In the field of measurement and assessments educational psychologist use very similar terms to mean very different things.

Test blueprints, test objectives, and learning objectives often get new teachers or graduate students mixed up. Yet the terms mean different things for three critical documents in the learning process

First all three begin with a standard or framework. In school this might be the Common Core State Standards. In Cybersecurity it could be NIST-SP-800-171 or NIST CSF, for example.

Test Blueprints

Test Blueprint provide framework for a test usually in table specifications(Olson, Martin, & Mullis, 2007). When we design large scale high stake assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) we utilize to establish validity.

Experts create a matrix using one of “three or more of the following elements: (a) content learning goal/objectives, (b) types or levels of knowledge (i.e. Bloom’s Taxonomy), (c) item type, or (d) degree of difficulty. These matrices then get used by content writers developing items” (Cantrell, 2012). They also get used to check validity of tests once finished.

The purpose is to measure the degree to which expectations and assessments are in agreement and serve in conjunction with one another to guide the system toward students learning what they are expected to know and do.

Personally I like to use the more rigorous approach of content validity rating and indexing but this approach requires many SMEs and items. So often a test blue print gets used instead.

You would never use a test blueprint to design a class or even as a tool to check the validity of a class. Most test developers keep their blueprint as IP that needs the same level of protection as the actual items.

If you gave a test blueprint to instructional designers they would just design items that 100% match your items and all validity goes out the window. The more detailed the test blueprint the greater the chance the blueprint will hurt your measure if leaked.

Test Objectives

Test objectives get teased out in the test blueprint. An expert decides what body of knowledge gets measured by that objective, what schema of knowledge it fits under, the item format, and a weighting based on importance of the item.

Test objectives on the other hand describe wha tis necessary for mastery of the content domain (Gaumer, 2002). The test objective must have relevance and importance (why we use Test blueprints to check this). Test objectives, based on the work of Bloom (1956) get organized in a hierarchy of knowledge and application

1. Pedal a bike 10 feet

1.a Label the parts of a pedal and gear crank

1.b Successfully balance on moving bike

1.c Apply torque to pedals by exerting leg with downward force.

In the  example above 1a gets to knowledge and 1b and 1c get to application.

Test objectives must be measurable, independent of context, and aligned to bodies of knowledge

You provide test objectives to vendors who then unpack them into learning objectives.

Learning Objectives

A learning objective describes ONE measurable outcome someone must be capable of after a training. A Test Objective could require multiple learning objectives.

Let us return to the bike 1b might require learning objectives such as:

Balance on a bike with no pedals downhill, balance on a bike with no pedals on a flat plane, and then balance on a bike with pedals. A learner will need all thre if they will eventually create observable evidence of their learning on a test.

Learning objectives must be measurable, dependant of context, and elicit evidece of knowledge or skill growth.


ACGME Outcomes Project & ABMS. (2000). Toolbox of Assessment Methods. Chicago, IL: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and American Board of Medical Specialties.

Bartlett, F. C. (1932). Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Boulet, J., & Raymond, M. R. (2013). Blueprinting: Planning Your Tests. FAIMER-Keele Master’s in Health Professions Education: Accreditation and Assessment. Lesson 1, Unit 2. London, England: FAIMER Centre for Distance Learning (CenMEDIC)

Cantrell, P. (2012). Using test blueprints to measure student learning in middle school science classrooms. The Researcher, 24(1), 55-71.

Gumaer, J. (2002, June), A Process For Improving Objective Examinations Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2–10432

Source: quickthoughts