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In assessment, there are two categories that most test items fall into which
are direct and indirect test items. Direct test items ask the student to
complete some sort of authentic action. Indirect test items measure a
students knowledge about a subject. This post will provide examples of test
items that are either direct or indirect items.

Direct Test Items

Direct test items used authentic assessment approaches. Examples
in TESOL would include the following
For speaking: Interviews and presentations
For writing: Essay questions
For reading: Using real reading material and having the student
respond to question verbally and or in writing
For listening: Following oral directions to complete a task
The primary goal of direct test items is to be as much like real-life as
possible. Often, direct testing items are integrative, which means
that the student has to apply several skills at once. For example,
presentations involve more than just speaking but also the writing of
the speech, the reading or memorizing of the speech as well as the
critical thinking skills to develop the speech.
Indirect Test Items
Indirect test items assess knowledge without authentic application.
Below are some common examples of indirect test items.

Multiple choice questions

Cloze items
Sentence re-ordering

Multiple Choice
Multiple choice questions involve the use of a question followed by
several potential answers. It is the job of the student to determine
what the most appropriate answer is. Some challenges with writing

multiple choice is the difficulty of writing incorrect choices. For ever

correct answer you need several wrong ones. Another problem is
that with training, students can learn how to improve their success
on multiple choice tests without having a stronger knowledge of the
subject matter.
Cloze Items
Cloze item involve giving the student a paragraph our sentence with
one or more blanks in it that the student have to complete. One
problem with Cloze items is that more than one answer may be
acceptable for a blank. This can lead to a great deal of confusion
when marking the test.
Paraphrasing is strictly for TESOL and involves having the student
rewrite a sentence in a slightly different way as the example below.

Im sorry I did not go to the assembly

I wish________________________________
In the example above the student needs to write the sentence in
quotes starting with the phrase I wish. The challenging is
determining if the paraphrase is reasonable as this is highly
Sentence Re-Ordering
In this item for TESOL assessment, a student is given a sentence
that is out of order and they have to arrange the words so that an
understandable sentence is developed. This is one way to assess
knowledge of syntax. The challenge is that for complex sentences
more than one answer may be possible.
It is important to remember that all indirect items can be integrative
or discrete-point. Unlike integrative, discrete point only measures
one narrow aspect of knowledge at a time.

A combination of direct and indirect test items would probably best

ensure that a teacher is assessing students so that they have
success. What mixture of the two to use always depends on the
context and needs of the students.