10 Reasons Why Frequent Testing Makes Sense

Posted by John Kleeman

It matters to society, organizations and individuals that test results are trustable. Tests and exams are used to make important decisions about people and each failure of test security reduces that trustworthiness.

There are several risks to test security, but two important ones are identity fraud and getting help from others. With identity fraud, someone asks a friend to take the test for them or pays a professional cheater to take the test and pretend to be them. With getting help from others, a test-taker subverts the process and gets a friend or expert to help them with the test, feeding them the right answers. In both cases, this makes the individual test result meaningless and detracts from the value and trustworthiness of the whole assessment process.

There are lots of mitigations to these risks – checking identity carefully, having well trained proctors, using forensics or other reports and using technical solutions like secure browsers – and these are very helpful. But testing more frequently can also reduce the risk: let me explain.

Suppose you just need to pass a single exam to get an important career step – certification, qualification or other important job requirement, then the incentive to cheat on that one test is large. But if you have a series of smaller tests over a period, then it’s more hassle for a test taker to conduct identity fraud or to get help from others each time. He or she would have to pay the proxy test taker several times.  And make sure the same person is available in case photos are captured. And for the expert help you also must reach out more often, and evade whatever security there is each time

There are other benefits too; here is a list of ten reasons why more frequent testing makes sense:

  1. More reliable. More frequent testing contributes to more reliable testing. A single large test is vulnerable to measurement error if a test taker is sick or has an off day, whereas that is less likely to impact frequent tests.
  2. More up to date. With technology and society changing rapidly, more frequent tests can make tests more current. For instance, some IT certification providers create “delta” tests measuring understanding of their latest releases and encourage people to take quarterly tests to ensure they remain up to date.
  3. Less test anxiety. Test anxiety can be a big challenge to some test takers (see Ten tips on reducing test anxiety for online test-takers), and more frequent tests means less is at stake for each one, and so may help test takers be less anxious.
  4. More feedback. More frequent tests give feedback to test takers on how well they are performing and allow them to identify training or continuing education to improve.
  5. More data for testing organization. In today’s world of business intelligence and analytics, there is potential for correlations and other valuable insight from the data of people’s performance in a series of tests over time.
  6. Encourages test takers to target retention of learning. We all know of people who cram for an exam and then forget it afterwards. More frequent tests encourage people to plan to learn for the longer term.
  7. Encourages spaced out learning. There is strong evidence that learning at spaced out intervals makes it more likely knowledge and skills will be retained. Periodic tests encourage revision at regular intervals and so make it more likely that learning will be remembered.
  8. Testing effect. There is also evidence that tests themselves give retrieval practice and aid retention and more frequent tests will give more such practice.
  9. More practical. With online assessment software and online proctoring, it’s very practical to test frequently, and no longer necessary to bring test takers to a central testing center for one off large tests.
  10. Harder to cheat. Finally, as described above, more frequent testing makes it harder to use identity fraud or to get help from others, which reduce cheating.

I think we’re seeing a slow paradigm shift from larger testing events that happen at a single point in time to smaller, online testing events happening periodically. What do you think?

10 reasons why assessments make the world a better place

Posted by John Kleeman

Here are ten reasons why I believe assessment makes a difference to the world. These are reasons that make me proud to work in the assessment industry and I hope they make you proud, too.

1. Assessments give equality of opportunity. Open public examinations let people from any parentage or origin show merit. Since their invention in Imperial China, exams have become a powerful way to give equality of opportunity to all.

Line containing Jefferson's use of the phrase "all men are created equal", in the US Declaration of Independence

2. Assessments make the world safer. Medical professionals, aircraft pilots, air traffic controllers, power station workers, and even anyone who drives a car, has to pass an exam. There are still tragedies, but we are all safer than we would be without assessments.

3. Assessments are the best way to measure knowledge, skills and attitudes. Maybe one day, brain scanners will read our minds, but until that day, assessments are the best way of quantifying what goes on inside our heads. As the scientist Lord Kelvin famously said: “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”.

4. Assessments are the cornerstone of learning. Assessments give learners and instructors signposts and directions to learn better, and are needed for effective and efficient learning. See Questionmark’s white paper Assessments through the Learning Process (free with registration) for more on assessments and learning.

5. Assessments  reduce forgetting. Machines remember things forever, but people forget. As I have shared in this blog, taking a quiz or test gives recall practice, which helps retain information for the future, and reduces forgetting.

6. Assessments are one of the few ways to be sure people really understand. If you need to be certain people understand something – business rules, legal policies your organization has to comply with or other critical information – a well-crafted assessment can check not just that people think they get it but that they really do.

7. Assessments give objective data. By using results from surveys and other assessments, we can avoid subjective “gut” decisions, and gather objective information to make sound data-driven decisions, which use resources wisely.

8. Assessments define standards. By requiring a certification or entrance exam or other assessment criteria, we define standards for what  people need to learn and do, and if these standards are strong, they encourage good behaviour.

9. Passing an assessment makes people feel good about themselves. It’s a great feeling to pass an exam and to know that you have demonstrated your competence and capability. Fair, valid and reliable assessments contribute to happiness.

10. Online assessments give access for all. Last but not least (as this was the key reason I decided to devote my working life to assessments), the ability to take surveys, quizzes, tests and exams at a distance gives access to education, work and development opportunities to all. We empower those who are geographically remote or too poor to travel, as well as disabled people and those with family commitments.

Happy New Year to all in the world of assessment!