Publication Date



Test construction, Scholarships, Interdisciplinary approach, Generic skills, Cognitive skills, Test items, Writing tests, Humanities, Science tests


ACER Research Monograph; 66


This monograph is about the development of a distinctive style of cross-curricular testing that was developed at the Australian Council for Educational Research in the 1960s and 1970s, and is still in use in some testing programs presently. The impetus for this kind of test development was the decision of the Menzies government to award 10,000 scholarships each year for students to study at Years 11 and 12 through a test called The Commonwealth Secondary Scholarship Examination (CSSE). The testing program ran for 10 years, during which around one million candidates sat the test. This monograph attempts to demonstrate the view that the CSSE was a distinctively innovative kind of testing. It contrasted markedly with the paradigm of psychometric testing that was preeminent at that time, and continues to be a shaping force in generic skills testing. Many of the CSSE test items manifest a distinctive aim in generic skills testing, and many of the items required genuinely sophisticated, higher-order thinking from candidates. Through this monograph, it is worth remembering and preserving the CSSE for its importance to ACER and for the new players in the test development field, but it is also hoped that this work will be of interest to those who took the test in the 1960s and 1970s. As part of the preservation process, all of the CSSE test forms are available on the ACER website at so that those who took the test can see what, if anything, they recall of the experience.

Place of Publication

Melbourne Vic


Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)



Geographic Subject