Why Pre-test?

May 13, 2011

It has not been a standard practice of mine to develop a pre-test that a user can take to "test-out" of a course.  Are there any other advantages (or disadvantages) to having a pre-test to a course if the user can simply navigate to the quiz via the menu (assuming the navigation is wide open)?  Why or why not?



8 Replies
Steve Flowers

We usually avoid delta measurements except during the efficacy testing phase before roll-out as a research evaluation of the solution (if it's broken, we fix it). If we know our audience well enough, hopefully our solution won't be an exercise in shooting in the dark. A well designed solution will work as designed every time. Delta measurements shouldn't be necessary and can function as an annoying mechanic in many situations (as a learner I hate being over-tested).

However, there are some times where we'll use a pre-test:

  • Pre-test / Post-test as same element. Where the primary measurement mechanism is the test, we provide the test at any time. When you're ready, just take the test.
  • Pre-test as tailoring mechanism. Where the pre-test configures the content. We have the learner take the pre-test and the results indicate where the learner needs to focus, what activities they need to complete, etc. before they can be marked as complete.
  • Pre-test as a one time shot side-step. For some courses we provide a one time access "test-out". Once the learner fails this once, they need to complete the course to unlock the post-test.  We aren't measuring the delta, we're simply assessing how well the learner performs up front and allowing them to avoid redundant torture.
  • Pre-test as a strategic primer. Some definite learning benefits come with failure opportunities. See this article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-pluses-of-getting-it-wrong

So I think the strongest arguments for the use of a pre-test are:

  • Convenience / tailoring / avoidance of irrelevant or redundant experiences
  • As a learning strategy

I think measurement of what you learned isn't something I would always avoid, but it's not something I'll do regularly and I'm going to take a really hard look at why before choosing that strategy. Like I said, if I don't know where my audience level is then I'm stabbing in the dark with the solution and am ALWAYS going to miss the mark somewhere. Efficacy testing should be done before roll-out, not in eternal beta. My 2c.

Phil Mayor

Hi Steve

great post, we run our own lms and produce content for it.  Our site is open to the public and free to use and we have a mixed ability group, (Doctors to unqualified staff).  We also have to show value for financing a free lms and content, pre and post testing allows us to statistically show some learning has taken place with those who have completed our learning.

Not ideal, we have other ways such as evaluation tools and feedback. 



Eduardo Mayorga

I think pretests are very important because they allow learners to know exactly where they are on a topic. Many learners overestimate there knowledge and go through a course believing they know everything without paying much attention..

Pretests (specially when they do not perform well)  help their study be oriented to answer the questions they failed. This gives them more motivation to look carefully into the learning material.

I also believe learners like the challenge pretests give, and enjoy going through them.

Finally getting the right answer after the lecture or course, gives them a sense and measurement of achievement. (before/after). It´s like weighing yourself before you start a diet.



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