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25. Testing as a Teaching Method

In a very real sense testing evaluation is always going on. But it does not always take the form of a teaching method. Sometimes tests are used as evaluation instruments (that’s good). Sometimes they are used as a threat (that’s bad). Rarely are they used as a means to convey truth (that’s unfortunate).

There are a number of ways that students’ learning can be tested. Almost all of them are adaptable for use as a teaching method. The way we use a test makes it a teaching tool, so we can get double mileage out of any given evaluation instrument simply by adapting it for both evaluation and teaching.

Here are some types of testing which are commonly used in most levels of education and certainly would be very usable in church education as well:

Matching Questions. On this kind of test the student links up the items in one column which go correctly with the items in another column.



a. David

1. Was taken captive to Babylon _________

b. Daniel

2. Ministered to the Jews in exile _________

c. Jonah

3. Was the youngest son of Jesse _________

d. Ezekiel

4. Preached a revival in Nineveh _________

True-False Test. This is perhaps the easiest to construct and the quickest to administer. Its major weakness lies in the temptation to use trick questions (never a good procedure if we want the test to be a teaching tool), and the fact that a student has a 50 percent chance of getting the answer right even if he never studied the material at all.


Mark T or F after the following sentences to indicate whether they are true or false.

1. Jesus was born in Nazareth. ___________

2. Jesus baptized many disciples Himself. ___________

3. Jesus cast the beggars out of the Temple. ___________

Completion Tests. In the completion test the student fills in the information indicated in a blank space or spaces.


The name of Abraham’s wife was___________ and the

name of his favorite son was ___________

Multiple Choice Tests. A multiple choice test is one in which the student reads a question and then selects his answer from a list of alternatives (usually four) which are provided for him.


When God confronted him in a bright light, Saul of Tarsus was on his way to what city? _________

a. Jerusalem

b. Damascus

c. Babylon

d. Rome

In one of my books I have indicated four guidelines for the use, of multiple choice questions.

1. Avoid listing obviously wrong alternatives

2. Make sure that one of the alternatives is distinctly better than the others

3. Place all of the essential information in the question

4. Be sure that each of the alternatives grammatically fits into the sentence

(Understanding Teaching, ETTA, Wheaton, Ill.).

Essay Questions. This kind of test takes more time because a student must respond to the questions by writing the answer in his own words. Although it takes more time to grade and more time to complete, the value of having the student verbalize truth is a desirable gain.


Write three or four sentences describing what the Bible says about Christ’s coming again (you may use your Bible in answering the question).

Values of Testing as a Teaching Method

A teacher who accepts the responsibility to teach also accepts the responsibility to evaluate learning. Paul Lederach suggests four areas of evaluation which are important in Christian teaching:

1. We can test persons in the area of knowledge and understanding.

2. We can evaluate habits that contribute to a Christian personality such as prayer, Bible study, honesty, self-control, and loyalty.

3. We can evaluate changes in values and attitudes.

4. We can evaluate a person’s participation in the gathered life of the church and his participation in the mission of the church as a witness and servant when the church is scattered (Learning To Teach, mentioned earlier).

Stimulation is another value of testing. Sometimes I will give a complete test the first day a class convenes. The purpose is to show students what they know and what they do not know about that particular subject. Hopefully, this awareness motivates learning.

The teacher who tests his students regularly can be a source of information on the progress those students are making in the Christian life.

Problems in Using Testing

Just as in making assignments, the biggest problem we face in testing is the problem of poor attitudes. It is not easy to “sell” the idea of the importance of testing. This is a problem faced in au education even though no serious educator would discount the importance of evaluation of some kind. Lederach quotes the old guideline, “We test our teaching to be sure we know what we are doing and are doing what we know!”

Sometimes testing becomes a problem because we have poor test instruments. Fortunately, most of the major curriculum publishers are now producing standardized Bible knowledge tests to coordinate with the curriculum at most age levels. Please remember, though, that these are strictly content-knowledge tests and do not measure attitudes and behavioral change. These things must be evaluated by subjective observation over a period of time.

Principles for Effective Testing

Test for more than memorization. Although Bible knowledge is a basic area, the teacher should also try to test attitudes, choices, and conduct.

Always build your test on the basis of your teaching-learning objectives. If you have clearly stated objectives at the beginning of a quarter and also before each week, you will have some basis upon which to develop a test. It is foolish to try to test students to see if they know what you never specifically set out to teach them in the first place.

Always explain the test content and procedure carefully. Let the student know precisely what is expected of him, how he should prepare for the test, and what kinds of things he should do in writing the test.

Try to remove the element of threat as much as possible. In the early days you may forego the collecting of papers and let the test be a personal experience of the student’s measurement of his own progress. Above all, never use a test as a form of punishment.

Involve the parents. Remember that theme? Let the parents know when a test is scheduled so they can help at home in the preparation and study.

Make good tests. You may not have access to standardized tests provided by a publisher. Or, you may for some reason choose not to use them or supplement the standardized test by tests which you make yourself. In preparing a teacher-made test try to observe the following positive characteristics:

1. Objectivity—try to develop tests which have specific kinds of information feedback even when that information is of an understanding or comprehension type rather than fact memorization.

2. Clarity—questions should not be vague or capable of more than one correct interpretation.

3. Comprehensiveness—a test is comprehensive when it touches on each of the major areas of the unit studied.

4. Validity—test what is supposed to be tested. If we intend our tests to measure a student’s understanding of what salvation is, the test is invalid if we only get back a series of memorized facts which may not tell us anything about how well he understands the process of conversion.

If testing is really to become a teaching technique, we should take one further step after the test has been taken and graded. We should bring it back into class and discuss it thoroughly with our students so they may have on opportunity to see where they made mistakes and what kinds of things will be necessary for further study.

Related Topics: Teaching the Bible

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