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Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing
Administering our tests
Our dedicated team conducts a broad programme of research to ensure the fairness and validity of our admissions tests for university admissions. Our research agenda is guided by key principles that underpin our approach to admissions testing.
We believe that taking an admissions test should have a positive impact for test-takers. The tests we produce cover a range of skills, including: critical thinking, data analysis, problem solving, communicative writing, and applying subject-specific knowledge in novel contexts. Our tests have been designed to ensure that the time test-takers spend preparing for the test will help to develop skills directly beneficial to their academic work on their degree course.
Admissions tests provide a snapshot of a student’s ability at the time of their application to university study. Our research shows that admissions test performance also predicts later performance on the university course.
Many of our tests focus on knowledge and skills that should already be familiar to students. For example, extensive research aligned the scientific knowledge elements of the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) with the knowledge and skills expected in typical school curricula internationally up to age 16. Some of our other assessments focus on broad skills, or behavioural styles that predict success in higher education and work, which are not always assessed discretely in school qualifications.
We aim to minimise the amount of new learning or study needed, to ensure that preparation is accessible to all test-takers. Our research into how test-takers prepare for our tests informs the free preparation materials and advice we provide.
The universities that use the tests we produce have input into our research programmes. We also fund research in partnership with these universities, to explore the impact of our tests in their own admissions contexts. We hold regular meetings with our stakeholder universities, to discuss key areas for research, review best practice in selection procedures, and consider the wider higher education admissions context.
We monitor the performance of our test items to inform our cycle of continuous improvement and ensure the questions used in the test are of the highest quality standards. Advanced statistical analyses are used to monitor the performance of different test-taker groups (e.g. gender, school background) to guard against any potential bias.
Trained teams of examiners mark the Writing components of our tests in a standardised process, where they are assessed for the consistency and stability of their marking. Each script is marked by two, and sometimes three, examiners to ensure the fairness of the marks awarded.
An admissions test is one part of universities’ admissions process. Our research encompasses wider approaches to selection, looking at key issues including: