Essay tests are a type of constructed-response assessment in which test-takers display skills and knowledge by writing responses to an assigned task, question, or prompt. Instead of selecting answers to multiple-choice questions, the test-taker may be required to present an opinion on an issue, explain a chemical process, describe a scene in a foreign language, present conclusions drawn from a set of economic data, write a narrative, or demonstrate other skills and understandings in writing. The tasks may be simple or highly complex, discrete or multiphased; the response format may vary from a paragraph to a letter, a multiparagraph essay, a proposal, and so on.

For centuries, essay testing was the primary form of assessment. But with an emphasis on statistical rigor and the advent of ...

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