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Function and Importance of Pre and Post-Tests

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Second Grade Students in Thailand Taking a Test

Photo taken around 2013 at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand

Photo taken around 2013 at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand

What Are Pre and Post-Tests?

For three years I used pre and post-tests as assessment tools for measuring the preparedness and performance of my EFL students. In addition to measuring how much students have improved in one semester of study, the pre/post-test can be a valuable diagnostic tool for more effective teaching.

A pre/post-test by design covers all of the topics which a student will be studying during a semester. While taking the pre-test at the beginning of a semester, students are not expected to know the answers to all of the questions; however, they should be expected to utilize previous knowledge to predict rational answers. When taking the same test called a post-test at the end of a semester, students should be expected to answer more questions correctly based on an increase in knowledge and understanding.

A pre/post-test should be designed to measure the amount of learning a student has acquired in a specific subject. To do this, questions concerning all of the topics covered during a semester must appear on the test. When grading the tests, the teacher assigns a numerical score to both the pre-test and the post-test. To demonstrate that student progress has been made during a given semester, the post-test score should be higher than the pre-test score.

Pre and Post-Test

How Can a Pre and Post-Test Be Used as a Teacher Diagnostic Tool?

Pre/post-test functions as a teacher diagnostic tool in the following five ways:

1. It Identifies the Very Weak Students in a Class:

Every time I grade a pre-test I can get a fairly good idea about the weak students in my class. In most cases, their scores are close to the bottom of the class. Many of these weak students don't even finish answering all of the questions on the test. When these same students take the post-test, the improvement in their scores over the pre-test is much less than other students.

2. It Identifies the strongest students in a class:

The students scoring more than 80 percent on the pre-test usually turn out to be the best in my class. I have had a few pupils score 95 or above, and in most cases, they have demonstrated gifted and talented characteristics.

3. It identifies topics that the students already know:

If 75 - 80 percent of the students score above 80 on a certain topic, this would indicate that most of the students already know the subject matter. I once had a class in which 60 percent of the students scored more than 75 on the pre-test.

4. It identifies topics that the students don't know:

I had just finished giving pre-tests to EFL students who were taking my reading and writing course. More than 70 percent of the students scored less than 50 on the mechanics of writing. This included capitalization, spelling, punctuation, verb tense usage, and other grammatical errors. This identified a topic that the students still didn't know.

5. It identifies topics that the students have not learned:

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A much higher post-test score should indicate that a student has learned certain topics in comparing pre-test and post-test scores. If the scores are about the same, or if the post-test score is lower than the pre-test score, in all indications this measures that topics were not learned in the course.

Benefits of a Pre and Post-Test

How Can a Pre and Post-Test Be Used For More Effective Teaching?

Pre/Post-Tests can be used for more effective teaching in the following three ways:

1. Weak Students Should Be Given Remedial Instruction:

After the pre-test identifies the weak students in a class, it is the teacher's responsibility to give extra remedial instruction. For example, if a student is not reading at the fifth-grade level as measured by a post-test given at the end of fourth grade, the teacher should find instructional materials at a lower grade level. A dedicated teacher would then find time during his lunch hour or breaks during the day to give extra individual help to the student. The teacher would also encourage the student's parents to assist with remedial tutoring.

2. The Strong-Or Gifted Students Must Be Given Extra Challenging Materials:

After the strong or gifted and talented students are identified through a pre-test, the teacher must give these students extra challenging materials. My school in Thailand does not have a special program or class for the gifted and talented. All students, even the ones with special education needs, are streamlined into one class. This being the case, it is even more important for the teacher to make sure the student works up to his or her ability. If this is not done, the student will become bored and maybe even present discipline problems.

