Moving away from multiple-choice questions and towards performing tasks in real environments will see better results in skills validation programs

Performance-based testing (PBT) is a game changer for skills validation programs. Moving from traditional multiple-choice questions to performing tasks in real environments will not only increase the value and effectiveness of your program but produce better overall results with a higher standard for success.

Here are five concepts that drive success when implementing PBT.

1. Incorporate it into your training program

PBT is a challenge-centric, scored lab that should be used throughout the training arc, from skills acquisition to validation, to ensure that all phases of learning are consistent and incorporate the same methods of skills validation.

Before training, consider assessing your learners’ skills for a baseline indicator by letting them try new skills to determine the training they need. Then, during training, implement short, hands-on exercises that are goal-oriented to measure skills developed. After the training, capstone with scored labs, which test your learners’ skills through experiential learning.

Preparation for the subsequent exam should include scored labs in your practice tests so learners gain familiarity with the certification testing environment. For the exam itself, utilize industry-leading exam providers to certify the skills your learners have acquired and validated.

2. Prepare your test takers

Provide samples, videos and instructions to help learners understand the test will now be using a real environment. Incorporating scored labs as part of your training and practice tests will go a long way in this preparation.

3. Limit your delivery scope in early phases

There are several physical and topical considerations for your delivery. PBT requires reliable internet connections for test takers. You should also vet testing systems prior to delivering an exam to make sure they support PBT. Working with an experienced exam delivery partner can help mitigate this risk.

Avoid topics that are experiencing rapid change or are not mature. Scoring scripts, code and logic must be 100 percent reliable and predictable, and must always evaluate as a true or false statement.

4. Have a backup

PBT relies on factors outside the test taker’s system. As much as you don’t want to think about it, these dependencies will cause individual exams to not function from time to time. Treat PBT as the preferred but not the sole testing solution and have a Plan B ready to deploy.

5. Take time to build high-quality, reusable environments

If PBT is pervasive within your training, you can reuse your work many times over. The same environment can be used for training, assessments, validation and exams. Investing time and resources in their creation will result in high-performing environments that are reliable and easy to customize. On top of that, creating similarities in environments can help ease learners’ stress.

PBT will change the quality of certifications, bringing increased credibility and value as real-world skills are brought front and center. Being ‘book smart’ is not enough; you must be able to perform tasks in the real environment. These five tips will go a long way in ensuring your program’s success and are best implemented with an experienced partner who has a track record for both innovation and success in PBT projects.

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