Do you have Testidiom?

I know, it sounds like a bad word; even worse, a strange disease. Actually it’s word I made up to describe idioms for successful test development practices. A test idiom, Testidiom.

What got me thinking about this?
Admittedly, I’ve just finished managing a couple of rough test development projects; read: whatever could go wrong did go wrong. They were grueling; and they didn’t need to be. I am old enough… (I should say, experienced enough. I am NOT old) to know better by now. There are just certain tasks within the test development process that must be done to create a successful test and a positive test development experience.

I started contemplating common phrases that describe those tasks and steps which must be completed for every successful test development project. With Google as my guide, I found idioms and reinvented them as test development conventions. As a reminder, an idiom is a combination of words that has a figurative meaning due to its common usage. For example, a leopard can’t change its spots. The literal combination of these words doesn’t make much sense. However, their inferred meaning gives us pause for thought in the right situation.

Here are just a few testidioms for you to ponder:

• If you put garbage in, you will get garbage out. One of my favorite catch phrases. In item development speak it means, if you give me poorly written objectives, expect to get items that are incongruent and don’t map to the objective. How many times have you gotten an objective and said, “How am I going to write an item to that???” Yep. Garbage.

• Count your items before they hatch. Meaning, you have a test blueprint; use it! If you follow your test blueprint as a guide, you will have the exam coverage you need to cover the content. Don’t let your SMEs decide how many items they will write and the content they will cover. Make sure SMEs have item writing assignments so that the exam’s content properly covers the domain being tested.

• Put all your items into one basket.  Picture this: items coming from various SMEs, in different file formats, with item numbering gone wild. It’s too painful to think about. How are you going to get those items into a single repository; making sure all items have been submitted, without any duplicates? Put them into one tool up front. You can make your test development process more efficient with a SME-accessible item banking tool.

• Too many project managers spoil the test. It’s probably best to have a single, overall project manager. One person must ensure that project milestones are met. When you have too many project managers, it’s hard to determine what has already been done and who did what.

• They use the oldest tricks in the book. (Using none of the above, all the above, true/false, negatively worded stems) It never fails. No matter how many times I train a new SME and warn them about the perils of using these poor item formats, low and behold, they show up in the first version of their items. Really??

Do you have a favorite testidiom to share? Send me a note. Let me know your tried-and-true principles for successfully developing tests. Maybe, together, we can come up with a testidiom compendium.

Idiom for page

Jamie Mulkey

Vice President of Client Services, Caveon Test Security