12 Guidelines for Writing Awesome Tests

Dec 8, 2015

Testing the comprehension and retention of the knowledge imparted in a course is an inseparable part of the learning process. Managers and department heads often pay much closer attention to the tests’ results than to the course material itself - for a number of reasons. However, while the importance of testing is well understood, the way test questions are formulated and the methodologies used to compile them into actual tests are often overlooked.

With this article I would like to begin a series of posts dedicated to the topic of creation of tests, as well as the correct formulation of questions and answers to them. I aim to help you learn to create balanced tests full of well-constructed questions, as well as understand what type of question is best used in a particular situation.

Why is testing necessary?

Before proceeding further, let us establish what function do tests and exams perform:

  • They help to understand what knowledge and skills your employees acquired while doing their jobs or after completing a learning course.
  • They serve as a source of feedback about the educational process: the way information is delivered, as well as the course’s structure.
  • They can be learning opportunities unto themselves.
  • They serve as a basis for certification.
  • They give insights regarding the ways the learning process can be improved.

We can see that the principal objectives of tests and exams are to gauge the knowledge of students and provide an opportunity for further learning. In essence, tests and exams are the only all-purpose tools that can help you assess the knowledge of your employees/students. Tests and quizzes help you understand how well the students understood the new material, whether they were able to grasp the new concepts, and what additional clarifications are needed.

To learn actual and actionable information, it is necessary to follow a number of rules. The less ambiguous the questions, the more relevant the results. Here are some guidelines that will help you accurately evaluate the knowledge of your employees:

General guidelines for the test creation 

  1. Construct a mind map of all the topics the course touches upon. Try to have a question about each of them.
  2. Keep it simple. A good question tests the student’s knowledge and not reading comprehension.
  3. Have a diverse range of questions. A good test includes questions of different types and varying difficulty.
  4. While formulating questions, use real-world situations your employees find themselves in regularly. For example, a customer reaching out to a business representative.
  5. Word questions positively - it improves knowledge retention. Questions worded negatively hinder and confuse the student.
  6. Write concise and precise questions, but take care not to make the answer apparent from the question itself.
  7. Make sure that the answers to all questions in a test are constructed similarly and approximately the same length.
  8. Mix it up - every time you give a test to students, shuffle the questions and possible answers.
  9. Keep answers to questions unambiguous, so that they can not be interpreted in different ways. When writing gapfill questions, make sure to specify in what format the answer must be provided.
  10. Whenever an employee answers incorrectly, try to understand what knowledge they are missing. Well-structured questions help in this regard.
  11. Use short scenarios leading up to questions to facilitate understanding and knowledge retention.
  12. If different questions have different weight, clearly mark the number of points awarded for answering correctly next to each question.

Keep these guidelines in mind when you create tests in Geenio and see the quality and effectiveness of your tests skyrocket. It also pays to remember that besides merely assessing students’ knowledge, tests are meant to help them acquire and retain new information as well. Following this approach you will both benefit your organization and leave the test takers with a satisfying feeling of having learned something new.