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Types of Scores in Assessment (page 4)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Basal and Ceiling Levels

Many tests, because test authors construct them for students of differing abilities, contain more items than are necessary. To determine the starting and stopping points for administering a test, test authors designate basal and ceiling levels. (Although these are really not types of scores, basal and ceiling levels are sometimes called rules or scores.) The basal level is the point below which the examiner assumes that the student could obtain all correct responses and, therefore, it is the point at which the examiner begins testing.

The test manual will designate the point at which testing should begin. For example, a test manual states, "Students who are 13 years old should begin with item 12. Continue testing when three items in a row have been answered correctly. If three items in a row are not answered correctly, the examiner should drop back a level." This is the basal level.

Let's look at the example of the student who is 9 years old. Although the examiner begins testing at the 9-year-old level, the student fails to answer correctly three in a row. Thus, the examiner is unable to establish a basal level at the suggested beginning point. Many manuals instruct the examiner to continue testing backward, dropping back one item at a time, until the student correctly answers three items. Some test manuals instruct examiners to drop back an entire level, for instance, to age 8, and begin testing. When computing the student's raw score, the examiner includes items below the basal point as items answered correctly. Thus, the raw score includes all the items the student answered correctly plus the test items below the basal point. The ceiling level is the point above which the examiner assumes that the student would obtain all incorrect responses if the testing were to continue; it is, therefore, the point at which the examiner stops testing. "To determine a ceiling," a manual may read, "discontinue testing when three items in a row have been missed."

A false ceiling can be reached if the examiner does not carefully follow directions for determining the ceiling level. Some tests require students to complete a page of test items to establish the ceiling level.

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