How to Write Good Assessment Questions
“Can someone explain this question to me? I don’t know what it’s asking.”
“How am I supposed to know the answer to this? It wasn’t in the lesson.”
Your association can have the best course in the world, but if the assessments or knowledge checks aren’t written well they can make the whole thing fall apart. Believe it or not, it can be hard to write effective questions. This is true whether you’re making an eLearning assessment or writing questions for a traditional in-classroom test. Luckily, there are some definite “Dos” and “Don’ts.”
- Ensure the questions are tied to the course’s learning objectives
- Have someone else read over the questions to see if they understand them
- Randomize the order of the answer options, when possible (applies to eLearning)
- Try to keep all of the answer options for each question around the same length
- Use appropriate question types for the content
- For example, if the learner needs to put steps in order a sequencing question fits better than a multi-choice question
- Check for spelling and grammatical errors
- Provide instructive feedback for each question
- The level of detail will depend on the situation. On a final assessment, just providing “Correct” or “Incorrect” may be appropriate. If the question is part of a learning activity, however, the feedback can explain why the answer is right or wrong.
- Consider whether it’s appropriate for learners to have access to job aids or other resources
- Feel free to have learners respond to provided scenarios, storylines, or reference images
- Assessments can be interesting and thought provoking. Decision making simulations and other non-traditional methods aren’t just for presenting content, they can be used as assessments too.
- Introduce new information during an assessment or knowledge check
- Allow personal biases or opinions to make their way into an assessment
- Ask unrealistic questions or use unrealistic situations
- Write confusingly worded questions to “trip up” the learners
- You want to test what they’ve learned, not whether they can figure out what the question is asking
- Use ridiculous choices for incorrect answer options
- Make the correct answers consistently the longest or shortest options
- Put all of the correct answers in the same spot
- For example, option “B” is always correct
It’s also important to remember that some things can’t be properly evaluated with online or paper and pencil tests. These methods may be easy to administer and score, but they do have limitations. Some skills need to be evaluated in person, such as whether or not someone can perform CPR correctly. In other cases, a project or piece of sample work can be submitted. For instance, graphic designers rely heavily on portfolios to showcase what they’re capable of. For skills like these, evaluators can use scoring rubrics or checklists to assess learners’ achievement.
An effective assessment is a feather in any course’s cap, whether it’s online or on paper. You can use these tips to help make your next set of assessment questions as clear and relevant as possible. Keep in mind that assessments don’t have to be “cookie-cutter” and some skills can be assessed best in person or through sample work. What’s the most confusing question you’ve ever seen on a test? Feel free to share by leaving a comment.