How to Write a Practice Exam for Boson Exam Publishing
Anyone with experience taking and passing a real exam, such as a standardized college admissions exam or a professional certification or licensure exam, can write a practice exam and publish it through Boson Exam Publishing. Examples include practice exams for the GED, SAT, ACT, GRE or GMAT; certification exams for IT technologies; professional licensure exams for engineers, teachers, realtors, etc.; and many others.
Whatever your area of expertise, Boson Exam Publishing offers you a platform for publishing a practice exam to help other professionals or students pass the real exam. We recommend that you have personal experience taking and passing the exam for which you are writing.
The First Step
The first step in writing a Marketplace practice exam for Boson Exam Publishing is to identify the exam you will be writing and the organization or vendor that creates the exam. For instance, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) creates the SAT, GRE and TOEFL exams among many others. CompTIA is the organization that creates the IT-related exams known as A+, Network+ and Security+. By doing a little research, you should be able to identify the vendor that creates the practice exam that you will be writing.
The Proper Format for Submitting Your Practice Exam Content
All of your exam content should be submitted in a Microsoft Word 2007 or Microsoft Word 2010 document. Anyone with experience using a word-processing program should be able to easily create content for a Marketplace practice exam. After you commit to becoming a Boson Exam Publishing Author, we will provide you with a template on which you will base your content document.
The formatting of the document is simple. You will need to use styles; here is a brief video
that gives you an example of how to use styles in Word 2007. You need not worry if you do not immediately understand the steps involved. If you need further help learning how to format your content document, Boson will provide more extensive instruction once you decide to become a Boson Exam Publishing Author.
The Required Elements of a Practice Exam Question
The following elements are required for each practice exam question that you write:
- Question portion – This consists of only the question, whether the question is one sentence, several sentences or several paragraphs.
- Choices – These will typically be multiple-choice options.
- Explanation – The real exams do not include explanations of the correct answers, but explanations are key to practice exams. We recommend writing several paragraphs to explain why the correct answer is right and why the incorrect answers are wrong. This is your opportunity to educate the customer on the material that the exam covers.
- References – We encourage you to cite authoritative Web or book references to support the material in your explanations. Please see our article titled How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Practice Exam for information about how to cite references.
Guidelines for Deciding How Many Questions to Include in Your Practice Exam
The products that our in-house Boson authors write typically include three full-length practice exams per product. For instance, if a real exam includes 50 questions, our authors will write three practice exams of 50 questions each, for a total of 150 questions in a product. We recommend that you use the same guidelines.
You will also want to consider the length and complexity of the individual questions when you are deciding how many questions to write. If the real exam includes 100 simple, one- or two-sentence multiple-choice questions, it may still be easy for you to write three full-length exams. By contrast, if the real exam includes 100 questions that consist of several long paragraphs for just the question portion (not even considering the explanation portion), you may want to write only two full-length exams for one product.
At Boson, we have found that writing fewer high-quality questions is more helpful than writing many less informative questions, and this philosophy has contributed to the excellent reputation of our own ExSim-Max exam simulation products. However, if another Boson Exam Publishing Author writes a practice exam for the same real exam that you do and offers many more questions, that Author’s product may initially sell more products than yours. Over time, customer ratings should reflect which practice exam is the best quality product.
The primary factor that influences a customer’s decision to purchase one practice exam over another is quality. If the product you provide is free of errors, covers the exam content and mirrors the feel of the real exam, people will likely buy it. Conversely, if you do not provide a quality product, people may avoid it regardless of price.
Your practice exam should cover similar content to that found on the real exam. It is equally as important that exams match the feel of the real exam. You should attempt to simulate the real exam experience as much as possible so that the customer gradually feels more and more comfortable taking a realistic exam; you can do this by writing a similar number of questions, writing similarly formatted choices (such as single-answer multiple-choice, multiple-answer multiple-choice or true/false), and creating the same exam feel (with similarly structured questions, a similar number of correct answers, etc.).
Once you commit to becoming a Boson Exam Publishing Author, we will gladly work with you to determine the optimal length for the practice exam that you choose to write.
