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For the love of Learners, score it right!

Jun 25, 2018

This post is for my fellow Instructional Designers, we who make the assessments for the trainings. We do much more than just this, of course. But when it comes to making a quiz or knowledge check or exam or whatever, it’s not our first rodeo.

Okay, seriously now…why is simple math such a problem for us? Why is it that we can’t get the basics down and standardized for the benefit of our learners?

Let’s all agree that the following mistake should NEVER EVER BE MADE:

Pass/Fail threshold = 80%
Number of questions = 4

Because we can all see that this doesn’t work, right? That this is essentially a 100% pass/fail? I mean, as an ID you probably look at it like this and laugh because it’s thatobvious, right?

  • The Learner either answers 3 out of 4 questions correctly, which is 75% (FAIL!!!)
  • Or they answer 4 out of 4 questions correctly, which is 100% (PASS)
  • There is a 0% chance of the Learner scoring anything in between a 75% and 100%.

Why would we make our Learners looks stupid and ourselves look stupider?

Don’t. Ever. Do. This!

Or anything like this. There are no surprises here, we humans have had the math we need to prevent such problems for a few millennia now.

If you need a math tutor, please go get one. I needed one in high school because I’m not very good at math, personally. And we all make mistakes now and again, but seriously…this is embarrassing already.

Here’s a cheat sheet for how the math works in our situation:

  • 1-3 questions = Why bother scoring at all? Don’t kid yourself, this isn’t a real assessment.
  • 4 questions = 75% (Learner can miss 1), this is the bare minimum if you call yourself a professional
  • 5 questions = 80% (Learner can miss 1)
  • 6 questions = drop one question
  • 7 questions = add one more question
  • 8 questions = 75% pass (Learner can miss 2)
  • 9 questions = drop or add one question
  • 10 questions = 70% (Learner can miss 3) or 80% pass (Learner can miss 2) or 90% if you’re being mean (Learner can miss 1)
  • 11 question = drop or add one question
  • 12 questions = 75% pass (Learner can miss 3)
  • 13 questions = drop one question
  • 14 questions = add one more question
  • 15 questions = 80% pass (Learner can miss 3)
  • 16 questions = 75% pass (Learner can miss 4)
  • 17 questions = drop one question
  • 18 questions = drop/add two questions
  • 19 questions = add one more question
  • 20 questions = either 70% (Learner can miss 6) or 75% (Learner can miss 5) or 80% (Learner can miss 4) or 85% (Learner can miss 3) or 90% (Leaner can miss 2) or, if you’re feeling mean 95% (Learner can miss 1)

It goes on like this as you’d expect, in predictable little mathematical multiples. The multiples of 4 or 5 tend to work out nicely. The other multiples don’t really, at least until you get up to 60 questions or so.

Avoid the urge to create the “83.33333% or better to pass” scenario and just keep it simple.

It’s not hard. So don’t make it hard. This isn’t rocket science, it’s not even algebra.

Getting this kind of thing wrong means you don’t care enough to even think about it. So why should your Learner care about the rest of what you made? It really does matter to the person on the other end of your assessment. Be straight with them. Make your assessments clearly correct to their eyes.

If you care about your Learners, you owe it to them to get this right. Please, please, please care enough to design your assessment well!

It all starts with a conversation

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