Writing True/False, Matching, Drag and Drop, and Short-Answer Questions for Workforce Training Tests


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Recently we’ve written a series of articles about writing effective test questions for workforce training assessment.

We hope you’ve found the series interesting and helpful. And yep, you guessed it–we mentioned that because this article is another addition to the series on testing and assessment.

In this article, we’ll give you a few general tips for writing specific types of questions. We already covered multiple-choice questions, an online workforce assessment workhorse, in a different article, so we won’t address that here. In this article, we’ll consider true/false questions, matching and/or drag and drop questions, and short-answer and/or fill-in-the-blank questions.

If you missed any of the earlier article in the series, we’ve already covered:

Keep your eye on the blog for a future post on creating assessments that evaluate how well employees perform specific job tasks and/or demonstrate job skills. That’s still on the agenda.

And let us know if we’ve missed something you’d like us to write about.

Tips for Creating Tests and Test Questions

Before we dive into specific tips for the different kinds of test questions, keep the following general tips in mind for all test questions:

  • Make sure the user interface is easy to understand. Don’t make it difficult for your workers to answer test questions correctly simply because they can’t figure out the different buttons on the screen.
  • Make sure your questions are written in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Review your questions for things like grammar and other potential causes of confusion. Have others review your questions too before you release them on a “live” training audience.
  • Make sure your questions aren’t somehow biased. Review your questions to make sure you’re not giving an advantage to some workers and putting other workers at an unfair disadvantage simply by the way you wrote the question or because of their life experiences.
  • Don’t write trick questions. You’re not trying to test your employee’s ability to cleverly answer trick questions–you’re testing their ability to do their job based on knowledge and/or skill.

True/False Questions

Let’s start with true/false questions.

True False Questions: Should You Use Them, and If So, When?

  • Avoid writing true/false questions when possible. They’re not a great way to evaluate learning, and there’s at least a 50% chance that a worker can simply guess the correct answer.
  • If you find yourself tempted to write a true/false question, try to find one or more potentially viable answer options to add and make it a multiple-choice question.
  • If you’re going to use true/false questions, try to use them only when there really are only two answer options (example: black or white with no possibility of gray or other colors). You may find this is more rare than you think.
  • True/false questions may be useful in an instructional setting (instead of an assessment setting), especially as a conversation starter, to get people thinking about an issue, or to point out those ambiguous “shades of gray” in the middle. Keep this use in mind, and remember that tests are a great tool for learning (and not just for assessment).
  • True/false questions may be useful in an ungraded review setting (instead of a true graded evaluation setting) or as a “practice question.”

Tips for Writing True/False Questions

Although there are downsides to true/false questions, they can be handy in some circumstances because they’re easy to create, they’re quick and easy for workers to complete, and they’re easy to score by hand or with a learning management system (LMS).

Plus, as we mentioned, they can be handy during instruction (instead of during a formal assessment) and also during unscored tests.

So if and when you DO use true/false questions, follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure your question stem (the part that “asks” the question) includes all the information that employees need to answer the question correctly
  • Be sure that that your question is either clearly right or clearly wrong; avoid shades of gray
  • Only ask about one thing per question

Matching and/or Drag-n-Drop Questions

These type of questions are useful for testing your employees on a bunch of related information in one question. They’re also useful if your learning objective is related to recalling and identifying.

Here are some tips for creating matching and drag-and-drop questions.

  • Make sure your question stem (the part that “asks” the question) includes all the information your employees need to answer the question
  • Only ask about one thing per question (even if you are having employees match multiple items, there should be some connecting thread–like, match these five codes to these 5 procedures)
  • Your correct matches must be clearly right or clearly wrong
  • Keep all answer options related
  • Avoid the use of negatives when possible
  • Keep the number of items in the left column “limited” (maybe six, tops)
  • Arrange the items in a logical order–numerical, alphabetical, size/length, etc.
  • Avoid confusion by making the following clear: Can each item in one column be matched with only one item from the other column? Can an item be matched with multiple items? Will all items by matched, or will some items go unmatched?

On the related issues of “should there be an equal number of items to be matched in both columns” and/or “should all items have a match,” I have read different suggestions from different experts. I find this advice from Connie Malamed most convincing:

“In an ideal world, you should present more responses than premises, so the remaining responses don’t work as hints to the correct answer. This is not often possible when using a template.”

Source: Tips for Writing Matching Format Test Items

Short Answer or Fill-in-the-Blank Questions

These type of questions are a little problematic simply because they’re harder to have a learning management system (LMS) or other computer-based system score them. But it’s not impossible to program an eLearning course to accept these question types (and the answers), and the information CAN be communicated to an LMS.

However, they do have their benefits as well. For example, since it’s harder to recall (as a learner does with short answer) than it is to recognize (as a learner does in multiple-choice), this may be a more appropriate assessment for more important fact-based information.

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure your question stem (the part that “asks” the question) includes all the information your employees need to answer the question
  • Make it clear to your workers how specific and/or accurate their answer must be
  • If there’s a blank, put the blank at the end of the question stem instead of the beginning or middle
  • If you’re presenting short answer/fill-in-the-blank questions in an eLearning course through an LMS, be sure to include all potentially correct answers and even potential misspellings

Conclusion: True/False, Matching and Drag/Drop, and Short Answer or Fill-in-the-Blank Questions

What are some of your own thoughts about writing tests, test questions, and other forms of workforce learning assessments? Leave ’em in the comments field below.

And don’t forget to download the free Guide to Writing Learning Objectives below while you’re here.

Recommended Works about Assessments

I researched the following works while researching this article, referenced them throughout the article (see the Notes), and highly recommend that you check them out.


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How to Write Learning Objectives

All the basics about writing learning objectives for training materials.

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