Book Review – CLEAR Exam Review

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Spring, 2008

CLEAR Exam Review
Volume XIX, Number 1
Spring 2008 (Reprinted by Permission of the Publisher)

Abstracts and Updates by George T. Gray, EdD, Director of Test Development, ACT, Inc.

Wild, C. L. and Ramaswamy, R. (Eds.) (2007). Improving Testing: Applying Process Tools and Techniques to Assure Quality. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 410 pp.

The summary on the back cover of this book states that “the primary purpose of this book is to demonstrate how proven quality assurance tools and methods that have been applied successfully in the manufacturing and service industries for the past 20 years can be applied in the testing industry. It … reviews how three business process concepts—standards, process planning and design, and continuous improvement—can be used to improve the way in which tests are designed, administered, scored and reported so that errors can be eliminated.”

This book consists of eighteen chapters and includes the work of twenty different authors. The book covers many different facets of the application of quality assurance concepts to testing. Chapters include:

  1. The risks and costs of poor quality in testing (Wild)
  2. A framework for testing industry quality improvement (Ramaswamy)
  3. Leadership in testing (Smith)
  4. Standards in the testing industry (Wild and Knapp)
  5. The value of accreditation (Bauer)
  6. An international case study of accreditation (Kronvall)
  7. Accreditation in the certification and licensure sector of the testing industry: current status and future possibilities (Goldsmith and Rosenfeld)
  8. Quality systems for testing (Roorda)
  9. Designing error-free processes (Ramaswamy)
  10. Transitioning between testing contractors (DePascale)
  11. Department of education perspective on effective vendor relations (Turner)
  12. Project management and computer-based testing (CBT) implementation: a decision-maker’s guide (Albertson)
  13. Process management in the testing industry (Ramaswamy)
  14. Six Sigma in testing (Anderson)
  15. Using data forensic methods to detect cheating (Foster, Maynes, and Hunt)
  16. Detecting exposed test items in computer-based testing (Han and Hambleton)
  17. From independent to integrated systems (Dobbs and Kahl)
  18. Next steps in improving quality in testing (Wild and Ramaswamy)

As suggested by the range of topics covered in the titles, the book has “something for everyone,” but it does not provide a cookbook approach for quality improvement. Some chapters are more conceptual in nature and others focus on specific techniques of case studies. The reader has an opportunity to learn more about the ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 Standard as well as a brief overview of six computation methods for detecting cheating on tests (data forensics). Readers fond of summation notation, square roots, and moving item standardized residuals will appreciate the chapter on detecting exposed items in CBT.

Some of the most applicable content for the average practitioner in the certification and licensure arena centers on examples and case studies that are used in the chapters. It is important to understand what can go wrong in the testing industry (e.g., scoring errors or gap in contracts when transition testing vendors where no one is scheduled to do the work) or what it takes to achieve high quality. In the latter area, Improving Testing offers an excellent array of examples. The chapter on accreditation by Bauer provides specific details on how accreditation has added value for the certification offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Anderson lists a number of possible Six Sigma projects that might be undertaken in a testing company (the goal of Six Sigma being less than four errors/defects per million opportunities) and describes results of several actual initiatives. Ramaswamy describes some quality assurance processes that can immediately be used to quantify error rates and improve the quality of workflow. In summary, Improving Testing is a valuable addition to the reference bookshelf which covers a number of topics not well-represented elsewhere in the testing literature.

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