What is the definition of measurement? Experts’ Answers

You may ask yourself what Oscar is going to say about measurement. Yes….I have got you some practical (as opposed to dictionaries’) definitions of terms that often confuse many readers or students in educational and psychological domains. This post offers four definitions namely that of test, measurement, assessment, and evaluation. Scroll gradually and read how professors and educational researchers define those terms. Test is defined first, then measurement,  assessment, and evaluation are going to follow.


According to Mardapi (2008: 67; 2012: 108; 2017: 94), a renowned professor and educational consultant at Yogyakarta State University graduate school, (read him) a test is one of the instruments used to carry out measurement. It is a series of questions that have correct or wrong answers. He notes that all answers can be correct or simply part of them are correct.

Reynolds, Livingston, and Willson (2009: 3) give a broad definition of a test. They refer a test to any procedure or simply a device by which a sample of someone’s behaviour is obtained, then scored, and evaluated through some sort of procedural standards. Something clear about this definition is that test reflects a representative sample of a given behaviour a tester, teacher, or researcher is interested in.

Briefly, a test stands for a device or instrument used to carry out measurement. It is made of a series of questions that have either correct, wrong, or partly correct answers. Such a device is an accurate sample of a behaviour that a tester is interested in getting information about.

What is measurement?

According to Reynolds, Livingston, and Willson (2009: 3), in Measurement and Assessment in Education, measurement stands for any set of rules guiding the assignment of numbers whenever one wishes to represent a given behaviour, some attributes, objects, and traits. This means that whenever teachers want to have an idea regarding their students’ performance, assigning numbers to those students’ tasks is not a haphazard activity. Anyone carrying measurement/quantify learners’ performance/abilities/learning achievement has to stick to some rules in so doing.

Mardapi (2017: 4-5) in defining measurement adds another aspect not mentioned (this is what I love in browsing many sources, you should not limit YOURSELF here too) in the Reynolds, Livingston, and Willson’s (2009: 3) definition. He puts that measurement is a systematic assignment of numbers to determine the position or situation of an individual or object. Such number assignment is an effort, without or with least error, to have an idea about the characteristic of an individual or object. Measuring students’ performance in education should contain the least possible error.

A little comment on the “least possible error”. What? Worth commenting because sometimes the results from measurement are high stake. They are used to take decisions that can determine the course of one’s future. Say you take a test to work in the world bank, get a government funded scholarship in a edge-cutting university, etc. This has effects on people’s lives and it would be a really “high stake” test. Henceforth the act, process,  implementation, marking, and analysis of a test should contain the least possible error.


The most comprehensive definition I ever read  is that from  Joughin (2009: 14), citing the University of Queensland, Australia (2007). Allow me to reproduce it verbatim:

Assessment means work (e.g., examination, assignment, practical, performance) that a student is required to complete for any one or a combination of the following reasons: the fulfilment of educational purposes (for example, to motivate learning, to provide feedback); to provide a basis for an official record of achievement or certification of competence; and/or to permit grading of the student

Do you know why I liked this definition? It’s because it is very clear as it discloses the forms students’ tasks can take. Assessment can be implemented under the technique/format of  exams, assignments, practical tasks, and performance. It equally details that assessment has various purposes, i.e., grading students, keeping official record about their achievement, or certifying of their competence among others.

Mardapi (2012:12) defines assessment as any form used to collect data about individuals. The assessment then involves collecting data in various ways and then processing them into information about individuals. In short, the assessment process includes the gathering of evidence of the learners’ learning achievement, Wang (2011: 173). But this evidence gathering has to be systematic, that is, planned and structured.

This definition too hints that there are different “ways” (techniques) to carry assessment, which makes sense. By observing, distributing a form for learners to self-assess/self-report, getting them to say their perception or what should be done for everyone to succeed, etc one is carrying assessment.


Evaluating learning is also a term that most people confuse with assessment. Evaluation of learning is an activity aimed at determining to which extent an education objective has been attained. Evaluation in education is any judgement based on the measurement scores or any implication insinuated from the measurement scores that characterises a group or a program. So, evaluation lies focus either on the group or program and there is some sort of judgement in determining the success or failure of a given program, Mardapi (2017: 4).

For my readers who speak Fench it might be a lot confusing! “Évaluation” is an umbrella term for both test and assessment. But as you see, in English there is a huge difference and test, measurement, assessment, and evaluation have got each a clear boundary.

To be brief, to judge (evaluate) one has to get evidence. The learner’s evidence of learning achievement is obtained from collecting/gathering progressively and systematically information about their learning on chapter/term….1, 2, 3, etc. (assessment). Such learning evidence requires the use of various techniques (assessment techniques) among which tests, exams, practicum, performance (used in practical tasks like poem declamation, installing lamps in a hall, etc). To get evidence teachers sometimes measure (quantify the traits or behavior) and a test among devices used to measure.


I hope this makes sense. If you have an questions, feel free to send it to the author. At thegapbridger.net, we love to exchange knowledge and support . Whatever you feel you need in educational assessment, please feel free to contact us. Remember, your satisfaction is our interest and contributing to the domain of information and knowledge sharing is our career goal.

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