What Is an Anchor Test?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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An anchor test is an assessment tool that is used to determine a person’s knowledge or cognitive ability. In this type of test, the same skill or ability is tested in multiple ways. This helps the assessor to determine whether the person taking the test has missed a question because of a gap in knowledge or ability or because of a mistake or misunderstanding of the test question.

Psychometricists are interested in the development of assessment tools that reliably test for a certain skill or ability. Though this would seem to be a simple concept, many tests actually test the subject's ability to take tests, interpret a question, or understand a concept that is unrelated to the test question, such as the unintentional testing of grammar in a math test. Psychometricists have developed anchor tests, in part, to eliminate the incongruency between what the test is designed to assess and what it actually assesses.


A person who takes an anchor test will be tested on the same piece of knowledge or skill in a number of different ways. The more effective of these types of tests go further than simply asking the same type of question with different wording and attempt to elicit a correct response in a number of different ways. In most cases, each skill is tested two or three times, though it is also possible to take a number of different tests that assess the same things. Anchor tests can then be compared to give a more accurate picture of a person’s knowledge or ability.

Many traditional tests used in both education and psychology are designed to reveal missing skill sets or knowledge. An anchor test is designed to find out what a person either knows or can do rather than what that person doesn’t know or cannot do. This is one of the reasons that each quality is assessed in a variety of different ways. A person may be said to be proficient in a specific skill or piece of knowledge even if he answers questions that assess that ability incorrectly.

The term anchor test may also refer to the testing of a boat anchor. Different types of substrate materials, such as mud, sand or rock can affect how well an anchor works. Testing anchors in various types of substrate allows a determination of how to best use an anchor in various environments.


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