Tuesday, June 10, 2008

writing test items and passages

As a teacher I gave oodles of tests to my students every year. Some of the tests helped me teach what my students needed to know, and others seemed to have no obvious purpose except to satisfy the legislature. Once I began working as a freelance writer it occured to me that someone was paid to write these tests.

After looking around and paying attention to posts about writing test passages and items on the yahoo group NF for Kids: writing non-fiction for kids, I realized this was a job market for teachers and former teachers who like to write, and decided to find out more.

Test items and passages are written for test-preparation materials as well as actual tests. Continental Press , like many other publishers, creates materials based on state standards. Since each state has unique standards, they need fifty versions of their test-prep workbooks for each grade level. That's a lot of work for freelance writers.

Here are some companies that I have heard hire teachers and writers for test-prep and test-item work:

Measured Progress


Educational Testing Service

Data Recognition Corporation




Sometimes editors provide passages, asking writers to simply create test items to go with them. Most editors provide clear guidelines about how many of each type of test question to write. Some editors provide a template of sorts for the test items, and others give samples of the style they use. Sometimes writers are asked to write original passages and test-items to match. My experience has been varied.

Let us know if you've been hired recently to write test passages, test items, or test-prep materials. I'd love to send in a resume, and let others know where to find work.

Good luck with your writing!


otter said...

What you posted looks new to me. The only "test" materials I've written were practice materials for TCR. I wrote the passages (NF reading comprehension, informational reading) and questions. Wouldn't mind doing more at some point, but I prefer curriculum development.

The Mind Mentor said...

Hi Heidi:

I have written test assessment items for more than twenty years, most recently working a lot with Quarasan, but also with Word Wise, Harcourt, CTB/McGraw Hill and others. I did a teleconference series a few months ago for the National Writing for Children Center. The podcasts should be available online there.

Generally, I contact curriculum companies and send a resume/book list and samples. The ones that are interested then put me in their database of potential writers to contact when a suitable job comes up.

If you want to see a sample assignment letter and writing samples of this kind, go to my website, www.ritamilios.com and look in the writer's area.

Best of luck.

Rita Milios, LCSW, the Mind Mentor;
author, psychotherapist, speaker