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How to create a Table of Specifications (TOS) in 5 Easy Steps

 By: Argee Abadines

A document called terms of specifications (TOS) helps you plan out your exam. You can also call the document, table of specifications. It will make your test creation process more methodological and organized. Creating a solid terms of specification will increase the likelihood of you creating a test that is valid and reliable.

So how do you create a table of specifications

Step 1- Determine the coverage of your exam 

The first rule in making exams and therefore in making a document called table of specification is to make sure the coverage of your exam is something that you have satisfactorily taught in class. Select the topics that you wish to test in the exam. It is possible that you will not be able to cover all these topics as it might create a test that is too long and will not be realistic for your students in the given time. So select only the most important topics. 

Step 2- Determine your testing objectives for each topic area

In this step, you will need to be familiar with bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills. Bloom has identified the hierarchy of learning objectives, from the lower thinking skills of knowledge and comprehension to the higher thinking skills of evaluation and synthesis. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy has six categories: (starting from lower level to highest) - (1) Knowledge, (2) Comprehension, (3) Application, (4) Analysis, (5) Synthesis and (6) Evaluation

So for each content area that you wish to test, you will have to determine how you will test each area. Will you test simply their recall of knowledge? Or will you be testing their comprehension of the matter? Or perhaps you will be challenging them to analyze and compare and contrast something. Again, this would depend on your instructional objectives in the classroom. Did you teach them lower thinking skills or did you challenge them by making them think critically?

Your objectives per topic area should use very specific verbs on how you intend to test the students using the bloom’s taxonomy. For example, for the 2nd level which is Comprehension, verbs to use for the objectives would be explain or retell if it is in the context of understanding a story. 

For the cognitive level of analysis, verbs you can use for that taxonomy level is analyze, or show the relationships. 

It is important that your terms of specification reflect your instructional procedures during the semester. If your coverage on a topic mostly dwelt on knowledge and comprehension of material, then you cannot test them by going up the hierarchy of bloom’s taxonomy. Thus it is crucial that you give a balanced set of objectives throughout the semester depending on the nature of your students. 

Step 3- Determine the duration for each content area

The next step in making the table of specifications is to write down how long you spent teaching a particular topic. This is important because it will determine how many points you should devote for each topic. Logically, the longer time you spent on teaching a material, then the more questions should be devoted for that area. 

Step 4- Determine the Test Types for each objective

Now that you have created your table of specifications for your test by aligning your objectives to bloom’s taxonomy, it’s time to determine the test types that will accomplish your testing objectives. For example, knowledge questions can be accomplished easily through multiple choice questions or matching type exams.

If you want to test evaluation or synthesis of a topic, you will want to create exam type questions or perhaps you will ask the students to create diagrams and explain their diagrams in their analysis. 

The important thing is that the test type should reflect your testing objective. 

Step 5- Polish your terms of specification

After your initial draft of the table of specifications, it’s time to polish it. Make sure that you have covered in your terms of specification the important topics that you wish to test. The number of items for your test should be sufficient for the time allotted for the test. You should seek your academic coordinator and have them comment on your table of specification. They will be able to give good feedback on how you can improve or modify it. 

After their approval, it’s time to put into action your blueprint by creating your exam. It would be best to use a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel so you could easily modify your Terms of Specification in case you have some corrections.

Sample Table of Specification

You can visit this link to learn more

Reference: Seenu Atoll Education Center (reference material)


Argee Abadines is the founder and chief content engineer of The Filipino Teacher.

Currently in his third year of teaching, his interests include brain based teaching and educational technology.

Argee enjoys running and reading in his spare time.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this! I'm a teacher in training, and sometimes the complexity of the various materials offered by my school and state is a bit much to work with--especially considering how specific so much of it is, despite the necessity of flexibility and weight of personal preference in classroom procedures. This placed the process in easily digestible terms. I greatly appreciate it.

Thought you'd want to know, the image of your sample table doesn't appear to be working. I've loaded the blog in three browsers, to no avail.