What is the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique?

In a nutshell:
The Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT), commonly known as “scratch off scantrons” or “scratchies,” is a tool used to assess knowledge and learning in ‘real time.’ It’s a card on which students record their answers to multiple choice questions by scratching off an opaque material similar to that found on lottery scratch tickets to see if they got the correct answer.

Why bother?
Having students complete work outside of class time, such as reading articles or portions of the book, is highly desirable, especially when instructors want to devote class time to interactive learning strategies. However, one challenge is ensuring students have read and understood the material prior to coming to class. Other assessment methods (e.g., traditional reading quizzes, written summaries), have drawbacks, including: 1) evaluation can take a substantial amount of time, 2) evaluating and improving student learning in a timely manner is limited, 3) it’s harder to gauge individual performance, especially in larger classes, and 4) students received a limited amount of feedback.

The how-to guide:
The IF-AT can be ordered in lengths of 10, 25, or 50 questions with either 4 or 5 answer choices. The answers are prepopulated and the instructor is given the key. Instructors simply need to create a multiple choice assessment prior to class with the correct answers corresponding to the pre-populated IF-AT key. Cards come in bundles of 125, and each bundle is populated with a different answer key so you can either use the same answer key for the whole class or you can mix cards from different bundles, thus providing different versions of an assessment to reduce cheating risk.
sample of IF-AT detailed description provided in blog text
As an example, students were assigned to read articles outside of class and come to class ready to take a 10-question quiz and discuss. First students worked alone. They scratched off the rectangle corresponding to the answer they felt was correct. If they chose right, there was a star, and they got full points (in this example 2 points). The materials were collected and a discussion of the article commenced. After the discussion the quizzes and scantrons were redistributed and students were allowed to try again. They got 1 point for any previously wrong answer they now got right. If they still haven’t answered correctly they earned 0 points (visualized as 2 blank spaces or more than 3 spaces scratched off). However, the amount of points can be assigned as the instructor chooses. Additionally, you will notice the location of the star within the box changes – this is to deter cheating by scratching off partial boxes.

History lesson:
The IF-AT was developed by the Epsteins. Dr. Mike Epstein is a leading authority on learning and memory and a Professor of Psychology at Rider University. Mrs. Beth Epstein has spent 40 years teaching in the public school systems and university/college settings. The idea came to them during a “grouching session” discussing how “multiple choice tests were not sensitive enough to reward a student who was able to eliminate all but two responses” (Epstein Educational Enterprises 2018).  Additionally, when they were students, the Epsteins found it frustrating not have immediate feedback on whether their answers were right or wrong. Mike Epstein and his collaborators began researching, and turned their ideas into the IF-AT assessment method.

The bottom line:
The IF-AT can be used for formative and summative assessments, and can provide immediate feedback to instructors and students. Some advantages of this assessment tool include:

  1. Can assess both previous knowledge AND learning / improvements
  2. Assesses the effectiveness of group peer-learning
  3. Allows for incorporation of group learning into grades without requiring a “group grade”
  4. Allows for easy identification of trouble spots and areas that need improvement
  5. Saves time AND allows for real-time assessment
  6. Is fun!

You can order IF-AT test forms using this link.

Epstein Educational Enterprises. 2018. What is the IF-AT? Retrieved January 12, 2018 from http://www.epsteineducation.com/home/about/default.aspx.

Want more info?

  • Dibattista D, Mitterer JO, Gosse L. 2004. Acceptance by undergraduates of the immediate feedback assessment technique for multiple-choice testing. Teaching in Higher Education. 9(1): 17-28.
  • Merrel JD, Cirillo PF, Webb J. 2015. Multiple-Choice Testing Using Immediate Feedback-Assessment Technique (IF AT®) Forms: Second-Chance Guessing vs. Second-Chance Learning? Higher Education Studies. 5(5): 50-55.
  • Smith JA. 2013. Immediate feedback and assessment technique (IF-AT) testing forms: an overview of the tool and uses. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning. 40: 107-109.

About the authors:

Christina Hargiss, Ph.D.Dr. Christina Hargiss is an Assistant Professor in the Natural Resources Management Program at NDSU.  Her research focuses on wetland ecology, urban ecosystems, environmental education, and the impact of energy development on natural resources. She teaches five undergraduate and graduate courses at NDSU and uses the IF-AT system in her Urban Ecosystems (NRM 401/601) course.


Deirdre Prischman VoldsethDr. Prischmann-Voldseth is an Associate Professor of Entomology at NDSU. Her research focuses on integrated pest management of herbivorous arthropods and she teaches General Entomology (ENT350) and Principles of Insect Pest Management (ENT431/631). She also writes books for children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *