Exact and LASS 11-15 are quite different assessment tools. Exact is a suite of attainment tests. Because they tell the assessor where a student’s literacy attainments are compared with the general population of students of the same age, the results of Exact are helpful in identifying learning problems, but do not shed light on the underlying nature or causes of those problems. LASS, on the other hand, is a diagnostic assessment tool that gives information on key underlying learning skills such as reasoning, memory and phonological processing. This information can be used diagnostically in order to clarify the nature of a student's problems and to identify conditions such as dyslexia. For comprehensive assessment efficiency, both LASS and Exact should be used.
Exact has quite a wide range of application in addition to assessment for exam access arrangements, e.g.
a) Exact is appropriate for assessing students with specific learning difficulties in, secondary, further or higher education, or for teachers wishing to obtain a standardised objective assessment of literacy for groups of students from ages 11-24, or for individual students within that age range who have specific problems (such as slow handwriting, spelling or reading comprehension).
b) Although individual tests from Exact may be helpful in suggesting dyslexia, or may form part of a dyslexia assessment, this group of tests are not sufficient in themselves to make a diagnosis of dyslexia and are not designed for that purpose. Administrators who require a test that will screen for dyslexia should consider using LASS 11-15 (for the age range 11:0 – 15:11) or LADS/LADS Plus (for ages 16 and upwards).
c) Exact has two forms of equivalent difficulty – Form A and Form B. This allows for repeated assessment if desired, without undue concern about practice effects and without violating psychometric principles. The two forms can be alternated over time in order to record progress, e.g. in response to intervention given to students with literacy difficulties.
Bright students may have genuine literacy difficulties but are typically good at compensating so their literacy may well be above the normal threshold for access arrangements (standard score 85). But the JCQ AARA does not require an IQ score to be given, so measurement of IQ is not strictly necessary and that is why it has not been included in Exact. Similarly, JCQ AARA does not require a diagnostic label (like ‘dyslexia’) to be given, although information about this is often given under ‘History of need’ in Part 1, JCQ Form 8. If the assessor believes that IQ is relevant in a particular case, this information can be given in the ‘Other relevant information section’ of Part 2, JCQ Form 8. To assess IQ we would recommend using Lucid Ability.
JCQ AARA specifies that the assessments in Part 2 of Form 8, the Profile of Learning Difficulties, must be carried out by a suitably qualified Access Arrangements Assessor (see below: What qualifications do I need to assess for access arrangements?).
Part 2 is the assessment evidence which, together with centre evidence showing the normal way of working, is the key to making an application for a candidate with learning difficulties to have an access arrangement. The person carrying out the assessment then takes responsibility for selecting and administering appropriate tests, interpreting the results and recording the standard scores in Part 2 of Form 8. The assessor must sign to confirm that ‘the above information is accurate and that I carried out all the assessments in Part 2.’ The form goes on to state: ‘It is not acceptable for an assessor to sign if they have not carried out all the tests recorded in Part 2 of this form.’
These requirements apply whether it is Exact or any other test that is used.
You may be able to save some of the assessor’s time by a member of centre staff administering the Exact with students. Where students score within the average range, it may be appropriate to remove them from the list of those who need further assessment by the qualified assessor, although it should be remembered that Exact does not include processing measures that can evidence the need for extra time.
The program checks whether the student has devoted a reasonable amount of time to the reading comprehension passages.
If a student has completed the reading comprehension test in less than eight minutes the results should be regarded as ‘doubtful’, i.e. it is unlikely that proper consideration has been given to the answers, and hence the scores will be unreliable and should not (on their own) be used as meaningful evidence for exam access arrangements.
If a student completes the reading comprehension test in less than five minutes, the results should be regarded as ‘impossible’, i.e. the student has answered the comprehension passages so quickly that it is impossible for them to have given proper consideration to the answers, and hence the scores are not safe to be used as evidence for any purpose (see Section 3.1.2 of the Exact Manual for guidance on this).
JCQ Form 8 requires that, for each test used in the assessment, the ‘Test ceiling’ is entered on the form. Teachers are sometimes puzzled about this, because they are unsure whether this refers to a score or an age limit. The JCQ AARA states that:
The candidate’s chronological age must be less than the ‘ceiling’ of the test, unless no test is published for the candidate’s age. [JCQ AARA, 2019-20, section 7.5.8]
‘Test ceiling’ should refer to the maximum age for which the test has been standardised. In the case of all the tests in Exact, this is 24 years 11 months. So this is what should be entered on Form 8.
Occasionally, students older than 24 years 11 months need to be assessed for exam access arrangements. In this event, please see the answer to the FAQ ‘Can Exact be used to assess students over the age of 24 years 11 months?’
By way of further explanation, the term ‘test ceiling’ as used in psychometrics typically refers to the highest score that is obtainable on a given test rather than the upper age limit is the test. The term is derived from the concept of a ‘ceiling effect’, has been defined as:
“In statistics and measurement theory, an artificial upper limit on the value that a variable can attain, causing the distribution of scores to be skewed. For example, the distribution of scores on an ability test will be skewed by a ceiling effect if the test is much too easy for many of the respondents and many of them obtain perfect scores.” [Colman, A. M. (2008) A Dictionary of Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2008]
What this means is that when students score the maximum on a test (generally called ‘ceiling level’ or ‘at ceiling’) the test result may not accurately reflect their ability because there is no way of knowing whether they could have scored higher if there were more difficult items on the test. However, for the score test ceiling to be meaningful, one would have to also know what the student’s raw score actually was, in order to determine that it was below the ceiling. JCQ Form 8 does not ask for the raw score.
The initial version of Exact was standardised for ages up to 24 years 11 months; however, there are occasions when students older than this age need to be assessed for exam access arrangements. Examination of the research literature on studies of adult literacy across the western world shows that reading, spelling and handwriting skills are fairly stable over the age range 25 to 45 (see references below). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that norms for Exact word recognition, reading comprehension accuracy and speed, spelling and handwriting are unlikely to differ significantly during that time, and hence the norms for age 24 may be used for students in the 25 to 45 age range. When using Exact for students aged 25-45 you should enter their date of birth as normal so that the report will show their correct chronological age. The test will automatically apply norms for age 24, but these will still be valid across the 25-45 age range. On JCQ Form 8 you should enter the test ceiling as ’45:11’ and, if necessary, you should cite this FAQ answer as evidence that you are using the test appropriately.
The results from all the tests in Lucid Exact are based on standardised norms derived from a representative national sample, and are for the whole of each test. In other words, failing to answer all the questions in the reading comprehension test undoubtedly affects the outcome, but that does not necessarily invalidate the results.
By checking the time the student has devoted to the task and the number of questions attempted the administrator can determine whether or not the student made a serious attempt or not, and consequently how the results should be treated. If the time taken on the test was between eight and ten minutes then the result is will generally to be an accurate reflection of the student’s reading comprehension skills.
If less than eight minutes but not less than five minutes the result could be an acceptable reflection of the student’s reading comprehension skills but the administrator should to bear in mind that it could be unreliable and so further investigation will be necessary.
If less than five minutes the result is almost certainly unreliable, in which case the administrator would be well advised to repeat this test having provided appropriate guidance to the student regarding how the test should properly be attempted (see Section 3.1.2 of the Lucid Exact Administrator’s Manual for further advice on this matter).