Using the CRAS framework to measure the demand of exam questions

Using the CRAS framework to measure the demand of exam questions

CRAS (Complexity-Resources-Abstractness and Strategy) is a qualitative framework developed in the 1990s by researchers at UCLES (now Cambridge Assessment) to measure the demand of individual exam questions. The original intentions of the framework were to give an insight into the dimensions that contribute to 'item' (exam question) demand. It is, however, less clear about how these individual item characteristics interact if CRAS is used to try to measure the level of demand in a whole question paper or qualification.

In the 4-minute film below our researchers explain how the framework was developed and how it is used.  In June 2011, they published guidance and recommendations for potential users of CRAS in Issue 12 of Research Matters, which explains why CRAS:

  • has a broad range of potential application but is not a suitable framework for measuring the demand of question papers and qualifications
  • provides a common language to support teachers’, examiners’ and syllabus developers’ conceptualisation and description of demands
  • is essentially qualitative in nature and can be used to profile the nature of cognitive demands for individual users
  • recognises the concept that comparisons are based on relative rather than absolute judgements
  • may be used in conjunction with other measures to assess the level of demand
  • relies on the users being able to relate their subject-specialist knowledge to the underlying features of the CRAS dimension scales.

The CRAS framework (Pollitt, Hughes, Ahmed, Fisher-Hoch and Bramley, 1998) is an adaptation of an earlier scale of cognitive demand (Edwards and Dall’Alba, 1981). CRAS was originally developed at UCLES (now known as Cambridge Assessment) specifically to examine the effects of question structure on demands in GCSE and A Level examination items.

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Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.