A method is disclosed for incorporating into the construction of adaptive tests expert test development practices. The method is an application of a weighted deviations model and an heuristic for automated item selection. Taken into account are the number and complexity of constraints on item selection found in expert test development practice. The method of the present invention incorporates content, overlap, and set constraints on the sequential selection of items as desired properties of the resultant adaptive tests, rather than as strict requirements. Aggregate failures are minimized in the same fashion as in the construction of conventional tests. The extent to which restrictions on item selection are not satisfied is then the result of deficiencies in the item pool, as it is with conventional tests.