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Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about assessment. 

FAQ – general assessment

Frequently asked questions on general issues of assessment.

What is the difference between norm-, criterion-, and standards-based assessment?

Norm-referenced assessment shows how students are achieving compared with others of the same age group at a given point in time. Tests often provide results in percentiles or stanines.

Criterion-referenced assessment shows what students can or can’t do in relation to a list of tasks or skills. Teachers’ judgments are about whether the student has achieved each skill or task. When writing for example, a student may be able to succeed at each task or skill but still not be able to write a compelling piece which meets the needs of an audience.

Standards-based assessment shows what a student can do in relation to broad descriptions, supported by exemplars of expected achievement. The descriptions are broader than criteria. Each standard has a number of components that students need to bring together to achieve the standard.

Can teachers choose which tests they want to use, or will the range of assessment tools be standardised across the country, so that the same tools are used?

Teachers can choose the assessment tools and approaches that best suit their needs and the needs of their students.

  • The Assessment Selector Tool supports teachers and school leaders to find out about, and select, assessment tools appropriate to their particular needs. 
  • Assessment resources maps show the relationship between the existing tools, curriculum, and year levels.

Consistent with effective assessment practice, assessment evidence should be gathered as an integral part of the teaching and learning process and used to determine next teaching and learning steps, plan classroom programmes, and support students to use assessment information to inform their own learning.

How could students participate in the assessment and reporting process?

Assessment and reporting should be guided by the principles of formative assessment, and the need for learners to be assessment-aware and able to understand their current state of learning and future needs. Whether informal or formal, assessment should always involve the students in decision-making about the assessment and its results. Assessment should therefore be part of an ongoing process between teacher and student to discuss the results of each element of an assessment and plan the way forward. There should be no surprises when assessment results are reported to parents.

Is the use of e-asTTle mandatory?

e-asTTle, the online version of asTTle (Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning), is a resource for assessing:

  • mathematics and reading for years 5-10 and curriculum levels 2-6
  • writing for years 1-10 and curriculum levels 1-6.

e-asTTle is not mandatory. Schools and teachers can select what tools they want to use from the range of tools available. They should decide the assessment programme (mix of assessment information to gather) that best suits their context/needs.

Apart from e-asTTle, what assessment tools are available for writing?

Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) is a tool designed to help teachers make dependable judgments about students' achievement that can be used to track progress in writing, reading, and mathematics. There are also tasks available from the Assessment Resource Bank which can also be used to assess writing.

Schools not enrolled in e-asTTle can access the same resources using Assessment Online's What Next search tool, a database of resources for "what next" teaching and learning within the learning areas of writing, reading, and mathematics across selected curriculum levels, strands, and sub strands.

Can we use the end of the previous year data rather than assessing students at the beginning of the year?

All assessment information from the previous year should inform teachers’ knowledge of their students in the new year. Bear in mind, research shows that over long holiday periods (for example the Christmas break) students can "slip back" in their learning.