What is the CSPA?

The CSPA is a set of online assessments developed by ACER to support RTOs in measuring the literacy and numeracy skills of all learners. An RTO can select assessments from a range of separate components and the CSPA reports on learner skills instantly (no human marking is required).  

The CSPA requires approx. 20 to 40 minutes for each skill to be completed. The Reading and Numeracy components include 25 questions each. The Writing component includes two prompts to respond to.

What is the process for candidates accessing and sitting CSPA assessments?

Candidates must sit the CSPA assessment via their training organisation. Through the CSPA Online Platform CSPA licensed training organisations can create groups of up to 200 candidates at a time, select the desired assessments for these candidates to undertake and then generate logins and passwords. Logins and the URL for the assessment can then be emailed or provided to candidates. Candidates then click on the URL and enter their login details, fill out some basic demographic details and commence the assessments. 

What level of support can I offer to the learner when completing CSPA assessments?

The teacher or administrator can support the learner to understand how the online assessment operates – how to navigate pages, how to respond and answer questions, etc. – but they should not give any advice that helps the learner understand the stimulus text provided or to answer the question. The CSPA Practice assessment is a good way to show the learner how the system works prior to undertaking the actual assessments.

Learners should be encouraged to attempt every question. Questions are not necessarily arranged from easiest to hardest within an assessment, so if they experience difficulty they should move on to the next question as it will not necessarily be harder. The system allows participants to move backwards and forwards through the questions using the selectable question numbers at the top of the page and also highlights those that have already been answered, so problematic ones can be revisited at the end of the assessment and answers changed if need be. If learners log out, they can log back in at a later date, and their responses to that time will remain available in the system – they do not have to re-answer those questions.

Should learners complete all CSPA assessments at once?

Learners may complete multiple assessment components in one sitting; however in order to ensure more reliable and fairer results, we recommend a short break between each full assessment component (say 5 – 10 minutes).

Does CSPA have a practice test?

Yes: The Practice Assessment contains five sample questions, with explanations on how to answer them correctly. The Practice Assessment only takes a few minutes to complete, and no results are recorded. The questions exist to allow learners to familiarise themselves with the multiple choice, complex multiple choice and open text box question types, while learning the layout and navigation features of the assessment overall. This gives each learner an equal opportunity to get to know the types of questions they will be answering and how to navigate through them, ensuring a fair test experience for everyone.

Makeup of the assessments – Reading and Numeracy

Each of the two core components is divided into Parts 1 and 2. The first part is a 'screener' assessment, with 10 questions, which will take up to 15 minutes to complete. Once Part 1 is done and the responses are submitted, the system will automatically score them. Based on the results, it then will present the learner with one of three versions of Part 2 (Basic, Intermediate or Advanced), using an adaptive feature. The second parts of the assessment include 15 questions each.

Part 2 will take up to 20 - 30 minutes to complete. You must complete Part 1 to go to Part 2. You cannot go back to Part 1 once you have moved to Part 2, and you must complete Part 2 to get a full assessment report.

Please note that a learner should have a calculator on hand for the numeracy component (mobile phones should not be permitted).

How long should the full CSPA assessments take?

The estimated average time to undertake each component of the full CSPA Assessment (CSPA Reading or CSPA Numeracy) is approximately 35 minutes, but more time can be taken if needed and many students may only require 20 to 25 minutes. Because a screener is included in each of the assessment areas, it is often the more capable students working at higher ACSF levels that take longer to answer, as the texts to read are longer and more challenging, and the questions harder.

How does the screener work in CSPA Reading and Numeracy?

CSPA Reading and Numeracy components contain a set of initial screener questions. The number of correct responses over the first 10 questions in each of these assessment areas determines whether the remaining 15 questions include mainly low, moderate or high level ACSF questions.

What types of reports and data are available to practitioners and students?

CSPA offers reports on candidate performance directly in detailed Individual Reports and a then a group summary report for administrators and practitioners. These reports are available immediately after completion of the assessments. The group report, available in a downloadable csv file, includes all the details required for an RTO to analyse and to use to provide advice to staff and administrators, and to integrate into local systems. See the links below for examples.

Sample CSPA Numeracy

Sample CSPA Reading

Sample CSPA Group

Sample CSPA Writing

What is the difference between FSAT and CSPA?

The Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT) has been derived from the work done in developing the CSPA, and will be more extensive in its computer adaptive features. Unlike CSPA, FSAT will not include an automatically scored assessment of Writing, as the intention was to make FSAT available for free, and the online assessment of Writing requires a fee to be paid per assessment to the scoring institution in the US that houses the scoring rubrics and computer-based system for comprehensively assessing all aspects of writing against the ACSF, and not just spelling, for example. FSAT will include offline versions of assessments such as writing and speaking. FSAT will also include assessments against the Core Skills for Work framework.

VET Student Loans

The CSPA has different components – Reading, Numeracy, Writing and the SRNI. Are providers only required to use CSPA Reading and Numeracy? 

The VET Student Loans requirement for use of the CSPA is that at a minimum Reading and Numeracy should be assessed. Other components can be used as part of normal pre-training assessment processes or where, for example, writing skills are a major demand and requirement of the Diploma being studied.

Can a candidate re-sit the assessment? If so, when, and how many times?

As per normal VET assessment procedures, especially with regard to pre-training assessments, the initial assessment should only be administered once. In order for the learner and RTO to implement any targeted LLN support and to have sufficient time for the learner to improve their LLN skills to the required level, a minimum period of three months is recommended before undertaking further assessments using an approved tool. It may take longer than this, but at least three months should provide enough time for progress to be made and improvement to be demonstrable. ACER believes that this is not about 'passing the test', as can be the practice in some situations, and re-sitting the assessment a number of times until the learner eventually passes is not the purpose of undertaking this assessment for VET Student Loans purposes. The purpose is to assess whether the learner has sufficient LLN skills to potentially succeed in undertaking a Diploma level qualification or higher. Allowing learners to keep re-sitting until they pass would not be a fair or valid process. The RTO’s responsibility is to provide targeted LLN support and to allow the learner to have sufficient time to improve their LLN skills to the required level.