QTI 3.0 – All You Need to Know for your Digital Assessment Transformation

Kimberly Hulbert December 15, 2020
More than ever, organizations are making the transition from paper to digital assessment. To successfully implement digital assessments that enable the interoperability of assessment items and tests, it is simpler if there is a standard format for the sharing of test questions and structures, scoring information, the ability to interpret results, and ways to meet personal needs and preferences of learners. IMS Global Learning Consortium’s QTI 3.0 facilitates all of this, offering a more reliable and effective alternative to paper-based testing. Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) specifications have made an impact on digital assessment since its inception more than twenty years ago. QTI is an open format that specifies an information model and associated binding that can be used to represent and share assessment content between different learning platforms: item banks, learning management systems, and assessment platforms. The latest version is QTI 3.0 and was released in August 2020. QTI 3.0 expands on earlier QTI and APIP versions, consolidating them into a single specification with improved integration and accommodation solutions. Unlike previous versions, this latest update is based on simplifying the delivery of assessments with new formatting and behavioral expectations for interactions.  
How is QTI 3.0 different from QTI 2.0?
  1. Improved interoperability
  • QTI 3.0
    • Increase consistency of rendering assessment content
    • Shared vocabulary for standard presentation/display, including CSS for styling
  1. Updated to the latest web technologies
  • QTI 3.0
    • Full support for HTML5 and other web-friendly markup using web components
  • QTI 2.2
    • Basic support for HTML5
  1. Advanced accessibility capabilities
  • QTI 3.0: 
    • Streamlined and integrated APIP (Accessible Portal Item Protocol) & assessment accommodation features added to the full QTI specification
    • Better accessibility support incorporating W3C specifications and accessibility best practices
  • QTI 2.2:
    • Accessibility available through the APIP specification
    • Addition of Shared Stimulus as a standard interaction
  1. Expanded functionality
  • QTI 3.0: 
    • Computer Adaptive Testing natively supported to adjust to each student’s ability
    • Native support for Portable Custom Interactions or technology-enhanced items
  • QTI 2.2:
    • Better support for technology-enhanced items
    • Defined profiles for interoperability and certification
Structures used when developing a QTI 3.0 solution
Authoring tools
  • QTI 3 Assessment content is exchanged in a content package with the standardized structure of the assessment structures (including tests, sections, test-parts, shared-stimulus, items, metadata, usage data and stylesheet references). 
QTI Accessible Content
  • The needs of the assessment program are dependent upon the QTI 3 features that are used in the exchanged content – which correlates with the complexity of the interactions and content. 
Delivery System
  • The delivery system presents assessment content to candidates using QTI 3 for presentation of content, instructions for data collection, response processing, and scoring.
  • QTI 3 content is exchanged using the XML framework in standardized files, where candidate-facing content is represented using HTML and XML combinations. 
PNP (Personal Needs & Preferences)
  • Content files may also contain template information, feedback content, or additional dormant content for specific candidates based on their Personal Needs and Preferences (PNP). 
Markup Languages 
  • The QTI 3.0 Information Model is defined as an eXtensible Markup Language (XML) instance and bound by a set of XML Schema Definition (XSD) files. 
  • There is an increased emphasis on the use of HTML5 markup.
  • QTI 3.0 uses a subset of the complete HTML5 specification to maintain the interoperability of the content being exchanged.
  • QTI 3.0 utilizes classes where appropriate: for specifying styling information (presentation) rather than just increasing interoperability.  
  • QTI 3.0 allows for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) version 3 in content files to transfer the preferred rendering and behavior for test presentation. 
  • Given the complexities, certified QTI systems do not require the automatic acceptance of stylesheets. 
  • Some assessment programs may develop and require support for their own stylesheets at their own discretion as part of the negotiation scope of work.
  • QTI 3.0 allows MathML version 3 to be used directly within the portions of XML files that use HTML5 markup.
SSML & PLS Methods for providing pronunciation information in assessment content that could be consumed by Text-to-Speech (TTS) software (and by extension Screen Reader software):
  • PLS
  • SSML
Accessibility of QTI 3.0
  • QTI 3 achieves accessibility primarily through the use of W3C web accessibility standards, including selected HTML5 elements, WAI-ARIA 1.0, SSML 1.1, and PLS 1.0), and the use of a QTI 3 feature called “catalog” referencing.
  • QTI 3 uses a feature called “catalogs” to provide additional content for specific supports which can be activated for specific users.
  • QTI 3 is capable of using candidate profiles to offer assessment presentation modifications for specific candidates. 
Certification of QTI 3.0
QTI 3.0 certification will make a declaration of: Certification level
  • Entry (Level 1): Requires all the features needed for QTI 3.0 systems or for generated instances of content from those systems.
  • Core (Level 2): Includes all of features and functionality of the Entry level, and adds additional conformance requirements.
The kind of systems seeking certification
  • Authoring: Asserts the system is capable of creating new assessment content, or modifying stored assessment content.
  • Delivery: Asserts the system is capable of providing QTI content to candidates for the feature requirements of the certification level or profile for which they have been certified, and may include the ability to combine candidate PNP data with the QTI content.
  • Scoring: Consumes QTI Content Packages and QTI Results Reporting data to allow for external manual or automated (Artificial-Intelligence based) scoring.
The capabilities of certification
  • Export: Asserts the system is capable of exporting QTI content and meeting the feature requirements of the certification levels or profiles for which they have been certified.
  • Import: Asserts the system is capable of importing QTI content and capable of storing (without loss of data) the feature requirements of the certification levels or profiles for which they have been certified.
The specific version for which they received certification As shown, enhancements in QTI 3.0  include: 
  • improved interoperability,
  • full support for HTML5,
  • increased consistency of rendering content,
  • support for technology-enhanced items,
  • and a shared vocabulary for standard presentation.
The release of QTI 3.0 will assist in meeting the needs of both test makers and test-takers with increased interoperability and accessibility. These new features and functionality of QTI 3.0 make it even easier to create and deliver assessments regardless of whether it is a simple or complex test structure. At Magic, we are a proud Contributing Member of the IMS Global Learning Consortium.  Magic has developed Smart Item Conversion frameworks where we can help process existing questions in QTI 3.0 format. Some of such workflows include Moodle XML to QTI, Quark to QTI, PDF to QTI, DOCX to QTI, GoogleDocs to QTI, XLS to QTI, EXAMVIEW to QTI and others. Our frameworks can help transform items into QTI 3.0, package them along respective Metadata and help ingest items/questions  into any Learning Platform/Learning Management System. Please feel free to reach out to our professionals if you have any questions about QTI 3.0 or need help with ingestion of questions/items on any Learning Platform.

Kimberly Hulbert

Kimberly is a seasoned business development professional with expertise in the K-12 educational technology sector, with experience in both large corporate and smaller start-up settings.