July 21, 2017

How to write a test for an
e-learning course

A test question is one of the key element in the e-learning course. Tests are used in tasks of any difficulty level, in any game or case. Tests are often the main tool to control knowledge after the training is over.

In spite of their importance, tests are sometimes underestimated. They are created at the very end, when everyone suffers from the lack of time and energy. One might think: "Oh, common! Is it hard to write 10-15 test questions?" Nevertheless, the test design is a true science. If you are interested in the subject, you may refer to the Russian Standard for Human Resources Testing. You will find their valuable ideas for e-learning developers too.

I would like to give my recommendations on writing tests. It's worth noting, that I do not have a goal to create tests that correspond to all psychometric requirements (reliability, representativeness, validity, reliability). However, the rules mentioned here would help people with other basic business duties in creating tests.
  • 1
    Evaluate things which need to be evaluated
    The first rule and, at the same time, the most important thing. The topic of the tests should be intrinsically linked to the goals of the course. Connie Malamed suggests ranking the goals of their importance and determining how many tests you need to solve each task. Even if you do not use this kind of time-consuming method, it is important to link every question to the specific educational task. That's how we avoid creating questions on "simple" topics, just to fill the space. Consider the question "what do we want to evaluate?". What skills and professionally important qualities?
  • 2
    Focus on practice
    Tests are often criticized for checking superficial knowledge. One of the best ways to solve this issue is to use questions based on true situations. For example, avoid asking "Who is a partner of the company?". Choose this one instead: "You need to call a partner of the company and arrange a meeting. Who will you call? "
  • 3
    Avoid being too academic
    It is better to avoid the phrases like "Choose the right statement" or "Which is the odd one out?". I personally believe that the options such as "all of the listed above" and "there is no right answer" are unacceptable. This kind of answers reminds me of the university years, there is no practical aspect in them.
  • 4
    Test knowledge comprehension, rather than the level of attention
    Please avoid negations, double negations, and other wordings, that should be read into to recognize the correct answer. There are other techniques for checking employees' attention to details. The question difficulty should depend on the content, rather than on the wording.
  • 5
    Keep the same style
    The tests should have the same level of difficulty, tone, and wordings. It applies to the answers too: the distractors and the correct answers should have the same length and the similar grammar.
  • 6
    Write it simply
    The basic rules for high-quality texts can be applied here as well: use simple sentences, avoid complicated participial clauses, save a list of forbidden words on your desktop, including there "only", "always", "never", "absolutely". A student should understand your words with no effort.
  • 7
    Create a clear instruction to the tests
    A standard instruction includes the number of tasks in the test, time needed to finish them, the ways to perform the tasks of different difficulty levels, and the number of correct answers to successfully pass the test.
  • 8
    Give a feedback
    When students have finished the test, do not leave them uncertain. You would better show them what questions were answered correctly and what tests needed to be corrected. You could avoid showing them the right answers, but indicate the tests with errors.
These are my recommendations. I hope you would find this information helpful.