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Five tips for writing a good assessment


1. Make it applicable

Think of the most realistic way of assessing the learner’s ability. For example, if the learner is being tested on strapping a sprained ankle, the assessment should ask the learner to perform that task. Written answers to a set of questions will not enable the learner to demonstrate that they can perform the task confidently. This may be an obvious example, but it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about the most relevant way to assess a learner’s abilities – a pen and paper assessment may not make the most sense.

2. There shouldn’t be any surprises

Assessments should be used to reinforce the learning process, and not to catch learners out. Therefore, assessment tasks should be familiar to learner before they open the assessment booklet. To make sure learners are prepared, give them access to practice assessments or provide examples of the types of questions they will need to answer beforehand.

3. Test knowledge of the subject matter, not reading comprehension

Assessment questions need to be written clearly and succinctly. Learners shouldn’t have to spend unnecessary time worrying about what the question means or what type of answer they are supposed to provide. Keep the questions as short and simple as possible and try to limit each question to one task. If there are multiple tasks involved in a question, then separate out each step so it is easy for the learner to follow e.g. Task 1A, 1B, 1C.

4. Don’t go above and beyond

Assessments should not be designed to cause more stress than is necessary. Make sure that the assessment is only as long and complex as it needs to be in order to cover the essential material. If you are writing an assessment to a set of criteria, for example an NZQA unit standard, then make sure your assessment sticks to that criteria. There’s no need to test learners above and beyond the required standard.

5. Give learners the best chance of succeeding

Make sure to include any reference documents or information that the learner will need to complete the assessment. For example, provide a copy of an Act if the questions refer to a certain piece of legislation, or create a glossary with key terms to help the learner. This way, learners can concentrate on the task at hand, rather than worrying about finding information that they could easily access outside of the assessment context.

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