Assessment Resources

 Typology of Instruments for Assessment in the First College Year

Randy L. Swing, Co-Director, Policy Center on the First Year of College & Bradley E. Cox, Coordinator of Research and Public Information, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 2005

This typology of Instruments for Assessment in the First College Year begins with a description of six different types of assessment instruments. The typology concludes with a list of instruments currently available in each of the six categories.

Pre-Enrollment/Baseline Data
These surveys are administered in high school, during the admissions process, or during new student orientation. Survey participants report their expectations, impressions, goals, and/or hopes for the college experience or they report their pre-enrollment behaviors and experiences. These surveys:

  • Provide baseline data - Who are our students at the point of entry?
  • Form gain scores when matched with posttests.
  • Provide covariates & controls for advanced statistical evaluations.

End of First-Year Surveys
Three assessment instruments, the NSSE, YFCY and CCSSE, were developed as part of The Pew Charitable Trusts accountability agenda for higher education. The NSSE and YFCY are designed primarily for 4-year institutions. Both survey students near the end of their first year in college. The CCSSE is designed for 2-year institutions and surveys a random sample of courses (so it is not limited to first-year students.) The NSSE is also intended for use with seniors. The YFCY survey can be used alone or linked with the CIRP Freshman Survey to form a pretest/posttest.

General Surveys of Student Behavior, Attitudes, Study Skills, Satisfaction, & Experiences
These surveys take a holistic approach by collecting information on a variety of college experiences and environments. Examples of topics:

  • “average time” spent on academic and co-curricular tasks
  • frequency of contact with peers, faculty, and staff
  • self-reported gains in knowledge and self-confidence
  • study skills such as time-management, note-taking, etc
  • satisfaction with college
  • life management skills (relationship with roommate, parents, partners, etc.)

Surveys of Specific Services/Units/Programs
These surveys deeply investigate a particular slice of the college experience with a series of narrowly drawn and specific questions about the full range of a given service, unit or program. Instruments may include demographic and self-report questions so that opinions can be disaggregated. Examples of available Instruments include those focused on:

  • academic advising
  • residence life
  • campus student unions
  • first-year seminars

Surveys of Specific Populations
This survey group also has a narrow focus, but these instruments primarily provide information to evaluate the experiences, satisfaction, etc. of a specific group of students across a range of services, behaviors, etc. Examples of sub-population instruments include:

  • adult learners
  • fraternity or sorority members
  • non-returning students
  • transfer students

Placement and Academic Knowledge Surveys/Tests
These instruments are designed to test academic knowledge and skills. Unlike opinion and satisfaction surveys, these instruments usually have a right answer and the student is judged on his/her ability to select the best (right) answer. Some instruments contain a mix of discipline topics, but it is more common for tests to be designed to measure one specific knowledge domain. The use of these instruments may vary depending on the timing of the test. For example:

  • Surveys given during new-student orientations are often designed to place students in the appropriate level of college courses based on knowledge at the point of admissions.
  • Surveys given in the sophomore/junior year may serve as formative evaluation of progress or be “gateways” to a major.
  • Surveys given in the senior year may serve as summative evaluation or as a posttest of institutional effectiveness.
  • In addition to knowledge testing, students may also be asked to self-report their gain in academic skills.

Instruments for Assessment in the First College Year: Sorted by Type

A. Pre-Enrollment/Baseline Data

  • Beginning Student Survey (Kuh, Indiana) - pretest to NSSE
  • CSXQ - College Student Expectations Questionnaire (Kuh, Indiana)
  • CSI- College Student Inventory Form A & Form B (Noel-Levitz)
  • CIRP - The Freshman Survey (Astin, UCLA)
  • Entering Student Survey (ACT)
  • Student Needs Assessment Questionnaire (ACT)
  • Survey of Current Activities and Plans (ACT)
  • Survey of Postsecondary Plans (high school version) - (ACT)
  • TCI - Transition to College Inventory (Old Dominion)

B. End of First-Year Surveys

  • College Student Report - NSSE - National Survey of Student Engagement (Kuh, Indiana)
    *also a survey of seniors
  • CCSSE - Community College Survey of Student Engagement -(McClenney, Univ. of Texas)
  • Your First College Year (Sax, UCLA) -- posttest to CIRP

C. General Surveys (Behavior, Attitudes, Study Skills, Satisfaction, & Experiences)

  • College Outcomes Survey (ACT)
  • CSEQ - College Student Experiences Questionnaire (Kuh, Indiana)
  • College Student Needs Assessment Survey-(ACT)
  • CSS - College Student Survey (Astin, UCLA)
  • CSFI- College Success Factors Index (Ombudsman Press)
  • CCSEQ - Community College Student Experiences Questionnaire (Murrell, Memphis)
  • EQ-i - Emotional Quotient Inventory (Multi-Health Systems, Inc)
  • Faces of the Future (ACT/American Association of Community Colleges)
  • Institutional Priorities Survey - 4-year & Com College/Jr. College versions (Noel-Levitz)
  • LASSI - Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (Weinstein)
  • PEEK -Perceptions, Expectations, Emotions, and Knowledge about Campus (Weinstein)
  • RSVP - Student Retention Survey - (Harris International) 4-year version, 2-year version
  • SACQ - Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (Western Psychological Services)
  • SDTLA - Student Development Task and Lifestyle Assessment (Appalachian State Univ)
  • Student Opinion Survey - (ACT)
  • SSI - Student Satisfaction Inventory (Noel-Levitz) 4-year, Jr. college, 2-year
  • Survey of Student Opinions (ACT)

D. Surveys of Specific Services/Units/Programs

  • ACUHO-I Resident Assessment (EBI & Association of College and University Housing Officers International)
  • College Student Unions (EBI & Association of College Unions International)
  • Developmental Advising Inventories (DAI)
  • Financial Aid Services - (ACT)
  • FYI - First Year Initiative benchmarking (EBI)
  • Survey of Academic Advising - (ACT)

E. Surveys of Specific Populations

  • Adult Learner Needs Assessment Survey (ACT)
  • Adult Student Priorities Survey (Noel-Levitz)
  • Fraternity Survey and Sorority Survey (EBI)
  • Transfer Student Questionnaire (Laanan, Iowa State)
  • Withdrawing/Non returning Student Survey (short & long forms) (ACT)

F. Placement and Academic Knowledge Surveys/Tests

  • Academic Profile (long & short forms) (ETS)
  • Accuplacer & Companion (College Board)
  • California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (California Academic Press)
  • California Critical Thinking Skills Test (California Academic Press)
  • CLA - Collegiate Learning Assessment (RAND's Council for Aid to Education)
  • CollegeBASE (Missouri)
  • College Placement Test (College Board, CPT)
  • Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP)
  • Cornell Critical Thinking Test (Critical Thinking Press & Software)
  • Criterion (ETS)
  • ICT Literacy Assessment (Information and Literacy Technology) (ETS)
  • Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Psychological Corp.)

G. Admissions Tests & Research Services

  • ACT
  • SAT

For details about these instruments, explore our assessment instrument database by clicking here. index.php