Types of Tests

Learn how to succeed on different types of exams

Whether you like them or not, tests are a way of checking your knowledge or comprehension. They are the main instrument used to evaluate your learning by most educational institutions. According to research studies, tests have another benefit: they make you learn and remember more than you might have otherwise. Although it may seem that all tests are the same, many different types of tests exist and each has a different purpose and style.

Diagnostic Tests

These tests are used o diagnose how much you know and what you know. They can help a teacher know what needs to be reviewed or reinforced in class. They also enable the student to identify areas of weakness.

Placement Tests

These tests are used to place students in the appropriate class or level. For example, in language schools, placement tests are used to check a student’s language level through grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing, and speaking questions. After establishing the student’s level, the student is placed in the appropriate class to suit his/her needs.

Progress or Achievement Tests

Achievement or progress tests measure the students’ improvement in relation to their syllabus. These tests only contain items which the students have been taught in class. There are two types of progress tests: short-term and long-term.

Short-term progress tests check how well students have understood or learned material covered in specific units or chapters. They enable the teacher to decide if remedial or consolidation work is required.

Long-term progress tests are also called Course Tests because they check the learners’ progress over the entire course. They enable the students to judge how well they have progressed. Administratively, they are often the sole basis of decisions to promote to a higher level.

Progress tests can also be structured as quizzes, rather than as tests. They can be answered by teams of students, rather than individuals. They can be formulated as presentations, posters, assignments, or research projects. Structuring progress tests in this way takes into account the multiple intelligences and differing learning styles of the students. Yet many students still expect a “regular test” as a part of “normal learning”.

Proficiency Tests

These tests check learner levels in relation to general standards. They provide a broad picture of knowledge and ability. In English language learning, examples are the TOEFL and IELTS exams, which are mandatory for foreign-language speakers seeking admission to English-speaking universities. In addition, the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) checks students’ knowledge of Business English, as a prerequisite for employment.

Internal Tests

Internal tests are those given by the institution where the learner is taking the course. They are often given at the end of a course in the form of a final exam.

External Tests

External tests are those given by an outside body. Examples are the TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS, SAT, ACT, LSAT, GRE and GMAT. The exams themselves are the basis for admission to university, job recruitment, or promotion.

Objective Tests

Objective tests are those that have clear right or wrong answers. Multiple-choice tests fall into this group. Students have to select a pre-determined correct answer from three or four possibilities.

Subjective Tests

Subjective tests require the marker or examiner to make a subjective judgment regarding the marks deserved. Examples are essay questions and oral interviews. For such tests, it is especially important that both examiner and student are aware of the grading criteria in order to increase their validity.

Combination Tests

Many tests are a combination of objective and subjective styles. For example, on the TOEFL iBT, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the reading and listening sections are objective, and the writing and speaking sections are subjective.