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5 Tips for Administering the Exact Path Diagnostic

5 Tips for Administering the Exact Path Diagnostic

This year, spring assessment data from state to state is confirming what we already suspected—significant achievement gaps persist, and lower test scores are reflecting as much. Beginning each new school year by establishing a baseline of your students’ individual strengths and weaknesses is essential to making the most of your instructional calendar. That all starts with administering the Exact Path diagnostic assessment. Taking time to get your administration process in order 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 know. 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 four-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 10–25 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 at most. 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 results. The Exact Path 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. 

As an added layer of security, educators will receive a Recommended Reviewing Alert in Exact Path that indicates when a student may not have provided effortful responses. The alert will trigger when a student spends an average of less than five seconds answering each question; Edmentum’s research team determined the five-second threshold by analyzing millions of records using psychometric methods for flagging tests for rapid guessing.

Educators may choose one of three options when the alert is triggered based on their professional judgement.

5 Tips for Administering the Exact Path Diagnostic

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; rather it is a determination of where they are ready to start learning.

For a more in-depth guide to diagnostic administration, check out our assessment administration guides for either educators or for parents who might be administering the diagnostic at home. For more tools and resources to kick-start a successful implementation this school year, visit the Exact Path Getting Started Resources page.

This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated for the 2022–23 school year.