The Vocabulary test assesses students' breadth of vocabulary and is a useful indicator of overall verbal ability. At Levels 5 and 6, the focus is on listening vocabulary. Students hear a word, sometimes used in a sentence, and they choose one of three pictures. Levels 7 and 8 measure reading vocabulary. A picture or written word is followed by a set of written responses. At Levels 9 through 14, each question presents a word in the context of a short phrase or sentence. Students select the answer that has the same meaning as the target word. At all levels, words tested represent general vocabulary rather than the specialized vocabulary used in subject matter areas.
Available at Levels 5 through 9, the Word Analysis test assesses students' phonological awareness and understanding of word parts. At Levels 5 and 6, the focus is on letter identification and letter-sound relationships. All responses are letters or pictures at Level 5, while Level 6 introduces some word responses. Levels 7 through 9 also include basic letter-sound questions, but more complex word-building tasks involving affixes and compound words are introduced at these levels as well.
Available at Levels 5 through 9, the Listening test contains short scenarios followed by comprehension questions, all presented orally. The test not only measures literal understanding, such as how well students follow directions or visualize objects, but also the ability to make inferences, understand concepts and sequences, and predict outcomes.
The ITBS assesses students' capabilities at all stages of their development as readers. At Level 6 the Reading test measures students' ability to read words in isolation and to use context and picture cues for word identification. There are also sentence and story comprehension questions.
The tests at Levels 7 and 8 include a variety of reading tasks. Students answer questions about a picture that tells a story. They also demonstrate their comprehension of sentences and stories.
At Levels 9 through 14, each test consists of reading passages of varying length and difficulty. At each test level, there is at least one narrative, a poem, and one passage about a science and social studies topic.
Fiction, folk tales, an essay, biographical sketches, a "how-to" piece, an editorial, and expository nonfiction round out the selections. Some passages are excerpts from previously published works, while others have been commissioned for The Iowa Tests™.
Variety in the test materials makes it possible for students' scores to be generalized over a broad range of reading purposes and content.
Test items assess three types of understanding. Factual questions tap students' literal understanding of what is stated in the text. Inferential/interpretive questions require students to read between the lines to demonstrate their understanding of what is implied. Analysis and generalization questions require students to "step back from" the text to generalize about a passage's main points or ideas or to analyze aspects of the author's viewpoint or use of language.
The Reading Comprehension test at Levels 9 through 14 is administered in two separate testing periods of 25 and 30 minutes. By reducing fatigue, this two-session format increases motivation, helps maintain test takers' focus, and results in dependable scores.
To diagnose individual and class needs, the new Primary Reading Profile, available at Levels 5 through 9, combines information from all the literacy-related tests into a single report. Overall test scores as well as skill scores in Vocabulary, Word Analysis, and Listening are presented on the Levels 5 through 9 profiles. At Levels 6 through 9, Reading test scores are included, and Spelling scores are included at Levels 7 through 9.
The Language tests at Levels 5 and 6 measure students' understanding of how language is used to express ideas. Skills assessed include the use of prepositions, comparatives and superlatives, and singular-plural distinctions. Questions are presented orally as scenarios; students choose one of three picture responses.
At Levels 7 and 8, the teacher reads one or more sentences aloud while the students look for a mistake in either spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or usage. The items at these levels represent a bridge between the emphasis on oral language in Levels 5 and 6 and an emphasis on written language in Levels 9 through 14.
The Language tests at Levels 9 through 14 measure students' skill in using the conventions of standard written English. The tests constitute a thorough sampling of skills in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage, and written expression.
Separate scores are reported in each area, and detailed diagnostic reports of strengths and needs are possible because of the content coverage afforded by separate tests.
At Levels 9 through 14, the Spelling questions offer four words, one of which may be misspelled, and a fifth "No Mistakes" option. The Capitalization, Punctuation, and Usage and Expression tests present brief written contexts, asking students to identify which line, if any, contains an error. In the Usage and Expression test, students also read stories and are asked to choose the most effective way to express ideas, organize paragraphs, or write an opening, transitional, or concluding sentence or paragraph.
