The Illinois Certification Testing System‘s Basic Skills Test is required for admission to any secondary education (high school, middle school) teaching program in Illinois. (Notably, I’m taking it today.) It has 126 questions:
- 48 Reading Comprehension Questions
- 42 Language Arts Questions
- 35 Mathematics Questions
- 1 Writing Assignment
So, nearly everyone taking the test has also taken the ACT (required in Illinois for high school graduation in most cases). On the ACT, these sets should take:
- 48 Reading Questions – 42 minutes (48 questions * (35 minutes / 40 questions)) [reference]
- 42 Language Arts [English] Questions – 25.2 minutes (42 questions * (45 minutes / 75 questions)) [reference]
- 35 Mathematics Questions – 35 minutes (35 questions * (60 minutes / 60 questions)) [reference]
- 1 Writing Assignment – 30 minutes [reference]
And yes, they’re about the same difficulty (see: PDF list of tested skills for ICTS Basic Skills Test and the ACT). Having looked through the materials for both, I’d put the ICTS Basic Skills Test somewhere around the middle of the ACT’s level of questions, if a bit toward the higher end in some cases. (I looked mainly at the math questions, but the same seemed to hold for the reading and English questions as well).
So, that’s about 132.2 minutes. So, just over two hours. Say 2.5. Except the ICTS Basic Skills Test gives twice that. 5 hours. To answer 125 questions and write a short (five-paragraph is fine) essay. That just seems wrong. And the Basic Skills Test also allows the person taking it to skip around in the sections as much as they like (so there’s no lost time in waiting for a section to end, which is effectively expected in the ACT).
(Notably, the ACT’s “Services for Students with Disabilities” gives time-and-a-half testing as their standard extended time solution. The Basic Skills Test default is more than time-and-a-half, and also allows time extensions for test takers with disabilities.)
Somehow, it seems as though the Basic Skills Test doesn’t really do anything. It’s effectively “easier” than the ACT for most (all?) students who got into a college, so adding it as a requirement makes little sense. A “passing” Basic Skills Test is 240 out of a scaled 100-300 score, with lower minimum requirements on each section. It’s unlikely to be scaled in the same way the ACT test is (which actually is scaled from 1-36 as far as I can tell, although few students score below an 11), but if it were, that would be equivalent to roughly a 24 on the ACT, assuming a quick Google calculation was correct. However, I would also say it’s easier to do well on the basic skills test, with the extra time and fewer types of questions, not to mention at least an extra year of knowledge.
Does anyone else see any value in this? I assume (but haven’t verified) that there are additional qualifications once one wants to actually get certified to teach (rather than simply to learn how to), so is there any reason for this requirement? I’m also not particularly happy that the website for such a supposedly impartial (and necessary) test is listed as “Copyright © 2009 Pearson Education, Inc. or its affiliate(s).”