is a single question. It consists of the stem (the question) and multiple answer options. The multiple answer options should contain the key (correct answer) and the distracters (incorrect answers).


Creating appropriate item material

To construct an item in the Maplesoft - MAA Placement Test Suite, you should aim to write a realistic mathematics question that covers a single idea. Once you have that, work out the answer for the question and attempt to construct interesting incorrect answers using your knowledge of the mathematics errors that students make. Ideally, the item should focus on a single concept to eliminate spurious elements. The rule of thumb is that you want to know precisely what you are testing and asking of the student.


Refining items

Your aim for refining your Placement Testing items should be to administer the sample items in the Maplesoft - MAA Placement Test Suite to a population of students. Once you have the data from these trials, construct an item strip using testing software.
  1. Using standard statistical analysis packages, you can determine the ability level of the students that selected that answer. The expectation here is that the key would be the answer chosen more frequently by the higher ability students. While using trick incorrect answers may attract the best students; these trick distracters should be avoided in a quality placement test because student performance will be negatively correlated with ability.
  2. Item strips should also contain the r-biserial value and a measure of difficulty level that is frequently called delta. The r-biserial measures the level of correlation between success on an item and success on the placement test. In quality tests, this correlation will be high. The delta value is used to give a proper distribution of questions on the placement test.

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