In accordance with the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the Math tests at all levels do much more than assess skill in solving numerical problems. The tests emphasize the ability to do quantitative reasoning and to think mathematically in a wide variety of contexts.
The tests at Levels 5 and 6 assess students' knowledge of beginning math concepts, focusing on numeration, geometry, measurement, and problem solving using addition and subtraction. All questions are presented orally; responses are pictures or numerals.
At Levels 7 through 14, there are three separate tests. The first is called Math Concepts at Levels 7 and 8 and Math Concepts and Estimation at Levels 9 through 14. This test requires students to demonstrate their understanding of fundamental ideas in the areas of number properties and operations, geometry, measurement, algebra, probability and statistics, and estimation. At Levels 9 through 14, the separately timed Estimation section tests mental arithmetic, number sense, and various estimation skills such as rounding.
The second test, called Math Problems at Levels 7 and 8 and Problem Solving and Data Interpretation at Levels 9 through 14, includes word problems that require one or more steps to solve. In many cases, students select an appropriate method or approach, rather than compute an answer. At Levels 9 through 14, several real-world "stories" form the basis for sets of three to four problems, each requiring somewhat different skills to solve. Levels 7 through 14 also include data displays such as tables and graphs. Students use them to obtain information, compare quantities, and determine trends or relationships.
Each problem in the third test, Math Computation, requires one arithmetic operation – addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. The problems require operations with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and various combinations of these, depending on the test level.
Students must work a problem and compare their answer with the choices given. The last answer option is "N," meaning the correct answer is "Not given."
At levels 7 and 8, all Math tests, except for the last portion of the Computation test, are presented orally.
At Levels 9 through 14, calculators may be used on the Concepts portion of the Concepts and Estimation test and on the Problem Solving and Data Interpretation test.
The Social Studies tests at Levels 7 through 14 measure objectives of the social studies curriculum not measured elsewhere in the ITBS battery. At Levels 7 and 8, all questions are presented orally, and students select a picture response. At Levels 9 through 14, a number of questions ask students to respond to materials such as political cartoons, graphs or charts on social data, timelines, or excerpts from historical texts. The content of the questions is drawn from the ten thematic strands identified by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and covers four broad areas:
- History — Culture, time, continuity, and change
- Geography — People, places, and environments; global connections
- Economics — Production, distribution, and consumption; science, technology, and society; global connections
- Government and society — Power, authority, and governance; civic ideals and practices; individual development and identity; individuals, groups, and institutions
The Science tests at all levels assess not only students' knowledge of scientific principles and information but also the methods and processes of scientific inquiry, in accordance with the recommendations of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). At Levels 7 and 8, all questions are presented orally and response choices are pictures. Included in Levels 9 through 14 are scenarios presenting real-life science investigations with questions emphasizing the thought processes used in designing and conducting research and in analyzing data.
The four major content areas covered in the Science tests are:
- Scientific inquiry — Methods of science; analysis and interpretation of data
- Life science — Structures and life cycles of living things; environmental interactions
- Earth and space science — Earth's composition and structure and its changes; the universe
- Physical science — Forces and motion; energy; properties of and changes in matter
Sources of Information
These tests measure students' abilities to use information resources and to judge their usefulness. At Levels 7 and 8, a single Sources of Information test assesses students' skills in alphabetizing and in using picture dictionaries, tables of contents, and maps. All questions are read aloud by the teacher.
At Levels 9 through 14, there are two separate tests: Maps and Diagrams and Reference Materials. In the Maps and Diagrams test, students demonstrate their ability to use visual materials such as maps, tables, charts, and schematic diagrams. Skills tested include locating information, interpreting it, and analyzing it in order to draw conclusions.
The Reference Materials test focuses on the skills and search strategies needed to obtain information from various sources. At the lower test levels, students are asked to alphabetize and to use a table of contents, while at higher levels note taking and using an index are assessed. At all levels there is an emphasis on strategies for gathering information and on the thoughtful selection of reference sources, including judging the quality of research results. The test has been designed to assess skills, such as the selection of keywords, that are important when using both electronic and traditional reference sources.