Boson reserves the right to refuse to publish a product if it contains materials copied directly from sources without being referenced or attributed. For information on how to ensure your practice exam content is completely original, see our article titled How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Practice Exam
The Boson Exam Environment Software Engine
The Boson Exam Environment (BEE) is the software that will be used to deliver your practice exam. Customers will download the BEE software and your practice exam content from the Boson Marketplace. The BEE is capable of delivering the following types of questions:
- Single-answer multiple-choice
- Multiple-answer multiple-choice
- Fill-in-the-blank (however, the options to fill in the blank must be presented as multiple-choice; the answer cannot be typed in)
- Special question formats: Drag-and-drop, simulation and case study
Essay questions or other types of questions where the answer must be typed are not supported.
We recommend that you use the question types most often found in the real exam for which you are writing. If that exam contains mainly single-answer multiple-choice questions, your practice exam should mimic the ratio on the real exam. If that exam contains numerous drag-and-drop questions or other special question formats, please contact us and we will work with you to ensure that those questions are formatted correctly. Additionally, we may be able to create special question types for you as a service.
Only practice exams can be published in the BEE. Other types of self-publishing are not currently available through Boson.
What to Look for on the Real Exam
If you have not taken the real exam recently, we recommend that you take it again, if possible, to make sure that you are familiar with the testing format and the material covered.
The format and style of the final product should be as similar to the real exam as possible. Therefore, your experience taking the real exam will enable you to better simulate the exam environment. When you take a real exam, we recommend that you pay attention to the following:
- How many questions are on the exam?
- What is the passing score on the exam?
- What is the score range? For example, is the range of possible scores from 0 through 100 or something else altogether?
- How much time are you given to complete the exam?
- Are you allowed to mark questions and return to them later?
- What types of questions are on the exam, and approximately how many of each type are there? Some examples include single-answer multiple-choice, multiple-answer multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, case study, drag-and-drop and simulation.
- How long are the questions? For instance, do questions generally consist of one sentence, several sentences or even several paragraphs?
- How many choices are available for each question?
- Are there any NOT questions? For example, does a question ask, “Which of the following are NOT correct?” If there are NOT questions, is “not” capitalized or otherwise emphasized?
- Are any graphics, screen captures or exhibits used in the questions or choices? How many questions contain them?
- Is there any special formatting in the questions? Examples of special formatting include the following:
- Are the questions easy or difficult?
- Do the questions test trivia or concepts?
- Are you told how many answers to select? If so, how are you told? Some possible examples include the following:
- Select two choices.
- Select all correct choices.
- Select the best answer.
- If you are instructed to choose a certain number of answers—three for instance—are you able to select more (four or more) or fewer (one or two) and still proceed to the next question?
The more information you can learn about the real exam, the better. You should write questions, choices and explanations that cover similar material to the questions on the exam. However, you should never copy actual questions from a real exam or from any other practice exams published by other sources. Please see our article titled How to Avoid Plagiarism in Your Practice Exam
for more information about how to write original practice exam content.
Recommended Work Habits
- Save often. You do not want to lose your hard work.
- Back up your files regularly.
- To avoid losing or corrupting data, do not work directly from documents that are located on a remote computer, on a flash drive, on optical media (such as a CD or DVD), or within an e-mail message. Copy the document to your local computer’s hard drive and work from that file.
- Secure your files so that unauthorized individuals cannot access them. Always use a firewall and an antivirus application to protect your computer from attacks and to protect your data from being exposed.
- Do not provide any portion of the content you create to anyone outside of Boson.
Writing Style Recommendations
Here are some general concepts regarding the writing style we recommend you use for practice exams:
- Avoid any bias regarding gender. Religion, race and sexual orientation should never be mentioned within items.
- Avoid including yourself within a question or explanation. For example, you should not say, "I once copied several files..." or "We should first make a backup..."
- Use a formal, not a conversational, tone in your questions and explanations.
- Avoid using contractions.
- If you introduce a character into a practice exam question, avoid using first and last names. Use either one or the other, as in "Carol" or "Mr. Smith."
- If the real exam uses company names in its questions, be sure to use only fictional company names in your questions and explanations. Do a quick Web search to rule out possible company-name duplication.
- If you are writing an IT exam, avoid using public IP addresses. Use private IP addresses (per RFC 1918) whenever possible.
- Avoid using humor, at least in the questions and choices; using humor is not likely to simulate a real-life exam. Some humor might be acceptable in the explanations, but be careful not to use potentially offensive humor.
- Ensure consistency in terminology, formatting, capitalization, grammar and so on. Mimic the use of capitalization, terminology and formatting in the real exam and/or in the primary reference.