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Test Development

Test Development & Design

Smarter Balanced is committed to an unprecedented level of transparency, so that anyone who is interested can see exactly how tests are developed and designed. On this page we provide materials used in the process of developing the Smarter Balanced assessment system.

Test Blueprints


The Smarter Balanced summative test blueprints describe the content of the English language arts/literacy and math end-of-year tests for grades 3–8 and high school and how that content should be assessed.

Developed with input from consortium member states/territories, partners, and stakeholders, the summative test blueprints reflect the depth and breadth of the performance expectations of the Common Core State Standards.

The test blueprints include critical information about the number of questions, score points, and depth of knowledge for items associated with each assessment target. They guide the development of questions and performance tasks, score reporting, and ongoing research.

Interim Assessment

Interim assessments allow teachers to check students’ progress at mastering specific concepts at strategic points throughout the year. Teachers can use this information to support their instruction and help students meet the challenge of college- and career-ready standards.

Smarter Balanced offers the following interim assessments:

  • Interim Comprehensive Assessments (ICAs) that test the same content and report scores on the same scale as the summative assessments.
  • Interim Assessment Blocks (IABs) that focus on smaller sets of related concepts and provide more detailed information for instructional purposes.
  • Focused IABs that assess no more than three assessment targets to provide educators with a finer grained understanding of student learning.

Guidelines and Resources

Accessibility Guidelines

The guidelines combine best practices that have guided the development of paper-based tests for many years with recent advances facilitated by digital-delivery of assessment instruments.

Content Specifications

Smarter Balanced has developed content specifications in English language arts/literacy and math to ensure that the assessments cover the range of knowledge and skills in the Common Core State Standards.

The content specifications serve as the basis for the Smarter Balanced system of summative and interim assessments and formative assessment support for teachers. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, former Smarter Balanced Senior Research Advisor, and Charles E. Ducommun, Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University, led the development of the content specifications in collaboration with experts in the field.

The Smarter Balanced Technical Advisory Committee, Consortium work groups, and the lead authors of the Common Core State Standards also contributed to the documents. Hundreds of organizations and individual stakeholders provided feedback during two rounds of public comment.

  • Explore Targets

    Use the Smarter Content Explorer to learn how test items connect to academic standards and assess a student’s knowledge.

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  • Q&A

    Read recommended questions and answers that will help you better understand and use the Smarter Content Explorer.

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