Let's get back to Item One:
1. Which energy transformation results in food for a plant?
a. light to heat
b. chemical to kinetic
c. kinetic to sound
d. light to chemical
It needs some guidance. If we're going to leave it in this sort of format, the answer choices have to be reworked. We have one pair that starts with "light," so we need another pair. Why? Because when a student sees two answers that begin the same, there is an automatic assumption that the answer must be one of them. We've taken what should be a knowledge-based question and made it answerable by using a basic test-taking strategy. So, let's rewrite the answer choice currently in position "c," then put the pairs together. The item stem could also be wordsmithed a bit. How about Which energy transformation creates food for a plant? Let's keep it simple.
1. Which energy transformation creates food for a plant?
a. light to heat
b. light to chemical
c. chemical to kinetic
d. chemical to light
Much better. As items go, this one has a low cognitive demand. Most states use Webb's Depth of Knowledge to categorize items---not Bloom's Taxonomy. Why? Because Webb's version is meant to distinguish among tasks. Bloom did not design his system as a hierarchy---it's not meant to be used to look at difficulty and rigor. So, as we look at the Item One, we would categorize it as having a cognitive complexity equivalent to Level One. The kid could get by answering this using basic recall. Could we increase the cognitive demand? Sure. Just flip around the construction---ask Where could the transformation of light to chemical energy occur? and then carefully pick our answer choices. In that case, a student has to know the transformations which could happen for each of the selections as well as what happens in a plant, then put the information together. However, for the purposes of these posts, we'll stick with what we see above.
Let's not forget Item Two:
2. Plants transform light energy into ________.
An item writer has the responsibility to list as many terms as possible that a student might put in the blank which could be correct, such as "sugar" or "food."
At this point, the items enter a deeper development process. Other item writers will provide feedback. Content specialists will fuss with it. The items will be pooled together with other items and go to a committee which will review them again for content and structure. An item can "die" at any point along the way. Perhaps there are already plenty of items for that standard. Maybe some items are better constructed. It could be that the cognitive demand doesn't suit the needs of the test bank. Sometimes, there is a turd that you can't polish, no matter how hard you try. Just like how a Bill has a journey to become a Law, our lowly items have a number of events to navigate.
Assuming that these two items make it through the weeks of revision and review, they go into a provisional test bank and await their fate in a pilot process. More on that in Part III.