Constructing a Test

Constructing a test will be the next step after you have created your test content. It is important to consider the length – the more items a test has, the more reliable it is for assessing a student’s knowledge and comprehension of a subject. If a test needs to be quite lengthy, it is recommended to divide it into sections with different question types to maintain the student’s interest.  

Designing Test Structure


The first step in putting together your test is clarifying what you are looking to assess within the test. This means asking yourself what you want students to be able to do with the content they've learned. For instance, someone preparing a History test may want their students to be able to evaluate events that took place, and weigh up the benefits and disadvantages of political stances. The classes taught should have reflected these learning objectives all along, with students having discussions to weigh up their opinions of events and political viewpoints based on evidence. In other words – the type of test the students are receiving should not be a surprise to them!

When allocating your questions into an order (and possibly sections) you should consider the most effective layout. It is generally considered preferable to place shorter questions at the beginning of an assessment, and leave the longest questions for last. This helps the students to mentally warm up with simpler and easier questions, before getting stuck into the longer and more difficult questions that need more consideration. Items that measure the same objective should be grouped together, and items of the same type should be grouped together.  

Because test structures can vary in style and content, it is important that the instructions they view before beginning the test are clearly and concisely laid out – this helps students to manage their time most effectively. You may find it useful to create an introduction page specifying instructions. You can create introduction pages in Surpass.

It is crucial that students are also given enough time to complete the test comfortably – placing unreasonable time pressure on them will result in mistakes and a lower mark that won’t reflect their level of achievement in the subject. You might want to consider the average time allowances for students for various question types. Students are usually expected to only need thirty seconds to two minutes to answer selection question types and five to ten minutes to review work. Essay question lengths vary with tests, and can require anything from five minutes to two hours to answer. You might find it helpful to create an on-screen practice test for students to take, to get an idea of how long they need to answer particular questions and question types.    

Note: The purpose of these articles is to provide you with general advice in the fields of assessment and testing. These articles are not intended to replace any regulations or instructions provided by your organisation, but may be used in conjunction with these materials to support the assessment process.


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