The ABC of Content

Any finished product is a function of both form and substance. These share a symbiotic relationship and neither is complete without the other- the best substance cannot exist as an amorphous mass and the most perfect form needs substance to fill it. Likewise, Assessment Testing needs both a framework and content. The design, operation and review/ updation of the Framework is no doubt, as all of us know, a critical determinant in the success of an assessment testing application. Equally important however, is the quality and relevance of the Content. The content determines customer delight and is perhaps the differentiator between an average assessment test and a very good one.

What therefore is good Content and how is it developed? What are the elements and processes involved? Is ‘Content’ produced in a burst of inspiration or does it involve laboured perspiration? Do different assessment testing platforms and applications require entirely different Content or does a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, with perhaps minor tweaking, suffice? Who are the denizens of this world of Content, and are they generally content with their lot? In this series of blogs, we shall together attempt to find some answers to these questions- except perhaps the last one!

Creating good content is a science that has well-defined principles and procedures. The transition from good content to great content though, is an art – and one that all Content Teams hope to master as part of the overall objective of being the best in the assessment testing segment.

What then are the building blocks of content? As in any other field of human activity, the best place to start is at the beginning! What are the objectives of the Test and who are the test-takers – these two fundamental questions need to be asked and answered correctly and comprehensively, right at the start. Test objectives could be to test any or a combination of several aspects or functional competencies. These could include general intelligence, cognitive skills, motor skills, domain knowledge, personality attributes, and many more. Test-takers could be students, teachers, interns, potential employees, trainers, assesors, candidates for promotion or any other from a dozen random categories. Having an accurate picture of the Test objectives and the level and category of Test takers is therefore a sine qua non (essential precondition) to define the nature and level of the content to be created. We call this the ‘Requirement Gathering’ stage.

The Requirement Gathering stage therefore consists of formulating and answering specific sub-questions in order to delineate clearly the boundaries of the required content. As an illustrative example, a fundamental sub-question of ‘Who will take the test and why’ could be generically answered as ‘Students to pass an examination’. A more useful and specific answer could however be formulated as - Students to pass an academic exam (say, to gain a bachelor’s degree); or students to pass a professional examination (say, Chartered Accountancy) or Students to gain admission to a course (say, IIT entrance examination). The more specific the answer (for example, instead of a ‘bachelor’s degree’, the ‘final year of a B.Sc (Hons.) Chemistry degree’) the more relevant it is for the Content Team. Other sub-questions such as ‘What is proposed to be tested’; ‘What should be the length of the test’; ‘What should be the difficulty level’, if formulated well and answered equally precisely, enable the ‘Requirement Gathering’ stage to lay the foundation for developing good and most appropriate content.

In subsequent blogs, we will look at other stages of the content process.

May the Force be with us all!


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