The Cohort Test

SAILS is an assessment of information literacy with multiple-choice questions targeting a variety of information literacy skills. The test items are based on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction. Four of the five Standards are covered. Standard IV is not addressed by the SAILS tests because its competencies are not suitable for multiple-choice testing.

The SAILS Cohort Test measures information literacy knowledge of groups (cohorts) of students. Results are reported by class standing and by major. Comparisons with the entire SAILS benchmark are also offered. The measurement model used by SAILS is item response theory (IRT), specifically the one-parameter Rasch model. IRT calculates scores based on a combination of item difficulty and student performance. The process begins with merging data from all institutions into a benchmark file. Student responses to the items on the test are then used to determine the difficulty level of each item. Once that determination is made, student responses are analyzed to determine an average score for each group (or cohort). Scores in the report are placed on a scale that ranges from 0 to 1000.

Students are directed to the SAILS web site to take the web-based information literacy quiz. Each student may take the test once per administration. Responses are sent to a central database where data are analyzed and reports are generated and made available for download as a PDF document.

Administering and taking the SAILS test requires little technical expertise. Schools register, customize the test-delivery system, and make payment online. The test is 45 questions long and most students complete the test within 35 minutes. You may view the question format on the sample questions page. Please also review the Terms of Use.

Participating institutions receive:

  • Institutional reports that show information literacy knowledge at the cohort level: Overall, by skill set, and by optional subgroups including major and class standing
  • Reports that allow you to compare your library’s performance with that of peer institutions
  • A data file with all the scores presented in the institutional report
  • PDF document listing each test item

For examples and more details, please feel free to review the sample report.

International Cohort Assessment

A modified version of the Cohort test is available for institutions outside the United States. It is an English-language test. The test items are not United States-centric and should be answerable by students anywhere. We removed test questions from Skill Set 8, Understanding Economic, Legal, and Social Issues because the correct answers to those items varies from country to country.

The Cohort report includes benchmarks for all administrations given in the same country. When creating a new SAILS administration you will select the country in which your institution is located. Your report will include a country benchmark if there are at least three administrations, including your own, in the three year benchmark for that country.