FAQs

To find answers to our most commonly asked questions about Collins Asssessment, please read through our frequently asked questions section below. Otherwise, please feel free to contact your local consultant who will be happy to answer your query. You can find their details at findarep.collins.co.uk.


Are your tests standardised?

It might be helpful to unpick the term ‘standardised’ a bit before we answer this question! Not all tests are standardised, even if students take the same standard questions and the test is marked with a standard mark scheme. A standardised test is one that:

    • Requires all students to answer the same questions (or a set from the same bank of questions)
    • Is scored using rules so that the results are consistent
    • Has been trialled on a representative sample of thousands of students in schools, and undergone statistical analysis to produce final tests which means student progress can be benchmarked nationally.

All of Collins’ tests meet the first two conditions which means that they provide you with a robust framework to assess your students. Relatively few tests meet the third, and these are true ‘standardised’ tests. The cost of development means they are more expensive to buy.

What is formative assessment and how does it differ from summative?

‘Formative’ and ‘summative’ aren’t different types of assessment: they are terms that describe how an assessment is used.

Formative assessment informs teaching and addresses learning needs. It takes place daily or weekly. Teachers use the information to change something about their teaching to progress student learning. Formative assessment is very important and the data tends to stay in the classroom with the teacher. Assessment can be a task or activity, or some test questions, chosen by the teacher. 

Summative assessment summarises students’ learning, normally after a topic, term or year. The assessment used tends to be decided by senior managers, and results used to monitor progress to ensure that students are meeting age-related expectations. The data might be recorded in a tracker, and gap analysis informs interventions. It takes more of a helicopter view, to give some perspective alongside teacher judgement on how the cohort or whole school is performing.

What is receptive vocabulary?

Receptive vocabulary means all the words a student can understand: the words that they can take in and process, even if they can’t say or write them. Some children struggle with this early stage of language development. They might seem to be not paying attention, have difficulty in following instructions, or give unusual answers to questions. They may appear to be understanding because they pick up on key words, or copy other children. Receptive language is vital to communication, which in turn is the bedrock of a successful school career and social interactions. 

Collins’ Assessing Receptive Vocabulary is available for Ages 4-5, 5-6 and 6-7 in a series of photocopiable half-termly tests. Each test has fifteen questions and children select the correct picture to go with the word you say. Using a test of receptive vocabulary can help pinpoint any issues that might be masked, because it strips out any contextual clues a child might be relying on.

How should I use you record sheets

The most important reason to use tests is to look at what the results tell you and use that information to inform teaching and learning at a student, class and/or school level. To help you do this, we have produced record sheets (student summaries in Word and class summaries in Excel) for tracking your students’ progress. The advantage of the class Excel spreadsheets is that you can see how your class and individual students performed across topics, as scores are added together automatically.

Record sheets aren’t an essential part of our tests, so you don’t have to use them; you could use your own assessment templates. However, they are editable so that you can adapt them for your school, and they are also photocopiable.

How often should I assess my pupils

Every test is different, and it depends on the purpose of the tests and what it was developed for. Formative testing is frequent and can take place every day, whereas summative testing might be yearly. The important thing is that you and your school decide why you are assessing, what you want to assess, how the information will be used, and ensure it helps you progress your students. 

Collins’ assessments will explain how to use the test in the introduction. You can also request a visit from a Collins Schools Consultant if you would like advice on our assessments. Find their details at findarep.collins.co.uk.

Can I use the same test twice with a student?

If you are testing to measure progress, that depends on the time between the two testing sessions. If a student takes exactly the same test with the same questions, then they are likely to perform better on the second testing if they can remember what was in the test. Generally, it is recommended that you should not re-test within six months, and a year is preferable. If you are testing to help older students revise for an exam, then more frequent testing can be beneficial to build confidence.

Some tests have ‘parallel’ versions (two equivalent tests with different questions) so that you can retest within a shorter time frame. Collins’ Spelling Half Termly Tests have two tests per half term, so in that case you could re-test, because the child would see a different set of words. They also have different versions for each year group, so the same child could take the Spelling Half Termly Tests every year as they progress through the school. All Collins tests have an introduction which explains how the test should be used, and how often you should test with it.

What is the difference between your Assessment and Revision tests?

Our range of Collins and Letts Practice Test Papers are in the style of tests such as the KS2 SATs or GCSE 9-1 exams and so provide students the opportunity to practice and familiarise themselves with this. These may be taken in school under exam conditions or at home without teacher guidance. In contrast, our Assessment tests have been developed for use by teachers to gain insight and track student progress.  

Some of our Collins Assessment tests have been designed to support revision. They have been constructed to sample the curriculum and therefore find gaps in knowledge. Thorough analysis of results will reveal topics where individual students and classes have struggled, and teaching can be tailored accordingly.

Other Assessments tests are also in the style of an exam; our Weekly Arithmetic Tests are in the style of the KS2 Arithmetic Paper 1. It can be very useful for children to take these tests so that they are familiar with the testing process, question layout and structure, and mark schemes. Other tests are not designed for revision at all, such as diagnostic tests like Assessing Receptive Vocabulary.

If you are unsure about whether a test is suitable for your needs, please contact us and we can advise you. Find your local consultant’s details at findarep.collins.co.uk.

Do your tests match the National Curriculum?

 Yes, they do. All Collins tests have been developed for the National Curriculum for England, and where specified, the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. However, we try to future proof our tests as far as we can, and newer tests may be developed with known changes in mind. For example, Collins’ Times Tables Tests Up To 12x12 are designed to prepare children for the new multiplication tables check for Year 4 from 2020.

