The Contestant Perspective on Taking Tests: Emanations From the Statue Within


  • An earlier version of this article was the basis for the Invited 2010 Career Award Address delivered at the annual meeting of the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), April 7–11, 2011, New Orleans, LA.

Neil J. Dorans, Distinguished Presidential Appointee in Psychometrics, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ 08541;


Views on testing—its purpose and uses and how its data are analyzed—are related to one's perspective on test takers. Test takers can be viewed as learners, examinees, or contestants. I briefly discuss the perspective of test takers as learners. I maintain that much of psychometrics views test takers as examinees. I discuss test takers as a contestant in some detail. Test takers who are contestants in high-stakes settings want reliable outcomes obtained via acceptable scoring of tests administered under clear rules. In addition, it is essential to empirically verify interpretations attached to scores. At the very least, item and test scores should exhibit certain invariance properties. I note that the “do no harm” dictum borrowed from the field of medicine is particularly relevant to the perspective of test takers as contestants.