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Prescriptive Testing Options

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between prescriptive testing, pretesting, and diagnostic testing?

We have several types of pretesting:

  1. Lesson Pretesting: When pretesting is enabled, students take a 10-question quiz before each lesson. If they meet the passing threshold (set by the teacher/administrator), they do not have to complete the lesson. The lesson content, however, still appears in unit tests and cumulative assessments. Lesson pretests pull randomly from the quiz-level items bank. Note that pretesting uses up one of the student’s “fail attempts,” so if students are allowed two attempts on quizzes, the pretest will count as one. This means that if students fail both the pretest and the quiz, their teacher will have to give them another retake to let them take the quiz again.

    The rationale for including material the student pretested out of in unit exams is so as not to penalize that student’s grade for doing well. The student’s unit test grade will count toward his course grade. If we remove all the content he already knew and only include the content he might have found more challenging, we make the test much harder for him. It’s not fair to high-performing students to make their tests harder than it would have been if they’d known nothing.

  2. Prescriptive Testing: When prescriptive testing is enabled, students are given a big test at the start of the course, with one item for each lesson. So, if a course contains 92 lessons, the prescriptive test will contain 92 items. When a student answers a question correctly, the entire lesson is removed in the same way a teacher customizes out items in a course. It won’t show up in the student’s course map, so it will not appear in the cumulative exam. However, unlike pretesting, prescriptive testing relies on tagging by the editorial team. Each lesson must have one item tagged for the prescriptive test. (Generally, they select the item that best demonstrates a student’s mastery of the lesson content.) Because there is only one item per lesson, we generally discourage the use of prescriptive testing.

  3. Diagnostic Testing: Virtual Tutors employ diagnostic testing. This test contains three items per lesson, hand selected by the creator of the VT course (someone on the Customization and Alignment team). Students must get 2 out of 3 items correct to place out of the lesson. The same diagnostic test appears at the end of the VT course, as well, to benchmark progress. For this reason, students are not allowed to view the answers to the diagnostic test once they complete it.


Prescriptive testing works by generating an assessment that the student takes at the very beginning of the course. As such, it can only be enabled before the student has started the course. This assessment is generated automatically, selecting one question from each lesson in the course. If the student answers a question correctly, the corresponding lesson is automatically customized out of the course.

To follow the steps listed below, you will need to have "Edit Course Options" checked under School Courses. To validate your permissions, click here.

Please keep in mind that if a student guesses the correct answer, the entire lesson that corresponds with that question will be removed from the course. This can be particularly problematic with math or science courses, which commonly have linear subject matter that builds on the previous concepts.

  1. Under the Courses tab, select Manage Courses.
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  2. Find the course with the filters or the search bar.
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  1. Checkmark the course(s). Click Edit Course Options.
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  1. Scroll down to the Prescriptive Testing Options section. Checkmark the box if enabling prescriptive testing is desired. If enabled, state the time limit students should have to complete the test.
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    Prescriptive Testing will not work on eDynamic Learning Courses.

  2. Click Submit.  
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  3. A notification window will ask which students should be affected by these changes. Select a choice. Click Submit.
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  4. At the top of the page, a confirmation states the changes were made successfully.
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