Accessibility Theory: Guiding the Science and Practice of Test Item Design with the Test-Taker in Mind

  • Peter A. Beddow
  • Alexander Kurz
  • Jennifer R. Frey


Test accessibility is defined as the extent to which a test and its constituent item set permit the test-taker to demonstrate his or her knowledge of the target construct (Beddow, Elliott, & Kettler, 2009). The principles of accessibility theory (Beddow, in press) suggest the measurement of achievement involves a multiplicity of interactions between test-taker characteristics and features of the test itself. Beddow argued achievement test results are valid to the degree the test event controls these interactions and yields scores from which inferences reflect the amount of the target construct possessed by the test-taker. Test score inferences typically are based on the assumption that the test event was optimally accessible; therefore, the validity of an achievement test result depends both on the precision of the test score and the accuracy of subsequent inferences about the test-taker’s knowledge of the tested content after accounting for the influence of any access barriers. In essence, the accessibility of a test event is proportional to the validity of test results.


Cognitive Load Test Event Item Difficulty Item Stimulus Cognitive Load Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter A. Beddow
    • 1
  • Alexander Kurz
    • 1
  • Jennifer R. Frey
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Special EducationPeabody College of Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Peabody College of Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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