A Table of Specifications is a blueprint for an objective selected response assessment. The purpose is to coordinate the assessment questions with the time spent on any particular content area, the objectives of the unit being taught, and the level of critical thinking required by the objectives or state standards. The use of a Table of Specifications is to increase the validity and quality of objective type assessments. The teacher should know in advance specifically what is being assessed as well as the level of critical thinking required of the students.
Tables of Specifications are created as part of the preparation for the unit, not as an afterthought the night before the test. Knowing what is contained in the assessment and that the content matches the standards and benchmarks in level of critical thinking will guide learning experiences presented to students. Students appreciate knowing what is being assessed and what level mastery is required.
Any question on an assessment should require students to do three things: first, access information on the topic of the question.
Second, use that knowledge to complete critical thinking about the information. Third, determine the best answer to the question asked on the assessment.
The left hand column is the specific content areas taught in the unit. For example, the content of a math unit could be whole numbers and decimals, addition and subtraction, numerical form, and expanded form. These are the areas of content taught and should match the state standards and benchmarks listed for the unit.
Column two of the table is a summary of the number of questions for each content area and is completed after the questions have been written or determined in advance based on classroom instruction devoted to each content area.
Column three is the percent of questions devoted to each content area. This is calculated by taking the number of questions per area and dividing by the number of questions on the entire test. Columns 4-9 are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The question number is listed in the column and row that best describes the content and level of critical thinking required to answer the question. For example, the whole numbers and decimals row may have 4 questions, 11% of the total questions on the assessment. Questions 1, 2, 3 on the test may deal with addition and subtraction as a simple memory or knowledge level. Question 35, however, may require the student to synthesize information in the question in order to determine the best answer. Question 35 is a more difficult question.
Textbook provided assessments or teacher made assessments should be analyzed by a Table of Specifications. Textbook assessments may stress areas of content the teacher does not address with the same importance the text does. The assessment may not match the time and level of thinking required by the teacher. A Table of Specifications can help prevent this. It is possible the level of critical thinking required by a textbook test does not match that required by state standards. Teachers should analyze assessments carefully and match those assessments with state standards and what was actually presented in class.