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History of, and Present Trends in Testing

Gulliksen, Harold O.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Aptitude Tests, Content Validity, Educational History, Educational Testing, Educational Trends, History of Testing


Developments in the field of testing over the past 50 years are briefly reviewed and the type of emphasis the author would like to see given now in test development is considered. The perceived low regard in which standardized tests are now held is attributed to two characteristics of the present stage of test development: 1) emphasis on the selection and evaluation functions of tests; and 2) reliance on correlation coefficients as demonstrating the value of the tests. Two shifts in emphasis are therefore proposed: first, from selection and evaluation to guidance and placement, and second, from correlational test validity to intrinsic test validity. It is noted, further, that the development of factor analysis methods since 1930 enables us to find different mental abilities rather than one generalized score, and therefore to do the kind of testing useful in guidance and placement rather than evaluation and selection. It is also noted that it is important in developing criteria for achievement tests to stress intrinsic validity, first, to utilize items that are judged by experts to be directly relevant to the problems at hand; second, to assess from a common-sense point of view the relationships among these items; and third, to study their relationship to various other types of achievement and aptitude tests and investigate the effect of training on the items. Several examples are given of both good and bad ways of judging intrinsic correlational validity. The author urges use of "direct measures of learning ability", i.e. laboratory tests of learning and task-relevant performance tests, as a way of getting "culture-free" and intrinsically valid measures of aptitude. He also urges "more intensive investigation directed toward determining the intrinsic correlational validity of aptitude tests and the intrinsic content validity of achievement tests."

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