Tips to Design Effective Tests for Students

Looking to transform assessment for student development?


Tests are part of the learning process; it allows students to show – what they know and what they can do with the acquired knowledge and skills. With test results, teachers learn about student strengths (the subject areas the student excels in) and weaknesses (areas in which the student needs to improve their understanding, knowledge & skills). Tests provide information about student learning that help teachers & parents instruct students better and help them succeed in academics and beyond.

A well-designed test is rigorous while being mindful of the role that mindset, confidence, and anxiety play in test taking. Read on to know how to design effective tests that support students’ academic development.

Create tests that are at an appropriate level of difficulty

Tests that are extremely difficult or easy are of no use for both learning and assessment. Extremely difficult tests can cause stress and demotivate students. Tests that are at an appropriate level of difficulty ensure that students who study moderately can answer 70 to 80 percent of the questions correct.

Begin with easy questions

Tests should not begin with tough/difficult questions. Students can be discouraged by seeing a hard question early in the test and assume that the rest of the test will be difficult too which will adversely affect their mindset and performance. If the test begins with easy questions, it allows students ease into a test and answer the rest of the questions confidently.

Consider a mix of testing formats

Using a mix of traditional testing formats (multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions) with creative, open-ended assessments can bring out different strengths and interests of students. Also, keep test questions free of unnecessary jargons and if needed - revise test papers to simplify questions. 

Design smaller low-stakes tests

High-stakes tests increase stress and affect students’ ability to concentrate which can lower their test scores. Instead of a single high-stakes test, break it into smaller low-stakes tests that can be spread throughout the year to reduce test anxiety for school students. Also, teachers can time themselves taking a test and accordingly remove a few questions, if they feel students won’t be able to complete the test in the given time limit.

Tests are not an endpoint to learning. After the tests, teachers need to address misconceptions and gaps in student knowledge and provide them feedback & support to help them improve their test performance in the future.  

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What steps are you taking to make tests meaningful for your students?

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