Last week at the Association of Test Publishers’ annual conference, industry professionals were asked to “Lead the Conversation” and help the markets we serve
understand the encouraging effect testing can have on people’s lives. This could mean being accepted at the graduate school of your choice (my story), securing the certification you need for your new job (my best friend’s experience), or becoming the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles during your rookie
season (Carson Wentz). Testing can, and often does, have a powerful and positive impact on the way our lives move forward.
I have been in the testing industry for 33 years, working in all aspects of test development - from item writing to research to marketing and sales - and I know first-hand how hard test developers labor to ensure that each and every test delivers back information that is as true, clear, and as helpful as possible. Our goal is to move people through the stages of their lives successfully – from tests in grade school, through college entrance exams, and finally into pre-employment testing and perhaps certification and licensure. Along the way, those of us in the testing industry persevere so those not familiar with testing practices can trust the way we measure knowledge, personality, or skills, and have confidence in the decisions that are made using that information.
This year, with our industry conference focused on moving assessment forward, discussions centered on new, innovative ways to measure success and also on some very serious issues in test and cybersecurity. Our objective was to work together for three days to learn from each other, and from outside experts, about how to keep testing a positive (and safe) experience for everyone.
Engaging, innovative test items or exam questions are now possible with the many advances in online technology, but publishers are also seeking new ways to assess knowledge or personality. An e-poster being presented next to mine (my e-poster was on research we did writing new items for the 16pf® Questionnaire) detailed new game scenarios being used to simulate real-life situations that medical students could encounter – a much more authentic (and enjoyable!) way to test their potential patient approach than a multiple-choice paper test.
At another session I attended, privacy laws in Europe, (our membership includes test publishers from around the world and PSI is a global organization now) and the effect that Brexit and our new administration may have on current laws and new mandates, were discussed by attorneys, test publishers, and customers. Keeping your personal data safe, and our test items secure from hackers, is something all publishers and technology companies take very seriously.
Everyone has taken an assessment or standardized test at some point during their life. But the next time you do, remember that the ambition of the testing professionals who created that test was to deliver information back to you from that testing session to help you be successful – whether you wanted to go to graduate school in psychology, work in the insurance industry, or become one of the great quarterbacks in the NFL.