Why is it so important that we trial our assessments?


We maintain an ongoing programme of trialling and standardisation studies at GL Assessment to test our assessment questions with real students. In our latest interview, our Director of Education, Crispin Chatterton, explains why trialling is essential to ensure the robustness of our assessments and how schools can benefit from getting involved.

Why is it so important for us to trial new assessment questions?

An essential part of test development is trialling questions with real students. In doing so, we aim to cover a range of difficulty levels and make our assessments as gender neutral as possible. We also need to ensure that the questions work on a more fundamental level – i.e. that they aren’t misunderstood or unintentionally confuse students.

Even with the best team of item writers and a rigorous reviewing process, we won’t actually know whether we have achieved this goal unless we trial these questions on real students. We can then select the best questions in order to construct high-quality tests.

What do we learn from the trials and what do we do with this information?

Our statisticians perform a lot of complex analysis so that we can understand statistically if the questions distinguish properly, as well as their difficulty level. Once we have trialled and passed these questions, we then use this information to structure our tests appropriately – for example, starting with easier questions which get progressively harder. Then, once we have constructed a test, we measure what the average difficulty level or facility is – this average comes from all the individual numbers we get from the trial.

Who is eligible to take part in our trials?

Students across all year groups are eligible for our trials. We have actually just completed a comprehensive trialling process for new levels in our Progress Test Series, covering Years 2 to 10. We are now looking more specifically for students in Years 6 and 7.

We don’t have any exclusions on types of schools – the trials are open to state and independent schools from anywhere within the UK. You also don’t need to be a customer of GL Assessment or currently use our assessments to take part.

What do schools get out of taking part in a trial?

For our current trials, participating schools will receive raw scores for their students within four weeks of the trial. Then after a further 4-6 weeks they will receive scale scores which allow them to compare their students’ performance within a subject. If the school has trialled different subjects, they can also see whether their students might have an aptitude for a particular discipline, for example. This is all provided by us at no charge to the school.

Additionally, as a small thank you from us for taking part in the trial, schools can claim either a £100 gift voucher (for Amazon or John Lewis) or £250 worth of credits for our online testing platform Testwise to use on new assessments.

In the long-term, schools that participate are also helping us to maintain the quality of our assessments and the highest standard of questions. Without schools’ participation our assessments wouldn’t have a regular dose of new material and the questions would not be as innovative and varied.

How can schools get involved?

Schools can register their interest by completing the interest form on our website, or by contacting our friendly team at [email protected] who will support them every step of the way – from initial sign-up, through to receipt of their student data and incentives post-trial.

Can schools trial our assessments more than once?

There is the option for schools to sign up as an official GL Assessment Trialling Partner with several additional benefits. All the schools are required to do is take part in at least two trials or standardisation studies per year, with at least around 30 students per trial. In return, they will receive the usual incentives for taking part in our trials (as outlined above), as well as product discounts, discounted staff CPD training, a certificate and be able to use our logo to demonstrate that they are a partner of GL Assessment.

What else would you like to add?

We are very grateful to schools that take part in our trials, as this ensures that our assessments are as robust and high-quality as they can be. We hope that schools will find this a two-way process too, since they will receive an insight into how their students are performing, as well as an extra reward for taking part.

Sign up for our New Question Trial

Find out more about becoming a GL Assessment Trialling Partner

Crispin Chatterton

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