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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Digitally Based Assessments (DBA)

As computers and digital tools play an increasingly important role in today's classrooms, the National Assessment of Educat​ional Progress (NAEP) is advancing with digitally based assessments (DBAs) to measure what the nation's students know and can do. Since 2001, NAEP has been exploring new testing methods and item types that reflect the growing use of technology in education.

What's Happening Now?

The NAEP program is in the midst of transitioning all of its assessments to digitally based content ​and delivery. Beginning in 2017, the NAEP mathematics, reading, and writing assessments will be administered to students throughout the nation on NAEP-provided tablets. Additional subjects will be administered on tablets in 2018 and 2019.

​​NAEP is taking a phased approach to this transition to digitally based assessments:

The DBAs administered in 2015 and beyond will use the latest technology available. Some questions may include multimedia such as audio and video. Other questions may allow the use of embedded technological features (such as an onscreen calculator) to form a response.

NAEP is using the latest technology available to deliver assessments to students, and as technology evolves, so will the nature of delivery of the DBAs.

DBA Tutorials

The transition of NAEP assessments from pencil and paper to touch-screen tablets incorporates cutting-edge learning technologies. At the beginning of each assessment, students will take a brief interactive tutorial designed to teach students about the system and the tools they use to take the assessment. Some of the on-screen interactive tools may be familiar to students, while others may be unique to the NAEP assessment. Each assessment begins with a short tutorial that demonstrates these tools so that students may use them effectively during the assessment. Some parts of the tutorials are the same across subjects, while other parts are specific to each subject. For example, because mathematics uses different tools at each grade, there are different tutorials for each grade in mathematics.

You can now experience the same tutorial, either by tablet or computer, shown to students at the beginning of a NAEP assessment.

NAEP 2016​

Tutorials for the 2016 assessments are available through the link below, following an introductory video. You can access five subject- and grade level-specific tutorials.

eNAEP 2016 Tutorial 

NAEP 2015

Videos of the tutorials for the 2015 mathematics, reading, and science assessments are available at the links below. The videos of the tutorials are not interactive. Instead, the videos show someone taking the tutorial, including touching the screen, as depicted by a virtual hand.​
​​ ​
Mathematics Grade 4 Mathematics grade 8 Mathematics grade 12 Reading grades 4, 8, 12 ​​Science grades 4, 8, 12

What can schools and students expect when participating in DBAs?

​​During testing, all necessary equipment (tablets, ear buds, and administrative equipment) will be provided by NAEP. The only resources a school will need to provide will be space, desks or tables, and electricity. Students wil​l be provided a tutorial that will help them understand how to use the equipment and tools and enter their responses. Non-cognitive questionnaires that record the learning experiences of students will also be administered to students on tablets.

  • ​See the tutorial developed for the Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) assessment.
  • See the ​​TEL questionnaire​PDF File (1,236 KB)​​ that was given to students on laptops in 2014.

Technology allows more students than ever to participate in NAEP because of universal design features for accessibility. DBAs will feature tools such as zooming and text-to-speech, where appropriate by subject. These tools will provide students with disabilities and English language learners the support they may need.​

​Learn About NAEP's Innovative Assessments

Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) Assessment

In 2014, the computer-based Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) assessment was administered​​ for the first time. Students were challenged to work through computer simulations of real-world situations they might encounter in their everyday lives. New types of assessment questions were used in TEL, including short answer, multiple-choice, and scenario-based tasks. Simulations were presented as interactive, multimedia scenario-based tasks set in a variety of problem-solving contexts. In each scenario, students performed a variety of actions using a diverse set of tools to solve problems and meet goals. The tasks helped assessment specialists monitor and collect data about student actions as the students interacted with the tasks. Explore one of the TEL tasks, or view the TEL tutorial.

Writing Computer-Based Assessment (WCBA)

The NAEP writing assessment, administered in 2011 at grades 8 and 12, included multimedia as well as word processing tools. The assessment included 22 writing tasks at grade 8 and 22 tasks at grade 12. Writing tasks were presented to students in a variety of ways, including text, audio, photographs, video, or animation on the computer. Students composed their responses on laptop computers.

​Students were randomly assigned two writing tasks and had 30 minutes to complete each of the tasks. Before being presented with the first task, students were shown a tutorial to familiarize them with the way material is presented on the computer screen and show them how to use the custom-developed software program provided in the assessment. Students completed their writing tasks on laptop computers provided by NAEP, using software similar to common word-processing programs. See what tools were used in the 2011 computer-based writing assessment

​In addition, NAEP conducted a study of computer-based writing at grade 4 in 2012. Lessons learned from this study provide insights into some of the challenges that were encountered and solutions that were applied for the administration. Find out what lessons were learned from the administration of the grade 4 writing computer-based assessment.​

Science Interactive Computer Tasks (ICTs)

In 2009, interactive computer tasks (ICTs), or scenario-based tasks, were administered as part of the science assessment. ICTs challenge students to solve scientific problems and perform experiments, often by simulation. They provide students more opportunities than a paper-and-pencil assessment to demonstrate skills involved in doing science without many of the logistical constraints associated with a natural or laboratory setting. Explore the science ICTs.

Early Research

From 2001 to 2003, NAEP conducted early research on using technology to assess mathematics, writing, and problem solving. The project was designed to explore the use of technology, especially the use of the computer, as a tool to enhance the quality and efficiency of educational assessments. 

Read more about the three field investigations in NAEP's Digital-Based Assessment Project:


Last updated 22 January 2016 (DS)