We’ve all had to take a quiz or test at some point in our lives. As a professional in the fields of training and technical writing, I am no longer taking quizzes, but creating and editing them instead. I have learned a lot about what makes quiz questions valid and meaningful to the student or trainee (hint: it’s not by tricking them).
In this article, I have described some tips and common mistakes made when designing quiz questions for testing in the corporate environment.
Using the world “NOT’
When the question stem asks something such as, “Which of the following is not a feature of (blank), it is helpful to either bold and/or capitalize the word “not.” Our eyes and minds have a hard time recognizing negative words like “not,” especially in test questions when the learners are used to looking for the correct answer instead of the one that is not correct.
Some people don’t like to use “not” questions. One reason is because, if you ask, “Which of the following is not a correct answer,” you have to provide the learners with most of the correct answers. Some people feel like this is making it too easy for the learners because it may be obvious which one of the four answer choices is incorrect. However, remember that you are doing this in the corporate environment, not as a midterm exam for a high school student. The goal is not to cram a bunch of information down the learners’ throats, but to provide meaningful instruction to them so they can perform an aspect of their jobs correctly. If your goals are retention and performance, is it really a bad thing to show the learners the correct statements an additional time?
True/False questions are a tricky beast. They can be meaningful, but they are very difficult to write. If a single statement negates any part of the question stem, the question is invalid. Make sure you ask an entirely true or entirely false question to make it valid and meaningful. Don’t ask questions such as, “Which of the following is usually true?” By saying “usually,” you’ve told the learners that the answer you believe to be correct is actually correct some of the time and incorrect the rest of the time. Is that a meaningful and effective question? Nope.
Multiple Choice Questions
There are varied opinions on how many answer choices you need to include for a multiple choice question to be fully effective. If you only include three, it may not provide enough of a challenge or selection. If you include five, there may be too many choices or too many that are pretty similar to one another. When in doubt, just use four. You can’t go wrong with four.
Make sure the scoring requirements are clearly laid out before the learners take the quiz. Also, make sure your calculations are correct. If you want a passing score to be 90%, expect the learners to get 9 out of 10 questions correct or 18 out of 20. Don’t include some strange percentage requirements that don’t calculate easily.
There are additional types of quiz questions and additional concerns to consider when creating quiz questions of your own, but these are a list of important considerations. Remember, when you are creating quizzes in the corporate environment, your goal is to test whether or not your learners will retain the information and be able to perform their jobs correctly. The quizzes should not be designed to trick or confuse the learners.