How the Right Headsets For Assessments Can Increase Your Confidence (And Your Scores)

Listening and speaking skills are an important part of most state standardized tests, like M-STEP, as well as English language learning assessments like TELPAS, WIDA, or ELPAC. As students and educators across the country prepare every year for these state tests and assessments, perhaps the last thing on their minds is determining what tools they will need to rely on. When it comes to choosing the right headsets for assessments, the decision could not only boost your confidence and even your speaking and listening scores but also give you the peace of mind that technical difficulties will not be getting in the way of your success.

Do all assessments require the same kind of headset?

Before any kind of speaking or listening assessment, determining the requirements and recommendations needed for a headset for that particular assessment is key. While most online assessments do require a headset, there may be certain features that will create a more consistent, reliable, and comfortable testing experience overall.

For instance, some of the things to look for in headset requirements could be the kind of connection that is needed or even a certain style that is more recommended than another. It is vital to check the headset specifications before any testing situation to ensure your audio solution meets these requirements. According to the WIDA and TELPAS assessment guides, while both require many of the same, there are also a few different headset standards between the two, one being inline volume control. While this is preferred for WIDA testing, TELPAS does not recommend this feature.

Recommendations for assessment headsets

While we can’t stress enough how important it is to check the specific technical specs for the assessment you are taking before choosing the right headset, we have found that certain features are widely recommended amongst most headset requirements. These qualities help ensure there are fewer complications on the testing site, as well as help produce a higher rate of successful outcomes.

An over-ear style headset is preferred over in-ear or earphone styles. This is primarily because of comfort, but over-ear models also help to block out background noise and help the student hear better without causing damage to the ears.

An easy-to-clean construction is important in cases where students are sharing headsets during examination times. Nonporous materials, such as leatherette ear pads, that may be easily sanitized between uses are ideal.

Passive noise cancelation is preferred during exams because unlike active noise cancelation, it does not require batteries or a power source to operate which may lead to technical difficulties on test day. Instead, this type of noise reduction relies on the padding and size of the speakers to help pinpoint the sound while blocking outside noise.

A 3.5mm pin or USB connection are both useful in their own ways when it comes to testing. While one is not primarily used over another, this is one of the most important details about your testing headset to double-check to ensure you meet the headset requirements for that specific assessment.

A braided cord is recommended for its durability and ability to not become as easily tangled when stored. It’s important to note that this type of cord is also chew-resistant— a must-have for those extremely nervous test takers.

An adjustable noise-canceling microphone allows each headset wearer to customize their own fit so that they are comfortable while taking assessments, as well as be able to speak into the microphone in a way that provides a clear result. It’s not a good idea to rely on an inline microphone in testing environments, as this type of mic is more likely to interfere with spoken answers due to background noise or from rubbing against your shirt.

AVID headsets for assessments

AE-36 headset in green


Listed as a recommended headset under both WIDA and TELPAS guidelines, the award-winning AE-36 ensures the consistent, clear sound quality any test taker can depend on. With high-quality sound delivery and an omnidirectional, adjustable boom microphone, even the softest-spoken student will be able to be heard with clarity. Compatible with most devices and adapters with a 3.5 mm connection, the headset adjusts to many sizes and has comfortable pads for lasting comfort.

AE-39 USB headset with microphone


The AE-39 USB headset gets an A+ for its feature-packed, do-it-all design. Capturing all the amazing qualities of the AE-36 model, the AE-39 has a USB connection and inline volume control. Inline volume control is not always recommended for assessments, so it is important to double-check the technical specs before choosing this model for your next test or assessment.

AE-55 headset in blue


The robust and reliable AE-55 was specifically designed to meet TELPAS requirements and remains a favorite among educators and students alike. The ambidextrous design means the microphone may be worn on either the left or right side, allowing the user to wear it as they prefer. The noise-canceling mic also optimizes voice quality, while the padded over-ear style help reduces background noise for a distraction-free testing experience.

AE-55 USB headset with microphone


With excellent speakers and a bidirectional, noise-canceling microphone, the AE-55 USB covers all the basics and comes equipped with a USB connection and inline volume control.  Inline volume control is not always recommended for assessments, so it is important to double-check the technical specs before choosing this model for your next test or assessment.

Increase your testing confidence (and your scores)

Headphones and headsets play an important role in helping improve a student’s test score because they are able to feel confident in their performance and the tools they are using. Being comfortable in a testing headset allows students to feel like there aren’t any barriers between themselves and the test by blocking out distractions, giving them more time to focus on their own performance, and helping them feel like they’re communicating their answers clearly.

At the same time, the right headsets for assessments also help to create an environment where students are able to focus better on what they have before them without worrying about anything else going on around them. That being said, with the right gear and accessories, you can go from anxious to confident in your next assessment.

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Elizabeth Woodard

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