Tests were established to acquire objective information about the performance of an individual. Testing was influenced by the functionalism theory. According to this theory, tests were viewed as a way of sorting out individuals according to their measured ability. The use of this theory in testing was applied where a learning or developmental process was considered as an equipping procedure where individuals are taught their role in the society. Tests are thus used to group individuals according to their roles in the society. The use of this theory in testing is believed to be very efficient and this is considered its major strength. Individual ability is accurately evaluated and the individuals sorted on the basis of merit. This concept that individuals need to be ranked according to their ability is what forms the basis for academic testing in most contemporary schools. This theory gives a logical explanation to the functions of learning (Gregory, 2010).
Testing has also been greatly influenced by accountability. Historians saw testing as a way of making students accountable for what they have been doing during the learning process. Also the need for accountability is needed on the part of learning institutions. Accountability thus contributed to the development of testing as governments wanted to get accountability for their funding of learning institutions (Gregory, 2010).
Test norms are comprised of data which is used to determine an individual’s relative standing after they have taken a test. The raw score obtained from the test has very little meaning and hence it must always be interpreted by comparing the score with those of others in a group. Hence norms give the basis for comparing a person’s score with those of a group. It involves putting meaning to a single score. For example, when a student scores 23 points out of a possible 30 in chemistry, their score can be interpreted to mean that they got 23 questions correct and failed 7. But, it is also necessary to compare the student’s results with those of other students taking the same subject. This comparison will help in understanding how the performance of the individual student related to that of other students. This comparison will help in understanding whether the student’s performance is high enough and whether they are assured of future success in the subject.
Percentile norms are where an individual’s score is compared to the score of a known group that comprises 100 people. For example, the percentile norm of the student mentioned above could be 79 which mean that the student’s score was better than that of 79 other students in a class of a 100 students. In most cases the group of 100 is normally hypothetical. This method is often preferred since most people are familiar with it and also due to its simplicity. But the method also has its weaknesses, first is that during calculation of the mean percentile using the percentile ranking of an individual in most cases gives an inaccurate estimate for the mean performance of a group. Second, because of the unequal intervals between percentile ranks, a change in the mean ranking of the percentile will represent a different change at each part of the scale.
Score norms are another method for interpreting an individual’s score in a test. This method mainly deals with changes in the score (Womer, 2002). For example, the student discussed above may have scored 26 points in a previous exam; the score norm will involve subtracting the current score from the previous one. A major advantage of this method is that it uses simple arithmetic and thus simple to use. However, it has a few disadvantages; one of them is that it is difficult to compare scores that have different ranges. For example, if the previous test the student took was out of 35, comparing it with the current test which was out of 30 would give wrong results.
Developmental norms involve relation of different characteristics of development at various ages. This norms deal with 4 areas of human development: physical, emotional, cognitive and social. These norms are advantageous as they help in assessing whether the development of a person is normal. A major weakness is that some events in an individual’s development occur at different ages (Womer, 2002). For example, talking may start when a child is 2 years old or even in later ages.
Internal consistency is used to measure reliability. It shows how various aspects of a test measure similar characteristic. This is affected by homogeneity of the tests for example; tests that measure grammatical capability of a student are more homogeneous than two tests that measure grammar and language skills respectively.
Gregory, J. R. (2010). Psychological Testing: History, Principles and Applications. New Jersey: Pearson.
Womer, F. B. (2002). Test Norms: Their Use and Interpretation. Washington: National Association of Secondary School Principals.