Halo effect

The Halo Effect: dodging evaluation errors in open-ended questions

Ever caught yourself rating a candidate highly because your overall impression of them is favorable? That’s the Halo Effect in action. This article dives into what the Halo Effect is, why it’s crucial to identify, and how to sidestep it when grading open-ended questions.

Defining the Halo effect

The Halo Effect is a cognitive bias where your broad perception of someone influences your appraisal of their specific traits, abilities, or performances. In test assessment, this means a positive impression of a test candidate can lead to an inflated score than objectively warranted. This could happen subconsciously, making it essential to train yourself in recognizing and counteracting the Halo Effect.

Did you know that the Horn effect is the flip side of the Halo Effect?

Spotting the Halo Effect

A fair and objective assessment is vital for maintaining the reliability and validity of tests. The Halo Effect can undermine this objectivity and lead to unequal opportunities for test candidates. It’s important to be aware of this effect and take steps to minimize it. Learn more about objectively assessing open-ended questions.

Preventing the Halo Effect when grading

Fair and objective evaluation is immensely important within (digital) testing. Here are some tips to bear in mind to counteract the Halo Effect:

Tip 1: Be mindful of your own biases

The first step in circumventing the Halo Effect is becoming aware of your own biases and assumptions. Ask yourself: is my general impression of this candidate influencing my assessment of their responses? If so, take a step back and strive to view the responses objectively.

Tip 2: Employ clear test criteria

One effective way to combat the Halo Effect is by adhering to clear and objective assessment criteria. This helps you to focus on the actual performance of the candidate, rather than being swayed by your overall impression.

Tip 3: Distribute the assessment among multiple evaluators

Involving multiple evaluators can help diminish the influence of the Halo Effect. By incorporating various perspectives into the evaluation process, the likelihood of one evaluator imposing their subjective impressions on the final judgement is reduced.

Tip 4: Utilize digital assessment software

Digital assessment software can assist in reducing the Halo Effect. It can guide you to work consistently and systematically, and often provides options to clearly record assessment criteria and scoring guidelines. This aids in minimizing subjectivity and bias.

In conclusion

The Halo Effect is a common phenomenon that can compromise the objectivity of test evaluations. By being aware of this effect and implementing the above strategies, you can safeguard fairer and more objective assessments. Remember, acknowledging and addressing the Halo Effect contributes not only to the reliability and validity of tests, but also to a fair chance for all test candidates to showcase their knowledge and skills! Learn more about digital testing in our knowledge bank.

Related content

Learn more about digital assessments

Want to know more?

Optimum Assessment is your partner in digital assessment. We help you get started with a complete package of services. We support you through the entire testing process, whether it is the implementation of the software, the optimization of your testing process or the development of an item bank.


To find out more about Optimum Assessment’s (support) services, contact us directly. We are always happy to help you find a solution!