Overview: Test materials

Test materials in TAO fall into three categories:

  • Test questions – or tasks – otherwise known as Interactions – which ask something of the test-taker
  • Resources such as media and text, used as supporting material for a test question or task
  • Assembled test Items which can be used in a test (and which contain either or both of the above)

The section Creating Test Materials provides an overview of these test materials. It shows you how to create test items,  as well as how to configure them, to preview them and to classify them. In other words, this section shows you how to prepare test materials so that they can be used in a test.

Note: Supporting material such as images, audios and videos need to be prepared outside of TAO, though TAO offers a way of storing and managing them in the Asset Manager. See the section Managing assets for information on managing assets in the asset manager. This section also includes a chapter on creating (text) passages in the Passage editor for use as supporting material. 

As test materials can only be used in tests when they have been integrated in test items, the remainder of this introductory section will have a closer look at what exactly an item is in TAO, and tells you where to find the information you need to construct items.


“An item is a set of interactions (possibly empty) collected together with any supporting material and an optional set of rules for converting the candidate’s response(s) into assessment outcomes.”

Question and Test Interoperability standard, published by IMS Global.

1. Creating items.

Items first need to be created before they are populated with the desired interactions and any further material required so they can be used in assessments. See Creating a test item for information on how to do this.

The interactions which can be included in your items are listed and described in the sub-sections QTI Interaction Types and PCI Interaction Types. Items may contain a single interaction (a simple item), or several closely-related interactions, all the same type or of a mixture of types (a composite item). Note that items contain interactions, but are not interactions themselves.

The supporting materials such as pictures and media (the second category described above) which can be included in your items are described in the sub-section Adding other content. You can include resources you have stored in the Asset Manager, or you can insert resources into your test items directly from your hard drive.

2. Making decisions about your item.

There are some decisions you will need to take during the process of creating your item, and which need to be configured whilst authoring the item. These are configured when at the level of the interaction – i.e. when inserting the interaction into the item. You can configure the following aspects of your interaction:

  • define how answer options are presented (to the test-taker)
  • place constraints on the answer a test-taker can give
  • give hints to the test-taker
  • give feedback to the test-taker
  • change the way the interaction is scored
  • limit the time allowed for responses

See the chapters in the sub-section Configuring Interactions.

For information on configuring the language of your item, see Item language. For decisions on the style of your item, see the Item Style Editor. To see the various possibilities for scoring the item, see the chapters on Scoring items automatically and Scoring items manually.

3. Item workflow and classification.

Before finalizing your item, it is a good idea to preview and test-run it. For more information on how to do this, see step 5 in Creating a test item. The status of an item starts as a draft, and goes through various stages before it is approved and can be used in a test. The chapter Item Status gives information on these stages. Finally, it can be classified as a certain type of item: the chapter Classifying items using metadata provides details on this.