3. Schemes of Work and Lesson Plans Should Be Revised:

Most teachers draw up a semester scheme of work and individual class lesson plans well before the first day of class. The pre-test, however, is not given until the first week of class. If the results of the pre-test indicate that most students know a topic of instruction very well, a good teacher will be flexible and revise his scheme of work. The teacher would probably arrange to spend less time on the topic known very well, and he would most certainly arrange to spend more time on a topic which the students have no knowledge or understanding. If the post-test for a previous class showed that most students did not learn a topic, a wise teacher would revise his teaching method and perhaps use different teaching materials for the next class he teaches.

Pre/Post-Tests are a necessary teacher diagnostic tool for measuring the learning of EFL and other students. Teachers must remember to use them as a diagnostic instrument so that teaching can be more effective.

Function of a Pre and Post Test

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Should students study for a post-test?

Answer: If a student has paid attention in class and studied his subject material, it is not necessary to study for a post-test. The post-test is in fact almost the same as the test he has already taken.

Question: Why are the pupils' scores lower on the pre-test than on the post-test?

Answer: Students scores are lower on the pre-test because they have not yet studied the material which is tested. Scores are expected to be higher on the post-test because the students have already studied the tested material. Remember that the pre-test and post-test are the same.

Question: We run an informal education learning center in Jordan. We conduct pre- and post-tests each semester. Our students take pre-tests at the beginning of the semester, then they take post-tests at the end, and the students study for the post-tests. Can we compare marks from pre- and post-tests if they didn't study for the pre-test but studied for the post-test? We are trying to measure the impact of the program and the enhancement in learning through the least number of exams.

Answer: Students are not to study for both the pre-test and the post-test. After the pre-test is taken and graded, the students get to see their tests, but they must return them to the teacher. By doing this, the students will not know what to expect when they see and take the post-test which is the same as the pre-test.

Question: Should students study for a post test?

Answer: No, it is not necessary. The post-test covers what was taught during a term and is the same as the pre-test which the student took before beginning the term.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn


Musty on July 14, 2020:

Firstly, I appreciate you for your answer. My study is about science education achievement.I do not want students to remember the questions in the pretest. By the way my study is academic. Because of I have to find a support scientific article or articles.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 13, 2020:

Hi, Musty! Sorry for the delay in answering your question. What kind of study are you doing? When I gave protests and posttest as a teacher, they were always the same. The only thing I can suggest is making the questions the same for both the pre and posttest.

Musty on July 07, 2020:

Hi Paul, I have a question for you. In my study, I used pre-post test design. But pretest and posttest are different each other. The table of specifications(concepts) same but questions are different. I did it because of internal validity. But I did not that case in the literature or I did not find it. What can I do? Thanks for your answer

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 15, 2020:

Jasmin, is your achievement test a final test measuring what the students learned during a term? If it is, it is not really a post-test. To avoid cheating, I would not give the same test to the same students who were not able to pass the first final. Make sure the questions are different but test on the same content learned during the term.

Jasmin on February 15, 2020:

Hi Paul. I am giving an achievement test to my students. Can I give the same test to the same students who were unable to meet the cut off score? Thank you.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 07, 2018:

If you want a sample of an English pre/post-test that I used for EFL 5th graders, please contact me at my Hotmail address listed on Hubpages.

jamie on November 07, 2018:

do you have a sample of pre/post test?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 10, 2018:

Saima, Thank you for reading and your queries. The participants for both the pre and post-test should remain the same. When I gave my pre and post-tests in Thailand for EFL students, they were the same and did not have to be revised. That was as late as 2014 and I do not know if there have been changes since I retired from teaching in 2014.

Saima on April 10, 2018:

Thank you very much for the shared post which is very well explained!

A few queries:

1. Can I conduct pre-test on a sample of students and post-test on population? Can both be comparable?

2. Should the participants remain same for both pre and post?

3. You have mentioned that same test can be used for both Pre and Post. I hear that it is practiced in health sciences but for education, it needs to be revised. Can i get reference for it?

will look forward to your response.



Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 05, 2018:

Drake, the real function of a post-test is to measure its result in comparison to a pre-test and determine how much a student has progressed over a term of instruction.

drake alfonso on March 05, 2018:

sir we have a research today and the research design is post test can you clarify the really function of post test

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on February 28, 2016:

@DoveFreexrolo , Thank you very much for your comments. I am very happy you found this hub helpful.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 22, 2015:

&rozel caga , If all of my students passed the pretest, I would have them all start with the next higher learning module. Thanks for commenting.

rozel caga on October 22, 2015:

What will you do if all your students passed the pre test lesson

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on September 21, 2012:


Thanks for reading and your comments. Pre-tests and post-tests have the exact same content. The purpose for this is to determine how much a student has progressed after finishing a chapter of semester of work. You are correct in stating that the teacher will not share (or show) the pre-test mistakes to the student, because the student will then know what to expect for the post-test. What the teacher should do is point out in general terms what your child had problems with on the pre-test, so that he or she can practice and overcome deficiencies to do better on the post-test.

brodemi on September 20, 2012:

The question has come up w/my child's 4th grade math teacher who gives pretests before each chapter whether to share the pre-test with the students. She does not. What is your opinion and reasons. The only reason for not sharing I can think of is that the pre-test "gives away" too much the structure of the post-test, making it easier to focus on how to do well specifically on the post-test rather than learning the material per se. Seems a week argument, especially for 4th graders.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 24, 2012:

I'm happy to help anytime and I am always trying to think of better ways to improve my tests.

Dianne on June 24, 2012:

Hi Paul, Thank you for that. I have been 'arguing' that our school should not be using the same test for pre and post. I understood that if they had been exposed to the test then it may affect the scores, as they could discuss the questions with each other, look up the answer etc etc hmmmm . Might have to go eat a piece of humble pie tomorrow morning at school.

Thanks for your input :-)

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 23, 2012:

Hi Dianne,

Yes, you can definitely use your pretest as your posttest. The purpose in doing this is to compare the two scores and see if your students have made any progress.

Dianne on June 23, 2012:

Hi, Can you use your pretest as your posttest??

Ana Sia on June 10, 2012:

thank you for sharing this article, basically pre test is a must for us math teachers.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 01, 2012:

Thank you for reading and the great comment.

Sturgeonl on June 01, 2012:

This is an excellent article that effectively shows the value of pretests to support the range of learning needs in a class. Your emphasis on being flexibile regarding instruction and planning is an important point. Great hub! Voted up and useful.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 14, 2012:

Emmanuel, No, I haven't encountered any resistance at all. However, many students ask why they are taking the test and I explain the rationale behind it. Thanks for your favorable comments.

Emmanuel Kariuki from Nairobi, Kenya on May 14, 2012:

Paul, this pre/post test is very well explained and I agree it is a useful tool. I gave such tests without knowing what to call them. However, I found the students were averse to them, and I was once reported to the Principal for 'setting questions on topics I had not taught.' I had to explain that my objective was to gauge what the student already knew, but I wasn't encouraged to continue. Have you faced any resistance from the students so far? Useful and voted up.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 17, 2012:

I'm not sure I understand your question. What do you mean by adjusting academic exam results?

Debi on January 16, 2012:

Interesting. Can you tell me if you know of ways to adjust academic exam results for EFL learners who must undertake all instruction in English with English texts(full immersion)?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 07, 2011:

Hi Andrea,

Every time I give my pre-tests I see a wide variance between students scores. It turns out that the students with the very low scores are working well below grade placement, and the students with the exceptionally high scores are working well above grade placement. In teaching a class with both types of students it's extremely important to give individual help to these students, because in most cases my school won't transfer them to different classes. When you are teaching 40 students in a class, this can be very hard to do.

Andrea Hildreth from West Coast, USA on June 06, 2011:

Hello Paul,

I share your enthusiasm for pre/post tests. There is great value in discovering what knowledge students bring into the course, so that you can set authentic expectations.

Do you have any advice on how to respond to a wide variance between student scores on the pre-test?

Andrea Hildreth

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