The tests available on this web site were developed by a team of researchers in the Science Education Department of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The content of the questions is based on published studies of science misconceptions and the NRC National Science Education Standards. Research scientists in the specific content areas evaluated draft questions for scientific accuracy and the development team iterated revisions with the scientists until all comments were resolved. Subsequently, an educator with expertise in literacy reviewed the tests for readability and grade appropriateness. The project team then constructed pilot versions of these tests and administered each test question to 100+ students in the lowest grade level to whom the test would be given. For example, the middle school tests were administered to students in grades 7 and 8. After the pilot data were analyzed, over 1000 students in several grade levels took field test versions of the tests. Thus, the middle school tests were given not only to students in grades 7 and 8, but also to high school students. The result of these efforts for more than 10 years is more than 2,000 multiple-choice test questions addressing most of the NRC's K-12 earth science content standards. The team has developed tests that are available to educators at no cost for downloading from from the web as PDF files.
A detailed article on our test development methodologies and some of our findings, focused on development of the K–12 astronomy/space science items, but describing our overall process, can be found in the online journal, Astronomy Education Review.