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Computer Based Assessments with CBA ItemBuilder

The CBA ItemBuilder software is an authoring tool for creating dynamic and interactive tasks in computer-based testing. Programming skills are not required.

A core task at the TBA Centre concerns the support of national and international projects, for instance the PISA study, and educational research institutions in putting their performance assessments and questionnaire-based studies into practice. The TBA team has developed a number of tools that enable researchers to conduct innovative assessments and easily implement even complex requirements themselves.

What is the CBA ItemBuilder?

The CBA ItemBuilder is a so-called authoring tool (user = author) for creating computerized tasks (so-called items). Created items can subsequently be used in computer-based tests. A graphical user interface enables users without programming skills or knowledge of certain description languages to efficiently create items. Depending on specific diagnostic issues, the tool can be used to create simple or complex computerized tasks with multimedia content. The CBA ItemBuilder supports a broad range of possible response formats spanning simple click responses (using radio buttons, buttons, checkboxes, combo boxes, entry fields, hyperlinks and many more) and free entry of text as well as drag & drop methods and highlighting.  Moreover, the program offers many features for creating complex items. For instance, it is possible to play audio and video material and to record audio and video.

The CBA ItemBuilder is constantly being enhanced and adapted (by request).



How does the CBA ItemBuilder work?

Creating an item/items

Creating pages and different page types

A file is labelled project in the CBA ItemBuilder.  A project consists of one or more pages. The CBA ItemBuilder offers a standard type for simple pages as well as other page types that enhance the scope of page functions by means of specific characteristics. To give an example, so-called web browser pages are used to simulate a website, and so-called X-pages are used for navigation bars or constantly visible headers that might contain elements like logos or buttons. In the CBA ItemBuilder, pages that have once been created can be stored as templates which can then serve as future starting points.


Navigation between pages is, for example, based on links or buttons. Page navigation may be tied to certain conditions (states), e.g. whether or not a task was solved correctly. It is also possible to change pages after expiry of time allocated to working on a task.

Item design

The CBA ItemBuilder is an innovative tool and offers a user interface where items can be edited in the draft view. Items are created and processed by dragging and dropping elements from the palette into the working area. Elements can always be modified. Each page can be individually designed and adapted, and it may contain different response formats and / or elements. Options to individually design items are manifold. The interface offers many layout elements and it is possible to easily and quickly integrate graphical elements.

Item preview

To test items, it is always possible to generate a preview, where the project is automatically presented as HTML site in the browser.

Automatic Scoring

It is possible to store predefined scoring rules for a CBA ItemBuilder project. To this end, one or more so-called Tasks are created. A Task is the entry point for an exercise for which an Item score is generated automatically. The definition of automatic scoring in the CBA ItemBuilder implies that results are immediately accessible, thus allowing for the implementation of adaptive testing. Scoring is independent from test delivery technology; it can be defined and tested in the process of item development. The author is free to decide what the scoring shall include. The ItemBuilder does not only permit distinctions between correct and false responses but also filtering of complex answers such as text entries.

Further important features

The CBA ItemBuilder also contains a number of further features offering flexible design options respectively supporting the process of item development. Some selected features are:

  • Finite State Machines (FSM) allow for determining and changing so-called discrete states. Thereby, an item author determines the (internal) states that are possible in an item, and what events will trigger a change (time, Interactions). Conditions might influence the presentation of an item; they can for instance trigger audio or video materials or influence graphical elements.
  • Dynamic machines (MicroDYN) work in a similar way to Finite State Machines but they are specifically designed for dynamic task structures. MicroDYN allows for relating continuous variables with each other via a linear equation system so that the item shows its own dynamics.
  • The Open Language Tool (OLT) offers a quick translation of items.
  • WebBrowserPages contain a tool bar for simulating central elements of web environments.

Test compilation and delivery

CBA ItemBuilder items are displayed in a web browser. A server is required in addition to a browser to run the system. To run a test, a suitable environment is needed, e.g. TAO or MATE. It is subsequently possible to compile several ItemBuilder projects into a test. CBA ItemBuilder items can be embedded in nearly all external delivery tools because the integration is supported via a Java script interface. In addition, there is also a native delivery platform, the so-called Execution Environment.

Many delivery options are possible, ranging from the installation of a software package on a personal computer or laptop to software packages on USB sticks, delivery via Virtual Machine (VMs) or online (the software package can be accessed via VM or hosted on an external server).

Where and when to use the CBA ItemBuilder?

For instance, the CBA ItemBuilder has been used for computer-based assessments in schools, as online tests or as embedded competence diagnostics in Computer Assisted Personal Interviews.  Click here to find a list of assessments that had been implemented with (the help of) the CBA ItemBuilder.

Where is the CBA ItemBuilder available?

The CBA ItemBuilder is available and free of charge.  It can be provided together with the Execution Environment


Project Lead: Dr. Ulf Kröhne

Product Manager: Dr. Margit Mikula 

Co-operation: Nagarro


Further Links: ItemBuilder-Wiki


last modified Jan 05, 2021