PAIS Adaptive

PAIS Reading Adaptive and PAIS Mathematics 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:

Progressive Achievement for International Schools

PAIS Adaptive can be administered to students on-demand multiple times per year, with instant results available online. The tests enable teachers, parents and school leaders to longitudinally monitor the educational development of students in Grades 1–10. PAIS can assist educators in establishing the points that individuals have reached in their learning, in setting personal targets for further learning and in monitoring the progress that individuals make over time.

The PAIS assessments do not follow any single national curriculum. This allows students from all countries to be compared fairly. Each subject has been influenced by curriculum content found in the national curricula of UK, Australia, Singapore, USA and others. But the PAIS assessments are skill-based, not content-based and as such do not rely on specific content from the curricula. The tests require students to think about topics rather than just recall information, and to apply their subject knowledge rather than just remember facts. The PAIS program has a similar curriculum coverage with that of large-scale international assessments such as TIMSS and PIRLS.

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 PAIS Reading Adaptive and PAIS Mathematics 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 PAIS Adaptive works

PAIS Adaptive assessments comprise numerous testlets – small blocks of 10–15 items each – at varying levels of difficulty and arranged across three stages. When completing a PAIS 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 PAIS 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 PAIS 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.

Students' testing experience

The structure of PAIS Adaptive maintains students' familiar PAIS 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.


PAIS Adaptive utilises the new ACER Data Explorer. This is a powerful tool designed to facilitate flexible and interactive reporting of assessment results. It combines data visualisation and interactivity to enhance educational decision-making and improve student outcomes.

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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.

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