Accountability tests are assessments of student achievement that yield scores used for accountability purposes. Accountability is a sustained policy of directing resources, rewards, or penalties based on student and program outcome performance.

Accountability tests are typically large-scale assessments, meaning that they are administered to all students in a country, state, or school district, and are administered annually at about the same time each year. The agency that mandates an accountability test does so on the basis of policy requirements that connect test-based indicators to consequences for students, teachers, schools, school districts, states, or some combination of these entities. While these tests often yield scores for individual students as well as for groups of students, they are generally not designed to provide diagnostic or formative information that could be used to make instructional decisions for individual students.

The sections that follow describe the basic characteristics of accountability tests, the policy contexts under which accountability tests are used, the characteristics of accountability tests, and the validity evidence and evaluation processes necessary for the appropriate use of test scores for accountability purposes.