Strategy Guide: How to Create Effective Tests

Pro tips for creating tests, quizzes, knowledge checks, etc. that actually assess real learning.

Shawn Jensen avatar
Written by Shawn Jensen
Updated over a week ago

Love them or hate them, tests can be a powerful way to discover what your people have learned in the content you've assigned them. But just having a test doesn't mean it will be effective. Unfortunately, many tests simply ask the test taker to recall something they've recently read or seen. Surprise! That actually does very little to help someone retain information long-term.

Here, I'll walk you through 5 strategies to help you create and use tests that will help you find out if your people are getting the value out of the content you've painstakingly created for them.

Strategy #1 - Use More Frequent, Shorter Tests

A simple rule is to assess whenever you've taught a crucial piece of knowledge, a skill, or something else that you want someone to apply. In most cases, this means: often!

In a traditional Trainual subject, topics are groups of related information focused on a particular process, policy, or set of connected SOPs. With that in mind, consider adding a test after each topic (or at least the most crucial ones) within a subject. This allows your learners to check their knowledge of the content in a focused way.

πŸ’ͺ Coach's Tip: Use the advanced setting "Force order of content completion" in the Subject's settings to require a test-taker to complete and pass a test before they can move on in their content.

Keep tests brief! While you can certainly create a 75-question final exam at the end of a subject, I don't recommend it. Think glazed eyes and consistently bad test performance.

More frequent, shorter tests are best. I recommend 5-10 questions max per test πŸ‘Œ

Strategy #2 - Ask Effective Multiple-Choice Questions

A test is only as good as the questions it asks. The problem is that writing really good multiple-choice test questions is hard. This is why there are a lot more bad tests out there than good ones 😬

When you write multiple-choice questions, make sure they:

  • are clear and well-written (grammar, spelling, etc.)

  • are not easy to guess.

  • assess the "use" of knowledge, not simply the "recall" of content.

  • measure what they intend to measure (stated purpose and targets.)

Ok, let's put this knowledge you just gained to work!

Based on the characteristics above, what makes the following question "less effective"?

This is a less effective question because:

  • The question prompt is vague.

  • Answer options are confusing or too similar to others.

  • The question doesn't allow the learner to use the knowledge in a meaningful way.

Let's rewrite this question in a more intentional, effective way that addresses whether the learner can use the information they've learned:

Why is this a better question?

  • The question prompt is clear and includes the specific thing the correct response will address.

  • Answer options are clear and well-written.

  • This question helps the learner to use the information they've learned in a productive way.

Want to dig in deeper on how to write effective questions? Check out these best practices and suggestions from the University of Texas at Austin.

Strategy #3 - Use Multimedia to Reinforce Learning

The best test questions require the test taker to think critically about, reinforce, and apply what they've learned. You can leverage multimedia to do this AND make your test questions more interesting and engaging (yes, that matters in tests, too!)

Strategy #4 - Set the Minimum Passing Score to 100%

I ALWAYS set the minimum passing score to 100%, because I am THAT mean! πŸ˜†

Actually, it's because, in Trainual, test takers get UNLIMITED ATTEMPTS to hit the minimum passing score. If someone gets unlimited tries at the test, there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to hit 100% at some point.

But the number of times it takes them to get to that 100% can be incredibly insightful!

In the "People Report" in Reports, you can see how many attempts someone has made, along with how they answered each question. This can inform you about what you may need to go back and review with your team members.

What if several team members needed multiple attempts to pass a test? Maybe it's not them. Maybe it's you...I mean, the content! πŸ˜‰

If this happens, go back, review the content, and make sure that:

  • the instructional content is clear and accurate.

  • the test questions are easy to understand.

  • the correct test question responses have been marked.

Strategy #5 - Use Test Settings to Create the Experience You Want Learners to Have

Here are the other settings you can use depending on the goal(s) of the test:

Email results to

Let you decide who should be notified of the results of this test. Great for managers, supervisors, mentors, etc.

Question order

If you've written your test questions to follow a specific order where, for example, one question leads to the next, keep the setting on the default "In Order" setting. That will ensure the order and keep things clear for the test taker.

Otherwise, it's smart to randomize the questions. That way, if a test taker doesn't pass it the first time, they won't get the questions in the same order on the second attempt (or third, or fourth). This is a simple but effective way to help reinforce the content because the learner isn't fully relying on memorizing the placement of the questions.

Number of questions displayed

This setting lets you create a "question bank" for a test. For example, you could write ten questions but only have the test show 5 of the questions at a time. If the learner doesn't pass the test the first time, some of the questions will be different on the next attempt.


Here are those 5 strategies again:

  1. Use More Frequent, Shorter Tests.

  2. Ask Effective Multiple-Choice Questions.

  3. Use Multimedia to Reinforce Learning.

  4. Set the Minimum Passing Score to 100%.

  5. Use Test Settings to Create the Experience You Want Learners to Have.

Need some extra help?

Email or press on the bubble on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to start a chat to let us know what you need help with. β†˜οΈ

🌻 SEOs: Quiz, Quizzes, Quizzing, Exam, Exams, Examine, Assess, Assessment.

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