If you develop training materials as part of your job, then I bet you also spend time writing assessment questions. You might write pretest questions, practice questions, or graded posttest questions.

Assessments are included in training materials for a reason. They’re a good thing! They highlight and reinforce key information. They allow learners to practice retrieving information from memory. They correct misconceptions. And they give learners a sense for whether they’re learning the material or not. If they don’t feel like they’re doing well, this can motivate them to study harder.

So how do you write good assessment questions? It’s important to start with a plan.

  • Gain a good understanding of the subject matter being tested.
  • Gain a good understanding of the learners who are going to be tested (their needs, their reading level, etc.).
  • Review the course learning objectives to clarify what it is that needs to be learned. This is the information that should be reinforced in the assessment.

Once you have a plan, you’re ready to start writing! Here are a few general guidelines:

  • Questions should match your learning objectives.
  • You should have at least one question per learning objective.
  • Questions should be clear and correct. Make sure there is only one correct answer and it’s correct 100% of the time.
  • Write the items as simply as possible. Avoid elaborate explanations or extensive background information.
  • Ensure that your questions are meaningful and are perceived by the learners as relevant to them.
  • Test for important ideas, information, and skills – not trivial stuff.
  • Only ask learners questions they can answer. Don’t ask questions about things that haven’t been taught.
  • Avoid trick questions.
  • Don’t write interrelated questions. Learners should not have to answer one question correctly in order to answer another question correctly.
  • Be consistent in use of terms, punctuation, and other conventions.

Oh, and just one more thing. If you’re writing a multiple-choice question, don’t use “None of the above” or “All of the above” as answer options. Learners know that “all of the above” is almost always the right answer. And even if a learner correctly selects “None of the above,” this still doesn’t mean that the learner knows the correct answer.

Do you have additional tips or suggestions? Please share them in the Comments area!

Happy writing!