Test Content Overview

The ETS® Major Field Tests assess mastery of concepts, principles and knowledge expected of students who have completed or are nearing completion of a specific program of study. Each test is developed by a national panel of subject matter experts, and is based on core curriculum content identified in a national program survey.

The tests evaluate students’ abilities to analyze and solve problems, understand relationships and interpret written and visual material. Test results provide information on how students perform in relation to other students in their program and at comparable programs nationwide.

Select a Major Field Tests discipline below to view a description of test content, sample questions, comparative data and sample reports.

Undergraduate Programs

Biology Mathematics
Chemistry Music
Computer Science Physics
Criminal Justice Political Science
Economics Psychology
Literature in English Sociology

Business Degree Programs

Departments can obtain a review copy of any of the Major Field Tests by completing the Confidential Review Copy Request Form. You will receive an email with a link to the test, which can be accessed for 30 days. Like the actual test your students will take, the review copy of the test is a timed experience. Please request as many review copies as necessary — one for each member of your review committee. If your test expires before you have completed the review, you can contact an ETS Advisor at 1-800-745-0269 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. ET.

Adding Test Questions

Institutions may add up to 50 locally authored questions to the end of either the paper-and-pencil or online Major Field Tests. Institutions receive a score report on the additional questions at no extra cost that includes a summary of student responses to each question. Institutions can calculate their own assessment indicators from the information they receive from the ETS standard report. Note: The addition of locally authored questions will lengthen test time.

Test Development

The Major Field Tests are constructed using specifications resulting from a national curriculum survey. Content experts from a diverse representation of higher education institutions (including Major Field Test users and nonusers) participate in this survey to ensure a consensus on what best reflects the "core" of each discipline.

The results of the curriculum survey are reviewed by a smaller committee of experts — the Test Development Committee — in each subject area to create the test specifications (or "blueprint"). Selected experts in the appropriate ETS subject matter areas review the specifications, questions and completed tests before the tests are made available for use.

The test development process includes an extensive review of each test question to eliminate language, symbols or content considered to be potentially offensive, inappropriate for any subgroup in the test-taking population or serving to perpetuate any negative attitudes that may be conveyed to these subgroups.

After a new form of a test is introduced, and before score reports are released, each test undergoes a rigorous statistical analysis to see whether each question yields the expected result. Such an appraisal sometimes reveals that a question is not satisfactory. A question that proves to be ambiguous or otherwise unsuitable is not used in computing scores.

To help ensure each question contributes meaningfully to the test results, statistical properties of each question, such as difficulty level and correlation with the total score, are on record or computed when new or revised test forms are first administered. For each test, the aim is to provide an instrument that accurately measures the subject matter and skills a student should gain from his or her major field of study.

Test Form Revisions

The Major Field Tests are "refreshed" every three to five years on a rolling basis. In any given year, there are multiple titles under redevelopment. New forms typically are released in September.

The scores for new test forms can be reported once a sufficient sample size has been received. Scores can then be equated to scores from the previous form. Scores will not be available until the equating process is completed. However, preliminary scores will be available upon request. For more information on new test forms, visit the Frequently Asked Questions section or contact your Higher Education Solutions Advisor. Your Advisor can also discuss your options at greater detail with you.