Introduction: How to Write a Test

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Tests are a bane of students every where. Even as some of you read these words a shudder passes through you. What I want to do is relieve some of that terror by explaining what goes into making a good test and what a test is supposed to do.

Step 1: Test Objectives

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You need to determine what it is you are testing, and state that at the beginning of your test. Students should know what is expected of them on the test. Remember your objectives should have a well defined goal within the test. There should be some product that can be produced by the student. Ambiguity is your enemy. Be specific. 

Sample Testing Objectives
This test will determine if the student... able to find and correct punctuation errors.
...can explain the theme of a short story.
...can correctly use the covered vocabulary in a sentence.

Step 2: Test Format

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Now that you know what it is that you are testing you need to determine the format of the test. There are many different ways you can test for something. I will cover some of the more popular options here. Every time you change the type of question you are asking place directions for how to complete that section in a box. This helps the directions to stand out from the rest of the test.

Multiple Choice
This type of question is where several possible answers are given and the student must pick the best one. Multiple choice questions should be worded so that there is no confusion about what the answer should be. You can include some answers that are worded similarly , but the best answer should be definite. 
Directions - Circle the letter of the best answer to each of the following questions.

Short Response
This type of question is where a sentence or two is given and the student must synthesize an answer. Short response questions should not be open ended. Unless you are willing to accept any answer make sure the question only has a few answers or you risk confusing the students.
Directions - In the blank provided, answer each question with the best possible response.

This type of question is where a sentence is given and the student must decide if it is true or false. True/False questions should focus on a single idea. Questions that are only partially true can lead to confusion of what a student does and does not understand. If the student is writing out the answer make sure they write the entire word not just a "t" or "f".
Directions - Read each of the following statements. If the statement is true, circle the letter, “T.” If the statement is false, circle the letter, “F.”

This type of question consists of two columns. The columns could be broken up into words and their definitions. The student must match these together. These should be concise and clear. All options in the columns should be in the same category to prevent confusion. For example if you have a list of words and one of definitions do not put a word in the definition list and its definition in the word list. 
Directions - On the line to the left of each description listed in column A, write the letter of the character in column B that best fits that description. Each description in column A may be used once, more than once or not at all.

This type of question consists of a statement with a blank. The student must fill in the blank. These questions should have a definite answer.
Directions - Complete the following statements by writing the best response in the blanks provided.

These types of questions consists of a number of sentences that often take at least a paragraph or two to answer. Essay questions should be specific. broad essay questions are not as productive as several items within the essay that ask for specific responses; evaluate, summarize, analyze, etc. Make sure you give context to the essay questions. You should attach a rubric to help students with answering the essay.
Directions - Read the following prompt and refer to the attached rubric for guidelines to answering the questions. You will receive up to three points for each criteria.

Step 3: Wording

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It is important that you chose your words carefully when writing a test. Avoid ambiguous language, over wordy questions, and passive voice. Give directions for each step of the test, and be sure to tell students you want the best answer to a question. 

Specific words to avoid
it - every part of your sentence should have a direct reference. 
Example: Which of the answers should it be?

generally - or any word that cannot be quantified.
Example: Generally what is the best way to diagram a sentence?

always, never, all, every - these words imply certainty and should be use carefully.
Example: What type of figurative language is always used in poetry?

comparative - anything ending in -est is suspect. If you must use it make sure it is obvious what is being compared. 
Example: Who is the greatest poet?

not - also any negative words, these will only confuse the student. If a student is going to miss a question it should be because they do not know the material not because the question was worded in a confusing way.
Example:  Which of these is not an example of a simile.

As you can see from the example before those words can create a great deal of confusion.

Step 4: Points

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Determine how many points the questions on your test are worth. Make sure you let students know how much each of the questions are worth. 

Step 5: Review

The important points to remember when making a test are to be specific and let students know what it is you are looking for. A well made test acts as both an assessment and an instructional tool. I have attached an example test.

Special thanks to my daughter for helping me with pictures.


Invention Co. (author)2012-02-01

You did a nice job on this instructable and you must be an awesome teacher. Totaly deserved the 4 stars

ehudwill (author)Invention Co.2012-02-02


WilliamM211 (author)2016-09-05

Excellent guide, as usual !

If someone's intersted , I could share excellent service , very helpful for students and pupils . Check , irreplaceable help during studying process.

EliyahuGeorgios (author)2016-05-24

What are those essays mentioned in the PDF?

dhaw (author)2012-01-07

First-rate instructable. You must be a talented teacher and dad.

bajablue (author)dhaw2012-01-27

I agree with that!!! ;-)

ehudwill (author)bajablue2012-02-02

Thanks to both of you.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a former English teacher turned Interactive Media Instructor. I like to make, fix, and take apart. Few things are more fun than taking ... More »
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