Research and analysis

Reliability of assessment: compendium

Research papers published as Ofqual's 'Reliability Compendium' looking at the reliability of education assessment.

Documents

Partial Estimates of Reliability: Parallel Form Reliability in the KS2 Science Tests: Full report

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Classification Accuracy in Results from Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests: Full report

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Classification accuracy and consistency in GCSE and A Level examinations offered by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) November 2008 to June 2009: Full report

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Component reliability in GCSE and GCE: Full report

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Estimates of reliability of qualifications: Full report

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The reliability of results in vocational assessment: the case of work-based certifications: Full report

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A focus on teacher assessment reliability in GCSE and GCE: Full report

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Parallel universes and parallel measures: estimating the reliability of test results: Full report

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Conceptualising and interpreting reliability: Full report

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Estimating the reliability of composite scores: Full report

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International survey of results reporting: Full report

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Reporting of measurement uncertainty and reliability for US educational and licensure tests: Full report

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Full technical seminar report

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No news is good news? Talking to the public about the reliability of assessment: Full report

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Public perceptions of reliability in examinations: Full report

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Public perceptions of reliability: Full report

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A Quantitative Investigation into Public Perceptions of Reliability in Examination Results in England

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Final report of the Technical Advisory Group

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Final report of the Policy Advisory Group

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The Reliability Programme: Final Report

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Detail

Public exams have to be fair. It is Ofqual’s job to make sure that candidates get the results they deserve, and that their qualifications are valued and understood in society. Ensuring examination reliability is a key part of this - making sure that candidates obtain a fair result, irrespective of:

  • who marks their paper
  • what types of questions are used (multiple choice or essay questions)
  • which topics are set or chosen to be answered
  • when the examination is taken

This consistency of exam results is referred to as reliability: the repeatability of results from one assessment to the next, whether they are assessments taken on different days, or from one year to the next.

In everyday use, ‘reliable’ means ‘that which can be relied on’, but the technical definition in educational assessment is narrower. In assessment, the definition is ‘the extent to which a candidate would get the same test result if the testing procedure was repeated’. The technical definition of reliability is a sliding scale, not black or white, and encourages us to consider the degree of differences in candidates’ results from one instance to the next.