IF-AT testing – another interesting format for formative uses of multiple-choice questions

In the category ‘exotic uses of multiple-choice questions’ I ran into some information regarding the IF-AT mode of multiple-choice testing. The IF-AT mode is a specific form of testing on the basis of ‘answering untill correct’. What is IF-AT testing? According to Mike and Beth Epstein:

“The Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique, also known as the IF-AT, is an exciting and revolutionary new testing system that transforms traditional multiple-choice testing into an interactive learning opportunity for students and a more informative assessment opportunity for teachers.

Here’s How. Use of the IF-AT testing system enables students to be provided with immediate feedback about the accuracy of their answers to each question in a test/quiz/homework assignment, etc. as the students are completing each item. The IF-AT system provides immediate affirmative feedback (if a student’s answer choice is correct) and/or corrective feedback (if a student’s answer choice is incorrect).”

The interesting idea of IF-AT is that the system explicitely tries to reward partial knowledge. It does that by also rewarding points to test-takers if they do not answer a question correctly in first instance, but also in second and third instance. Of course, the number of points awarded decrease with the number of attempts. So if a test-taker answers a four-option multiple-choice question correctly the first time, 4 points are awarded. The second change is awarded with 2 points, the third with 1 point and finally 0 points are awarded.

The IF-AT testing mode works with scratch-off forms and that seems quite straight-forward. I would imagine that especially computer based testing system would be able to take advantage of this method. Of course, the iCMA system of the Open University does this and Sally Jordan writes a lot about that system:


But also Moodle has nice features to support this (thanks Liz!):


I do think this mode of testing is worthwhile for formative purposes. It can provide very interesting information to discuss subject matter ‘in ones own head’,  with peers and teachers. I think it helps  to correct misconceptions or students to become aware of for example subtleinterpretation differences regarding facts, concepts and procedures etc..

Now, I cannot really work out how such a testing mode would work in practice for summative purposes. The first problem lies in the fact that a test-taker is actually made aware during the test about his score progress (the running score can easily be assessed by a student). This has an effect on the answering strategies a student uses I think. Also, I could not find information on how to set cut-scores or how to deal with correction for guessing. The latter becomes somewhat more complicated of course using such a mode of testing.

Yet, I think this testing mode fits nicely with ideas for formative assessment using multiple-choice questions such as Quizzing, Certainty Based Marking, Concept Testing, Collaborative Testing, Gaming and Classroom Clickers.


The IF-AT website: http://www.epsteineducation.com/home/about/how.aspx

An informative Youtube video explaining IF-AT: http://youtu.be/efaC94CyMDo

A research article by Epstein, Epstein and Brosvic can be found at http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pr0.2001.88.3.889


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