The complexity of knowledge test creation
We’ve all taken lots and lots of multiple-choice tests, right? And that makes us pretty good writers of test questions, right? Nope. There’s more to creating valid, scientifically sound Level 2 knowledge tests than meets the eye. Writing test questions requires art and science and is something not possessed by many L&D professionals. However, it is a learnable skill.
Common Mistakes in Test Creation
Three examples of common mistakes made by L&D professionals include:
1. Creating test questions that contain clues as to the correct answer,
2. Creating questions that are overly difficult or tricky
3. Creating questions that measure the mere recall of facts and information.
In each case, the result is a test that doesn’t measure what was intended. Further, it can result in misinformation where it appears either learning occurred when it didn’t or learning didn’t occur when it did.
The following three multiple-choice test questions contain a commonly made test creation error. See if you can identify what’s wrong with each one. Answers are provided afterward.
Effective listening is defined as:
A. Attempting to understand the person speaking from their perspective, not your own. (Correct answer)
B. Encouraging the other person to talk.
C. Consolidating the conversation.
D. Creating a win/win conversation.
The ADDIE model is used primarily as an:
A. Instructional design tool (Correct answer)
B. Measurement and evaluation tool
C. Change management tool
D. Process improvement tool
Which communication technique consolidates a discussion and moves the focus to another topic?
A. Powerful Goals, Frequent Team Parties, Aligned Goals, and Engaged Team Members
B. Powerful Purpose, Aligned Goals, Inclusive Leadership, and Engaged Team Members
C. Powerful Purpose, Aligned Goals, Including Leadership and Engaging Meetings
D. Powerful Purpose, Directive Leadership, Aligned Goals, and Engaged Team Members
Answers to the three questions
Do you know where the test writer went wrong in each example? Here is an explanation of the problem with each test question above and a tip on avoiding the error.
Answer to question #1
Savvy test takers know that if one of the response options contains many more words than the other choices or sounds like a definition, it’s likely the correct answer.
Solution: Make sure all the response alternatives contain nearly the same number of words and sound similar.
Answer to question #2
Savvy test takers know that the correct answer to this question must be “A” because it’s the only response alternative that begins with a vowel and is grammatically valid with “an” at the end of the stem (the test item).
Solution: If the correct answer begins with a vowel, end the question with a(n). Placing the “n” in parentheses enables any of the response choices to be correct.
Answer to question #3
Savvy test takers know that response choices A and B are incorrect because it’s common knowledge that arguing and interrupting are not effective communication techniques. Consequently, the probability of guessing the correct answer, even without having mastered the program material, increases from 25% to 50%, thus reducing question validity.
Solution: Develop only plausible response alternatives.
The above three test creation errors are just a sample of the different mistakes that are possible. Knowing the complete list and the solutions for overcoming each will help you write multiple-choice test questions that measure what you intend and will produce valid, scientifically sound results.
Elevating test question quality
Test creation is an intricate process that demands meticulous attention to detail. Common pitfalls, such as inadvertently tipping off the correct answer or creating unnecessarily tricky questions, can hinder the effectiveness of your assessments. By recognizing these issues and implementing practical solutions, you can elevate the quality of your Level 2 multiple-choice test questions. Crafting tests that genuinely measure what’s intended enhances the accuracy of your assessments and fosters meaningful learning outcomes. Avoiding these pitfalls and becoming proficient in test creation is a valuable skill that empowers L&D professionals to effectively contribute to learners’ growth and development. So, the next time you’re tasked with crafting a knowledge test, remember these insights to ensure your questions are valid and scientifically sound.