The Structure of an Assessment Item

Overview of useful assessment terminology

Written by Aimée Gott
Updated over a week ago

First of all, an item is the assessment term used to describe the task given to a test taker. It’s often referred to as a question, and often is. But sometimes, for instance in the certification case study, it is a task. So in the world of assessment, we use the more general term item. Don’t worry about calling them questions, just know we will typically refer to items.

When we start to break down the items themselves there are a few features that have their own terms that you will need to get to know.

The image below shows four features on a multiple choice item. First of all we have the context and stem. Specifically the context is any information that is provided to give context to the item. This could be a written description (as in this example), it could be a preview of a data set, a database schema diagram or a graphic. The stem is the question that is asked of the test taker. This could be a direct question, a task, a sentence to complete…

Moving down, we have the options. The options are all of the possible solutions presented to the test taker. They are made up of the key - the correct option, and the distractors - the incorrect options. In this example we have a total of four options. While this is preferred, the minimum requirement is three options. If you can’t come up with three plausible distractors, it is better to include only two.

We have pointed these out on a multiple choice item, but some of the terms will apply to all test item types used. That brings us to the types of item that we have at DataCamp.

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