PAT Adaptive

PAT Reading Adaptive and PAT Maths Adaptive assessments have been developed to provide richer and more accurate diagnostic information about students’ achievement and needs, while also reducing the administration burden on educators.

The following topics are covered in this article:

These articles provide more information about using PAT to assess achievement in these specific learning areas:

Benefits and features of computer adaptive testing

For an assessment to produce valuable information about students’ abilities, it needs to be able to demonstrate what students can do and understand, as well as what they cannot yet do and understand.

When a student can answer around 50% of the questions correctly, the test is well targeted and provides considerable information about the skills a student is demonstrating, and those she or he is still developing.

In conventional linear assessments, all students in a group respond to a test containing the same items. Differences in students’ abilities mean that those items are likely to be suitably challenging for some students, but too easy or too difficult for others. Tests that are too easy or too difficult may reduce student engagement and fail to identify what students can do or to highlight areas of need.

Computer adaptive assessments, such as PAT Maths Adaptive and PAT Reading Adaptive, use students’ responses to actively determine the content as they progress through the test, resulting in personalised pathways. The result is a more engaging testing experience that produces a highly detailed picture of achievement, enabling you to more precisely diagnose student needs and target teaching where it is needed most.

How PAT Adaptive works

PAT Adaptive assessments comprise numerous testlets – small blocks of 10–14 items each – at varying levels of difficulty and arranged across three stages. When completing a PAT Adaptive test, each student will respond to one testlet in each of the three stages.

A student’s entry testlet – the first block of items the student sees – is automatically assigned according to their estimated ability. If the student previously completed a PAT test in the same learning area within the preceding two years, that scale score is used to determine a suitably difficult starting point. The student’s year level is also considered to ensure that the entry level contains content that is appropriate to the student. If the student has not completed a PAT test previously, their entry testlet is assigned according to their current year level.

After completing a testlet at each stage, students are allocated another testlet, the difficulty of which is based on their performance to that point. Importantly, the calculation of the next testlet's difficulty accounts for any changes made to previous responses. So an incorrect response in the first stage of the test may be changed to a correct response and this will be taken into account before the student is assigned a testlet for stage three.

This 'branching' mechanism is designed to elicit the maximum amount of information for estimating a student’s ability at each stage and across the test as a whole.

'Parallel' testlets at every stage and level mean that students completing a PAT Adaptive test in the same learning area for a second time will always be given different questions to those they have previously seen. Parallel testlets meet the same strand and difficulty requirements, ensuring that students are presented content at the appropriate level of challenge.

Accessible test content options (WCAG 2.1 AA)

PAT Adaptive features a dedicated ‘accessible’ option to support students who may otherwise face difficulties completing online PAT tests. Selecting this option after assigning the test will ensure that all content presented to the student meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA standards. There is no change in the way results from these tests are reported within the online system.

Selecting the ‘accessible’ option for a student’s PAT Adaptive test:

  1. Select the student’s name from the Students page
  2. Click Tests
  3. Click Edit accessibility next to the assigned PAT Adaptive test
  4. Select Accessible
  5. Click Save

The PAT Online Assessment Accessibility Guidance document provides advice for school leaders and classroom teachers administering PAT tests with students who have visual impairments or other considerations that may affect their ability to access test content.

The document provides detailed information about supporting students during testing, including instructions on the use of screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Students' testing experience

The structure of PAT Adaptive maintains students' familiar PAT testing experience with only minor changes.

The most significant change is that it is not possible to display the total number of items at the beginning of the test. The nature of adaptive assessment means that students will likely see different items, and different numbers of items, in their tests. The navigation bar at the top of the screen will expand to show the next group of items each time the student begins a new stage.

To reduce student anxiety, it is important to explain that there will be differences between students’ tests and to assure them that they will all have enough time to attempt their questions.


The brand new ACER Data Explorer has been launched to support the PAT Adaptive assessments and to make it easier to get the most from your students' results.

The ACER Data Explorer reduces the number of choices required before viewing and interacting with your students' results data.

You can now select student cohorts, time periods and report types from the one location, rather than having to return to the Students page each time you'd like to generate a new report.

Invalid and missing results

Students completing Adaptive tests must view (not necessarily respond to) at least half of the items in stage three of their test in order to receive a scale score.

Adaptive tests submitted prematurely will be flagged as Invalid, 'Reason: Insufficient items viewed’.

Results from Invalid tests are not reported in the ACER Data Explorer.

From the Students page, these test may be re-opened to allow students to complete them:

  1. Click the student's name to open their profile.
  2. Click Tests to view their test history.The affected test will be marked Invalid.
  3. Click the three dots at the right of the test to re-open the test.
  4. The student may log in and resume the test.

Supporting documents

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