5 Golden Rules for using CEM assessment data

As the leading training provider for CEM assessments, we visit hundreds of schools and colleges each year and speak with thousands of teachers who use CEM assessment data. Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of places where CEM assessment data are used very effectively to help staff understand about student ability and adapt their teaching to ensure pupils make good progress. Where the data are used well, we can often boil it down to five ‘Golden Rules’ that schools keep in mind when reviewing and interpreting their CEM data.

  1. CEM assessment data are a supplement to professional judgement, never a replacement for it.

Whenever we visit schools or colleges which struggle with staff engagement around CEM assessments, the common denominator is often a lack of trust in the data. That’s why we’re always clear that CEM data are just another part of a ‘triangulation’ process – used alongside other forms of assessment to build up the broader picture of what students know and can do, and what the next steps are. You know the students in your school well, so use this knowledge to help interpret the data in that context. Use CEM assessment data as a tool to inform, challenge and support professional judgement, never as a substitute for it.

  1. Guard against over-interpretation of CEM assessment data.

No assessment is 100% accurate and CEM acknowledge this with confidence bands around scores. Think in terms of broad trends, rather than minute shifts in small numbers. Remember that the assessment itself is a snapshot of a student’s ability at a point in time, so we must accept that there will be a certain margin of error.

  1. Be sceptical if a student’s score seems too low.

We would suggest that the person responsible for the administration of the assessment makes notes about any circumstances on the day, such as if a student was unwell or upset. Therefore, if you see an unexpectedly low score when analysing the CEM assessment data, it may give an indicator that there may have been some other factor which might adversely have affected their performance. With a snapshot of a student’s ability being taken, you can occasionally discover results which seem to be unusually low for a student, so keeping an open mind is always a useful tactic.

  1. You can put trust in high scores.

Conversely, if you see an unexpectedly high score, you should put a good degree of confidence in the measurement. It is difficult to achieve a high score in one of CEM’s assessments without having the ability to do so. It’s not impossible, but it is very difficult!

  1. Don’t coach students for the assessments.

Finally, students should feel comfortable to ask procedural questions during the assessment, but avoid helping students to answer the questions. All students will see questions which are challenging for them, so encourage them to give their best guess if they are unsure of an answer.

The key to getting useful standardised assessment data is ensuring that the circumstances for your students taking the assessment are similar to those for students around the rest of the world.


We discuss these ‘Golden Rules’ for CEM assessment data and much more in our new online training course, which is included for ALL STAFF as part of our CEM support package. You can try a free sample of the course by clicking here, before you register for a year of flexible, ongoing support and training for you and your colleagues.

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