Document Type



In 2008 the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) University Libraries piloted the Educational Testing Service’s standardised test of information, communication, and technology (ICT) skills (iSkills) in spring and autumn 2008. In the course of administering the test we explored motivational strategies, a critical component in low-stakes, low-personal-consequences testing. Motivational strategies included providing feedback on test performance, highlighting the value of the test for the individual student, and appealing to the student’s willingness to improve the overall performance of the institution. We addressed ways to motivate students in order to enhance their level of participation in and performance on the test. As the use of standardised testing to benchmark student information skills is increasing within the information literacy community, it is vital to address these motivational aspects to ensure the generation of reliable data. This article describes the strategies and language the University Libraries used to convey value and stimulate interest; it also provides feedback from test-takers on why they tried to do their best on the test.


Information skills testing; iSkills; Library research – Ability testing; Low-stakes testing; Motivation (Psychology); Standardised testing


Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Information Literacy | Instructional Media Design | Library and Information Science

Publisher Citation

Brown, J. M., & Gaxiola, C. (2010). Why would they try? Motivation and motivating in low-stakes information skills testing. Journal of Information Literacy, 4(2), 23-36. Retrieved from

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