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Digitally Based Assessments

  • NAEP Field Staff transporting tablets for digitally based assessments in Alaska.
  • NAEP digitally based assessment in the classroom.
  • Students participating in NAEP digitally based assessments.


Today’s students are digital natives. Their schools are usually equipped with computers, and digital tools are an integral part of the learning environment. To address the increased role of technology in classrooms, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is transitioning the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from paper and pencil to digitally based assessments. NCES is utilizing established best practices for NAEP to remain at the forefront of innovation for large-scale assessments. NCES is also exploring new testing methods and question types to reflect the growing use of technology in education.

NAEP digital assessments, which are administered on tablets or laptop computers, use dynamic and innovative technologies to provide an engaging assessment experience for students and more meaningful data about students’ skills and knowledge for educators. With digitally based assessments, students are asked to receive, gather, and report information just as they do in their everyday lives. These new assessments include universal design principles, making it possible for more students to participate without special accommodation sessions. The goal is for all students to have a seamless assessment administration, regardless of their ability. These goals and more are highlighted in the video below.

Experience a Digitally Based Assessment

Experience a digitally based assessment by watching the tutorials that are given to students before taking an assessment. In addition, view the sample questions and student responses from previous assessments, explore interactive tasks, and download the survey questionnaires that are given to participants of NAEP assessments.

Learn More

What's Happening Now

DBA Classroom Setup

Results of the 2018 NAEP digitally based assessments in civics, geography, U.S. history, and technology and engineering literacy (TEL) are being analyzed and will be reported on a national level in 2019. The civics, geography, and U.S. history assessments were administered on NAEP-provided tablets at grade 8 in the winter of 2018. A small number of eighth-grade students took paper-and-pencil assessments in these subjects to help NAEP evaluate any differences in student performance between the two types of administration. The NAEP TEL assessment was administered to eighth-graders on laptops in 2018. 

Select fourth-grade students participated in reading special studies or a science pilot assessment; some eighth-grade students participated in a reading special study or science pilot assessment; and some twelfth-grade students participated in a mathematics pilot assessment, reading pilot assessment, reading special study, or science pilot assessment. Results from these pilot assessments will not be released but will be used to inform future NAEP assessments. Additional subjects will be administered on tablets in 2019. Each student will take NAEP in one format and one subject only.

Transition to Digitally Based Assessments

DBA in the classroom

Since 2001, NAEP has been exploring new testing methods and question types that reflect the growing use of technology in education. NAEP has introduced a variety of new question and task types in the assessments to capture what students know and are able to do in more authentic or direct ways, including scenario-based tasks from the technology and engineering literacy (TEL) assessment, interactive computer tasks, and hybrid hands-on tasks.

In 2016, NAEP mathematics and reading assessments were piloted on tablets with an attached keyboard, a stylus, and earbuds and used new testing methods and question types. Some questions included multimedia, such as audio and video. Other questions allowed the use of digital tools (such as an onscreen calculator) to form a response, or engaged students in solving problems within realistic scenarios.

Research in the use of new technologies is ongoing throughout the introduction of digitally based assessments.

New technologies are improving NAEP’s ability to offer accommodations to increase participation and provide universal access to students of all learning backgrounds, including students with disabilities and English language learners. In a digital environment, what used to be an accommodation for paper-based testing becomes a seamless part of universal design, available to all students. That means that things like adjusting font size, having test questions read aloud in English (text-to-speech), use of higher contrast to improve readability, and using a highlighter tool are available to all students during the assessment.

Maintaining Trend

Maintaining trend lines (the ability to compare performance results from one year to another) is a priority. To do this, NAEP is using a multistep process to move from paper to digital technology to protect trend reporting. The process involves two stages of piloting before administering an operational digitally based NAEP assessment:

  • Stage 1. Adapt the paper-based questions for tablet delivery and pilot them in the same year as a main paper-based NAEP administration. Comparing results from paper and digitally based versions of the same assessment content will allow NAEP to establish a link between administration modes and help interpret performance trends across the transition from paper to digital delivery.
  • Stage 2. Develop new assessment questions and innovative question types and tasks that make use of digital technologies. This new digital assessment content will be gradually introduced into the assessment after first studying the effects of including these new items and item types.

Experience the 2019 Tutorials

En Español

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 take a brief, interactive tutorial designed to teach them about the system and the tools they will use to take the assessment.

The 2019 assessment tutorials are designed for a particular NAEP-provided tablet with a specific screen size. You may need to make one or more of the following adjustments in order to ensure an optimal viewing experience:

  • Please view the tutorials using a device with a 12-inch or larger screen.
  • It is recommended that you update your browser to the latest version.
  • While the tutorials can be viewed in most browsers, Chrome is recommended for the best user experience. Optimal viewing may not be achieved using the Safari browser.

Digitally based assessment tutorials.
Digitally Based Assessment 2019 Tutorials

Frequently Asked Questions

Explore frequently asked questions about the digitally based assessments. Download a PDF for printing.

Why did NAEP move to digitally based assessments?
How did NAEP leverage new technologies to measure and analyze the skills of a new generation of students?
What types of universal design features and accommodations are available in digitally based assessments?
Does NAEP have experience administering assessments using technology?
How are NAEP’s digitally based assessments set up and administered in schools?
How does NAEP address differences in students’ levels of experience with digital technology?
Why did some students take the NAEP mathematics and reading assessments in paper-and-pencil form in 2017?
What is the timeline for reporting 2017 reading and mathematics scores?
What special analyses are being conducted in 2017 to continue to report on student progress?
Have the NAEP frameworks and items changed since the test is being delivered digitally?
How does NAEP protect the personal information of students and schools?

Last updated 06 December 2018 (DS)