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SAILS participants often ask if our information literacy assessments can be customized with additional questions. The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

The test questions themselves cannot be changed and no test questions can be added. The calibrations, scoring, reliability, and reporting all depend on having one set of validated test questions for all participants.

However, we do offer the option for participants to slightly modify two standard demographic questions and to create two custom questions.

Standard Demographic Questions

All test administrations have two standard demographic questions, class standing and major.

Shown to the right is a screenshot test administrators see when completing these standard Custom labelsdemographic questions. Test administrators can re-name class standings  and major labels to fit their institution. Another option is to delete class standings and majors that are not needed. These changes allow each test administrator to customize class standing and major labels to match the terminology used at their institution.

Creating Custom Questions

You have the option to create two custom questions of your own choosing. Each question can be up to 255 characters long (typically 30 – 40 words) and with up to nine responses of 40 characters each. In June 2014, the number of response options will increase from nine to fifty.

What kind of questions would you want to create? Perhaps you want to compare test performance among students enrolled in certain courses. Or you want to see if students who had prior information literacy instruction score higher than those who did not. We analyzed years’ worth of custom question created by our participants and discovered that most custom questions fall into these categories:


The Value of Custom Questions

Custom questions not only allow test administrators to learn more about the students taking the assessment, but they also make the data received more valuable.

By having additional information about test takers, administrators are able to slice the data in more ways in order to develop additional findings that can lead to positive changes in instruction. For example, by asking if students have received information literacy instruction from a previous course, test administrators are able to understand if these courses are having a positive impact on the information literacy skills of these students versus peers who have not received prior instruction.

Project SAILS is dedicated to providing valuable data to testing institutions and we have seen the addition of custom demographic questions provide additional value to those utilizing them. We hope that whether you are setting up your first test administration or your tenth, you find a way to utilize custom demographic questions to their full potential.

Ready to start? Register for a free account and begin your test administration today!

We’ve been fortunate to work with many great institutions of higher learning across the country since our information literacy assessment went into production. In fact, we even have a few institutions that started with us in 2006 and are still testing with Project SAILS today.

One such institution is Polk State College, under the direction of Bill Foege. We had the opportunity to sit down with Bill at ACRL 2013 in Indianapolis to learn more about how he has used our information literacy test at his institution.

As Bill shares, Polk utilized the cohort assessment within their nursing program to better understand the information literacy skills of its students.

In 2010, Polk began testing graduating students with the individual scores test at both their Winter Haven and Lakeland campuses.

Polk State College has utilized both versions of our information literacy assessment in order to collect different types of information – exploring the individual skills of students and determining the skills acquired by graduating students during their two years of study.

Learn more about using Project SAILS at your institution today!