Higher Education admissions tests must be fair, valid and transparent

Higher Education admissions tests must be fair, valid and transparent

Cambridge Assessment believes that tests used to help Higher Education (HE) institutions differentiate between top applicants should be fair, valid and transparent. 

Speaking at a recent Cambridge Assessment Network seminar, Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, said that: “Additional research and validation should be carried out for each and every admissions test used by an HE institution. We should know how it measures, and we should know and understand how performance in the test relates to the course that people have applied for. There is a technical and moral imperative to have this research in place.”

Admissions testing is a much-debated topic, particularly in the context of the ‘widening participation’ agenda which seeks to address discrepancies in the take-up of HE opportunities between different social groups.

A popular myth is that additional tests are leading to a culture of testing twice. However, Tim said that there is no evidence to suggest this. Furthermore, some experts believe that curriculum tests should be used as part of the admissions process, but Tim warned that these tests look at the performance of schools themselves – and not the students.

Guest speaker Professor John Laycock from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, explained how using a subject-specific test such as the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) can provide additional information for use in the admissions process for highly competitive courses.

Cambridge Assessment has been providing research-led and evidence based solutions for major Higher Education Institutions for over 20 years and develops and delivers carefully targeted admissions tests. The BMAT, for example, is used for applicants to highly competitive medical, biomedical and veterinary courses at a number of UK institutions. It believes that admissions tests should only be used as a part of the overall admissions process – and only when test scores provide additional information that is clearly distinguishable from other parts of the process: interviews, application forms and other forms of academic assessment such as A levels.

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