So far in this series, you’ve learned how to grab your learners’ attention, write learner objectives, and create content that blends previous knowledge with new material. You also learned how to create lesson objectives, provide learner guidance, use practice exercises to reinforce learning, and provide feedback to your learners. The next step is assessing learner ability.

Learner assessments should be based on your previously stated learning objectives. This seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Make sure that your learning objectives line up with your course content, and make sure your learners have clear goals for each lesson. In fact, it’s a great idea to review those objectives and use them to map out your assessments.

There are a variety of methods for assessing learner ability. Some of the most common are written tests, multiple choice exams, and oral exams. Each of these has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and the method you choose will depend on the scale of your training and the resources available to you. Good course authoring software will let you choose which method to use.

Multiple choice exams, in particular, tend to create false positives because learners guess or use process of elimination. If you choose to use a multiple choice exam, be sure that your questions, answers, and distractors are worded to discourage guessing.

Written tests and oral exams are excellent assessment tools because learners don’t have a list of answers from which to make an educated guess. However, written tests and oral exams can’t be automatically graded by your course authoring software. You will need time to read through written answers, or time to do online calls for oral exams. This is probably not going to work if you are training 1,000 retail sales associates. And, it’s probably overkill. Make choices based on who you’re training, and why.

  1. Multiple choice exams:
    1. Auto grading makes them great for training large groups of people
    2. Great for testing important but non-mission critical information
    3. Great for quick updates to products or processes
  2. Written exams:
    1. Great for mission critical concepts and ideas
    2. Don’t allow learners to guess the right answer
    3. Allow for in-depth, thoughtful answers
    4. Must be hand graded, so better for smaller teams or higher level employees with the most important responsibilities
  3. Oral exams:
    1. Also great for mission critical concepts and ideas
    2. Can take less time for learners to complete
    3. Allow for in-depth, thoughtful answers
    4. Don’t offer a hard copy of the answer unless you record the exam audio and or video

Assessment doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing, end of lesson event, either. Pre-tests are a great way to lead off lessons. Pre-testing can be used to measure mastery of previous material so you know learners are prepared to understand the new material coming up. Or, it can be used to get a baseline reading of knowledge that you compare against the final test to gauge improvement.

Whatever testing method you choose, make sure you also have a plan in place for learners who don’t perform up to standards. In the ninth, and final, part of this series, we’ll look at how to enhance retention and transfer knowledge to the job.