CCEA Adaptive Assessment

CCEA Adaptive Assessments


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What are CCEA Adaptive Assessments?

CCEA is developing and piloting online literacy and numeracy assessments bespoke to the Northern Ireland Curriculum. We have designed these adaptive diagnostic assessments to be a useful educational tool for schools to support and inform teaching and learning. The assessments adjust to individual ability, maximising equality of access for all pupils, including those with special educational needs (SEN).

A key focus of the pilot is the development of a range of outcomes and reports, which will include standardised scores, percentiles, stanines and detailed individual diagnostic reports on pupils’ strengths and areas for development. This detailed data is intended to inform teaching and learning, school evaluation and the monitoring of progress over time.

This year, the assessments are available to pupils in Year 8 and Year 10. Assessments may be available for other year groups and key stages in the future. We will continue to work closely with schools to further develop and refine these assessments to best meet schools’ needs.

What do they assess?

CCEA Adaptive Assessments align to the Northern Ireland Curriculum and assess pupils’ understanding and skills across the key aspects of:

  • Literacy: Reading and Writing (grammar, punctuation and spelling)
    Listening items are in development and will be available in future pilot stages.
  • Numeracy: Number, Algebra, Shape, Space and Measures, and Handling Data
    Where possible, test items incorporate problem solving.

Why use adaptive assessments?

Adaptive assessments give pupils a personalised and tailored test experience. The assessments adjust on a question-by-question basis, increasing or decreasing in difficulty depending on whether a pupil answers a question correctly or incorrectly. This also means each individual pupil is likely to encounter a different range of questions.

Compared to linear assessments, the key benefits of adaptive assessments are that they can be:

  • flexible;
  • efficient;
  • motivating;
  • accurate;
  • targeted; and
  • secure.

Outcomes and Reports

CCEA Adaptive Assessments give teachers both numeric and diagnostic information. Outcomes and reports will be available after each pupil assessment is completed.

Outcomes and reports developed from the pilots are intended to help schools to identify individual pupils’ strengths and areas for improvement, plan learning and teaching, set targets, monitor progress and establish a baseline for pupil performance.

The assessment outcomes and reports we are currently developing include:

  • standardised score;
  • percentile;
  • stanine; and
  • diagnostic reports – providing information specific to the assessment content and a pupil’s individual pathway through the assessment.

2019/20 Pilot

During the last large-scale pilot prior to the COVID-19, nearly 20,000 pupils across 110 schools piloted CCEA Adaptive Assessments. The pilots covered all board areas and school types (including Irish Medium and SEN).

From the start of this pilot, we worked in partnership with schools to ensure that we developed the adaptive assessments to best meet schools’ needs.

Pilot findings have been very positive and strongly suggest that schools believe there is value in providing adaptive educational tools to support and inform teaching and learning. Teachers considered the key benefits of these assessments to be:

  • cohesion with the Northern Ireland Curriculum;
  • accessibility to all pupils (including SEN);
  • the provision of automated outcomes and reports; and
  • a limited impact on teacher workload.

Pilot Feedback

‘The Key Stage 3 numeracy test is a great idea being developed. The information that will be provided back to schools is going to be very beneficial and useful to teachers, pupils and parents. It provides information on topics pupils will need to work on.’

‘Innovative – a total update on Key Stage 3 testing. In my opinion, badly needed.’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the literacy pilot scheme. I found the range of questions very accessible to my students. The layout was excellent, font worked well, ability range excellent, computer test excellent. Kids loved it. Thanks!’

What is the purpose of the 2021/22 pilot?

This year, CCEA Adaptive Assessments for literacy and numeracy will be available to Year 8 and Year 10 pupils.

A critical aspect of the pilot is to obtain feedback from schools.  Such feedback is essential in contributing towards a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of the assessments and will be used to inform and prioritise future changes to these assessments.  During the pilot teachers will be invited to complete an evaluation and participate in an online review meeting. A short pupil survey is also available at the end of the assessment.

New Developments

In response to feedback from schools, CCEA has made further improvements to the assessments.  The main improvements are summarised below.

  • Greater integration between the assessment platform and MySchool:
    • single sign-on providing teachers and pupils with seamless access to the assessments without the need for additional login credentials; and
    • automated transfer of data, previously schools were required to upload and submit .csv files.
  • SEN entry point for pupils working two to four years below their chronological age.
  • Availability of an optional text to speech facility in the numeracy assessment to support pupils with reading.
  • Greater number of question items at both ends of the assessment spectrum (starting at Q Skills Level 4 progressing to Level 7).
  • Reduction in assessment length from 50 minutes to 40 minutes. 


We have designed a scheduler app to allow your school to select which assessments you would like to participate in. Within the app, your school will be able to add key personnel, schedule your assessments and have access to a school calendar overview of bookings.

Main contacts within your school will receive an email with an individual link to a central school app. If you would like to be added to the key contacts list, please contact the helpdesk.

Help and Support

We have developed preparation instructions and FAQs to support you during the pilot.

We will update these guidance documents during the 2021/22 pilot; please check this page for updated instructions.