Can I use your tests alongside other assessments?

Yes, you can. Tests are used most effectively when they are part of an assessment programme in a school, which identifies strengths and weaknesses and tracks progress. Typically, this consists of informal and formal teacher assessment, and then published tests termly or yearly, but it depends on your school and students.

Some tests complement each other, and others duplicate, so it’s best to speak to your Collins Schools Consultant who can help you make the right decision for your school. Find their details at findarep.collins.co.uk.

Who can use your tests?

Collins tests are available to anyone, but they are intended for teachers. They have been written with the assumption that those using them are in an educational setting, and understand what is being assessed and how to interpret the results. 

Our tests are photocopiable for use in the purchasing school and can also be downloaded; however, they aren’t transferable so please do not pass them on to other schools or take them with you if you move jobs.

Can I use your tests with students who have English as an additional language?

Students who speak English as an additional language (EAL) deserve the same opportunities to demonstrate their abilities and talents as other students. Although you might be concerned about how these students can access a test, you shouldn’t withdraw all tests from EAL students: teachers should make individual judgements about whether a student can access a test or not, and how to interpret the results. EAL best practice should be reflected in the testing process and any subsequent actions or decisions based on careful consideration of the results. 

Newly arrived students may struggle with cultural aspects of tests and the testing process, depending on what is the norm in their home country. They may also be dealing with the upheaval of leaving their home and friends, and so ongoing teacher assessment is probably most appropriate at this stage. Older students will benefit from having access to a bilingual dictionary during tests.

For those with some level of English, assessing receptive vocabulary is especially useful for baselining, as expressive language usually follows receptive. Teachers then have an idea for how much a student understands what is being said in lessons. You could use Collins Assessing Receptive Vocabulary for this purpose. 

What do tests tell me that teachers can't?

Tests are best used to complement teacher judgement. Teachers know their students the best, and can judge how they are performing over the whole year. Teachers are in ideal position to assess dynamically, perhaps looking at a topic, term or even a full year’s worth of work, based on what has been covered in class. Some tests are expensive and time-consuming, and teachers can struggle with what the data means in practice and how to interpret the results.

However, tests have lots of advantages if they are used as part of an overall approach to assessment that includes teacher judgement. They are objective, and written by experts. They can identify students whose needs are hard to spot. They allow teachers to compare scores to students in the same school and across schools, and to track progress. They can be used in the moderation of teacher assessment, as a sort of health check that all teachers are assessing students in the same way and to the same standards. 

How are tests used to monitor progress?

Progress testing is undertaken to ensure children are covering the curriculum at an age-appropriate level and achieving at the rate the Government expects. Schools themselves are subject to progress measures, and therefore need to check student progress at regular intervals. Tests are the most common way to achieve this because they are consistent and have been constructed to sample the curriculum in a methodical way.

Most primary schools have some form of formal assessment that takes place at the end of every half term, according to school policy. The data is analysed to find gaps, and student progress is discussed with colleagues so that any changes to teaching can be implemented. Some schools use standardised tests at the end of every term or year; the data can then be reliably compared across other schools so that progress can be tracked across national standards. 

Secondary schools monitor progress on an individual subject basis, as decided by the Head of Department. These tests are often exam-style, and increasingly actual exam questions are used in KS4. Results are reported as a percentage and/or an estimated GCSE grade equivalent.

How much can I edit your tests?

Our tests are available to download so that you can freely edit them. We also supply photocopiable versions, because there are distinct benefits to giving the test without changing it. If children answer the same questions under the same conditions, and their answers are scored using the same rules, then the results can be compared across different groups. This means you can compare individual students, classes, cohorts and even schools.

If you make changes to a test for your students, then you can’t compare results, because they have effectively taken a different test. However, you may have valid reasons for wanting to edit a test for your class (perhaps to reflect your school’s curriculum), or an individual student (see FAQ below on SEND students). For this reason, we do give teachers the option of accessing editable versions of our tests.

Can I use your assessments with SEND students?

Yes, you can, and you might need to make changes or adjustments to the test or testing process. We recommend that you do not change the test questions or mark schemes, otherwise you won’t be able to compare the results with the whole class. However, you can make adaptations to how the test is taken to ensure SEND students can access the test fairly, as long as the changes do not give these students an unfair advantage. There are two main types of adjustments you could make:

    • Adjustments to the test materials for students with a disability. An example would be to increase the print size of test questions for a student with visual impairments.
    • Changes to the way a test is taken to allow students with SEND to access the assessment and show what they know. They should reflect the way the student works all the time in class, and examples would be to allow a student to use a scribe or to have extra time.

What is retrieval practice and what are its benefits?

Retrieval practice is practicing extracting information from your memory, so that you can recall it without having it in front of you. Instead of focusing on getting information into students’ heads, retrieval practice is a learning strategy (rather than as assessment opportunity) for how to get that information out. Psychologists have found that it is a very effective method of learning and studying; it is much better than just reading and re-reading, and the information stays in your long-term memory.

A good example of retrieval practice is using mini white-boards with students, so that the whole class quickly answers a question, hold up the boards, and the teacher can give immediate feedback. The question might be based on content taught in that day, a week before or even the previous month.

Commonly learning strategies focus on short-term recall, which might feel easy for the student. In fact, the opposite is best: the brain power used in struggling to recall something from a while ago actually strengthens long-term learning. Our Recall Practice Tests for GCSE 9-1 have been developed for this purpose.

 


For more information and to browse the Collins Assessment range, visit collins.co.uk/Assessment.