Frequently Asked Questions About the ETS® Major Field Tests


How many forms of each ETS® Major Field Test (MFT) are available?

Currently, only one form of each Major Field Test (MFT) is operational at any one point in time, with the exception of the title that is being redesigned. When the new form is introduced, the old form will be available for purchase in paper-and-pencil format for a limited time to aid the transition to the new form.

How often are test forms updated?

This depends on the field of study. For more rapidly changing subject areas, MFT test forms may be updated as frequently as every three years. For other subject areas, MFT test forms are updated at least every five years.

Why does ETS regularly update MFT forms?

ETS regularly updates MFT test forms to maintain their validity, reliability and fairness. This process ensures that the test specifications and content remain current to the pertinent disciplines and changes in teaching methods.

What is the process for updating an MFT test form?

When it is time to update an MFT form, ETS conducts a wide-scale curriculum survey of programs across the country to determine what should be covered in that MFT test title. ETS then assembles a committee of experts in the field to review the current test form and collaborate on the creation of the new test form. The new test form goes through an extensive process of editing and content review before it is made available for use.

How do we know that scores from the new form of an exam can be compared to scores from previous forms?

Total scores from different forms of the same test are made comparable through a statistical process called equating. The MFT equating process uses common questions — or an anchor block — to form a linkage between the previous test form and the new test form. Common-item equating is one of the most accurate methods of ensuring comparability of scores.

What are the different MFT score types and what do they mean?

MFT test titles might report as many as three different types of scores:

  • Total Score is an indicator of performance in the whole of the discipline.
  • Subscores represent large subdomains of the discipline and are based on enough test questions to be statistically reliable for both groups and individual students.
  • Assessment Indicators are reported at the group level only and are offered whenever there are too few test questions in a subdomain to create statistically reliable subscores.
Are all of the scores that MFT reports made comparable through the equating process when test forms are updated?

No. Equating requires an anchor block of common questions. Only the Total Score has enough test questions contributing to it to create this anchor block. So the Total Score is comparable from one test form to another, while Subscores and Assessment Indicators may have more limited comparability.

How soon will score reports be available for a new MFT test form?

This depends on the time it takes to gather a sufficient quantity of data. Score equating cannot begin until the data gathered for the new MFT test form is representative of the population that typically administers that MFT test title. Attaining a representative sample for a new test form may take as little as a few weeks or as long as a few months. ETS offers special promotions to institutions willing to administer new forms of an MFT test title to help expedite score equating. Check with your MFT account representative about these promotions to see if your institution qualifies.

When will comparative data be available for a new form of an MFT test title?

Comparative data should be representative of the students and institutions that participate in using that MFT test title. Data is gathered until the sample represented by the test takers is representative of the larger test-taking population for that MFT test title. Comparative data is typically published once a year in the fall, but comparative data for a new MFT test title may be withheld until score equating is completed and the comparative data pool is deemed representative of the larger population.

Can I use the comparative data for the current MFT test form to analyze scores from the new test form?

You may use the current MFT Comparative Data Guide (CDG) to evaluate total scaled scores from the new test form, to determine how your institution did on the new form as compared to the population that took the previous form. This comparison can be made because the total scaled scores are equated from form to form and the new and old test forms are comparable.

However, due to differences in the scaled score distributions between different forms, the total scaled score percentiles in the current Comparative Data Guide should be used with caution. In the interim however, you can use the published comparative data to review how your institution did on their total scaled scores on the new form as compared to those who have taken the previous equated form. Keep in mind that the larger the number of test takers, the more stable the distribution of percentiles will be.

To assist in making the shifts more accurate, the Comparative Data, published in 2013, will now be in single point buckets. The five-point buckets previously used can mask the real magnitude of increases or decreases in percentile ranking. By moving to single point buckets, it allows for more accurate evaluation when a new form is released as it would eliminate some of the variance you see in the initial sample.

I used the new test form and now my percentile ranking has shifted. Why?

A shift in an institution's percentile ranking may be attributed to one or more factors depending on the type of score (i.e., total scaled score, subscore, assessment indicator). Since total scaled scores are statistically linked through an equating process, shifts in the percentile ranking are more likely due to the sample of students tested and their performance.

For subscores and assessment indicators, whenever an MFT test form is refreshed, data from the new test form cannot be combined with data from the preceding test form. This means that whenever a new MFT test form is published, the accumulation of data begins all over again. During this period of time, there will be fewer institutions and students represented by the comparative data, and so this new data may not yet be fully representative of the composition of the MFT test-taking population. Until comparative data is again accumulated for more institutions and students, you may see unexpected changes in percentile rankings for your institution from the year before. Until this reference group becomes stabilized by the addition of test-taker data from more institutions, please keep in mind that aberrances in percentile rankings across versions of the test may not be as much a reflection of your program's performance as it is a reflection of the changing make-up of the reference group.

Online Testing

Does online testing involve more work for the institution and its staff than paper-and-pencil testing?

Not necessarily more work, but different work. The Major Field Tests online process consists of a hierarchy of users at the institution: an Institution Administrator, a Department Administrator for each test subject and a Proctor Administrator who must be present when exams are administered. When ETS establishes a Major Field Tests online account, it is creating only an Institution Administrator account. The Institution/Department Administrator Manual walks the Institution Administrator through the simple process of establishing the other roles.

For more information about online and paper-and-pencil test administration, review the Procedures section or view the Major Field Tests Tour.

Can the online version of the Major Field Tests be administered off campus for my distance learning students?

The Major Field Tests must be administered in a proctored environment to ensure the integrity of the test results. Proctored off-campus administration is available for online versions of the MFT for Bachelor's Degree in Business and the MFT for MBA. Contact an ETS Advisor or call 1-800-745-0269 for more information about off-campus testing.

Are test preparation materials available for review or purchase?

Test preparation materials are not available, but sample questions can be found for each of the Major Field Tests in the Sample Questions section.

What should an institution do if a test administration is interrupted and Major Field Tests Online Customer Support is closed?

If the proctor cannot troubleshoot the problem using the manual, the test can be resumed when Major Field Tests Online Technical Support reopens, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. ET. You can contact Technical Support at 1-800-514-8491. The student will resume the exam at the last unanswered question with the exact time remaining when the interruption occurred.

What are administrators actually purchasing when they order an online exam?

In the absence of actual test booklets, institutions are instead purchasing the access rights to the exam. The purchasing institution receives permission to use the exam a certain number of times. The access rights to the exam are referred to as authorization codes. The authorization code is a random password that permits one student access to the exam and cannot be reused. So an institution that needs to administer 40 exams must order 40 authorization codes.

How can we verify the number of online exams available for our use?

Click the "Inventory" folder in your Major Field Tests online account to view your current inventory and purchase more tests if needed.

How can we rectify ordering errors with online tests — for example, when an order is short or over?

If you ordered online tests but the system generated fewer or more codes than were ordered, please contact Major Field Tests Online Technical Support at 1-800-514-8491.

If you ordered too few exams because of a key entry error, just order more exams using the same Major Field Tests Online ordering system and the same purchase order or credit card.

If an institution orders too many exams because of a key entry error or because it could not confirm how many exams were needed before ordering, the additional exams are not wasted. Just as with the paper-and-pencil testing, the tests for online exams can be retained indefinitely and used for future administrations.

It is better to order too few than too many exams because Major Field Tests Online makes it easy to order additional exams but does not offer refunds for unused authorization codes.

For more information about how the Major Field Tests can help your program, call 1-800-745-0269 or contact an ETS Advisor. ETS Advisors are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. ET.