The #1 Curriculum and Assessment Partner for Educators

Looking for Online Solutions?

See Our Products

5 Tips for Administering the Exact Path Diagnostic

5 Tips for Administering the Exact Path Diagnostic

Now more than ever, following substantial school closures during 2020, it's important to identify where students are in their learning and understand their individual strengths and weaknesses. That all starts with administering the Exact Path diagnostic assessment. Taking a few minutes to set up the right testing environment –whether at home or at school – and talking to your students about the diagnostic can increase the validity of results, leading to even more meaningful data to drive instruction. Check out our five tips to make the most of your Exact Path diagnostic administration!

1. Explain to your students that they’re not expected to know everything on the test. The purpose of the Exact Path diagnostic is to determine both what your students know and don’t. This means that students may receive some questions they are able to answer and some questions that cover unfamiliar content, as the test adapts in real time to pinpoint individual ability levels. In fact, the Exact Path adaptive diagnostic algorithm works to administer questions so that students answer about 50 percent of the questions correctly, by giving harder or easier questions based on previous responses. Encourage students to try their best, but tell them it’s OK to guess if they don’t know the answer. If you’re unfamiliar with how a computer-adaptive test works, watch this short 4-minute video for a little added context on the behavior of this type of test.

2. Allow sufficient time. The beauty of an adaptive assessment is that it can cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. Rather than a fixed test that administers the same set of questions to every student, the Exact Path question bank offers thousands of unique questions spanning grades K–12. Of course, students don’t have to answer thousands of questions—the Exact Path diagnostic algorithm works to efficiently zone in on specific gaps and weaknesses by adapting in real time after each and every question. But, even that takes time! Keep in mind that the Exact Path diagnostic for one subject typically takes students in grades K–1 about 15–25 minutes to complete and, for grades 2 and up, about 30–60 minutes. Some students may need a little longer. Plan on allocating enough time so that students can complete the test in one or two sittings. If you split the test into two sessions, keep those sessions as close together as possible, and finish testing in no more than three consecutive days.

3. Set up a quiet, monitored environment with familiar technology. We know that it’s easy for students to get distracted and that those interruptions can send them into a tailspin of unfocused testing that leads to inaccurate results. Provide a quiet environment that is free of distractions. Monitor students’ behavior during the diagnostic to ensure that they are on task and working independently. Try to use whichever technology your students are most familiar with, whether they use tablets in the classroom or go to a computer lab with desktop computers, so that their understanding of how to use the device itself isn’t a barrier. Keep in mind that the diagnostic reads aloud some content from items in grades K–1 and for all students with text-to-speech enabled, so consider providing headphones to keep the volume under control.

4. Share with your students the reasons why the test is important. Test scores have greater validity when students have a personal stake in the test. The diagnostic is important because the results determine students’ individualized learning paths. A valid test score means that they’ll receive curriculum that’s just right for them—not too hard, nor too easy—so that they can maximize learning and minimize frustration. In addition, as the educator, you will likely use results to conference with parents, set goals with students, or compete against other classes for most skills mastered. Share these reasons with your students to get them motivated. New for the 2020-2021 school year, educators will receive an alert in Exact Path that indicates when a student may not have provided effortful responses, based on research indicating when questions are responded to too fast. Educators can use this alert to determine whether to retest the student or adjust the learning path.

5. Refrain from providing help on content. This may sound obvious, but it’s a good reminder: even though the Exact Path diagnostic test isn’t providing a score that goes in the gradebook, avoid any temptation to help students with content. When students receive help on their diagnostics, then their learning paths might start them on material that is too hard for them. If students ask for help while testing, encourage them to try their best, but remind them that it is OK to guess if they don’t know the answer. Explain that the test isn’t scored on the number of questions that they get right.

For a more in-depth guide to diagnostic administration, check out our assessment administration guides for educators and for parents that might be administering the diagnostic at home. To familiarize your students more with Exact Path and the diagnostic, check out our student-friendly videos for grade K–2 studentsgrade 3–5 students, and grade 6–12 students.

This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated. 

audra.kosh's picture
Dr. Audra Kosh

Dr. Audra Kosh began her career in education as an eighth-grade math teacher. After transitioning out of the classroom to pursue her passion for research, Audra completed a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences with a focus on educational measurement and mathematics education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now working as a Research Scientist at Edmentum, Audra does psychometric analyses and assessment research for Edmentum’s suite of assessments.