Test ideas

Subject: Test ideas
From: Roger Morency <rogerm -at- ONTARIO -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 10:19:28 -0500

Let's move this topic on to a discussion of what would make a good test. A
company that I have worked for would ask candidates to write a procedure
for changing the time and date on a Windows 95 PC. The writer would have
one hour to complete the task. The candidate was told to assume nothing.
The interviewer was the subject matter expert. A PC was provided with
Windows 95 and the word processing/page layout application used by the
company. The interviewer would observe the process and look for things

1) Did the candidate ask for a style guide or a sample ?

2) Did the candidate ask any questions about the audience he was writing for ?

3) Did the candidate complete the task in a timely manner?

4) Did the candidate look comfortable using the tools provided?

5) Were the procedures complete?


Although this form of testing is a bit time consuming, it does tend to weed
out some undesirable candidates. As I told a former coworker of mine, one
candidate started looking on the back of the PC for a knob to turn to
change the time!

Any other ideas for a good and quick test of technical writing skills?


>On 9 Dec 1996 14:11:07 -0600, you wrote:

>>I know some people hate this, and I don't mean to start a flamewar,
>>but a well-designed writing test can really go a long way toward
>>determining ability. Have your candidates rework a poorly worded and
>>designed technical document (no more than a page long), have them
>>describe, in writing, how they approach a new writing project, or
>>something else that can help them show you all of their abilities (of
>>course, have them do this in the DTP or WP of your choice, so that
>>they can do a little design and formatting).

>Yes. But "well designed." Most of them aren't. When I've been asked to
>take a test, it never, never told them a darned thing about my
>abilities as a tech writer or editor. I always felt dejected and dumb,
>which I'm not.

>For instance, about a year ago a company gave me a short test that
>asked me to write a sentence in active and passive voice. They didn't
>learn much more about me than Beth threw the ball and the ball was
>thrown by Beth. Beth.

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