The use of multimedia in testing: added value or just a cute gadget?

The popularity of multimedia tools in tests is increasing. But does the use of multimedia, such as video or audio fragments in tests actually have added value? Or is it mainly used to keep up with the times and to create ‘state of the art’ testing?

The use of multimedia in testing

If you only use multimedia because a test has to be fun and modern, it overshoots the mark. There is another, more important reason to use multimedia in testing. A candidate wants to pass the test and therefore needs to properly understand the questions asked. The use of multimedia contributes directly to this.

Added value

With multimedia applications you simply improve the quality of your test. This is explained on the basis of three technical quality criteria:

  • The test question is relevant (1) and recognisable.
  • The test question is efficient (2) and does not contain any unnecessary ballast.
  • The test question is specific, targeted and objective (3), there is no discussion about the correct answer.
  1. Multimedia and relevance of the test

With the help of photos, audio fragments and videos you can easily increase the relevance of a test question. First of all, you force the author to make questions that come directly from professional practice. If a question is about a subject that hardly occurs in professional practice, it is highly likely that no video or audio material can be found or produced about it. Moreover, image and/or sound material creates recognition for the candidate. This not only contributes to the candidate’s self-confidence, but also to the image and therefore the acceptance of the test.

  1. Multimedia and test efficiency

As far as efficiency is concerned, the use of multimedia offers by far the greatest added value where a qualitatively good test is concerned. This applies in particular to the use of video material. Writing out a minute of video material results in at least an A4 of text. A waste of time! In addition, a candidate generally understands the question faster if a video is used instead of a written case. That is good for everyone, but the added value is even greater for candidates who have difficulty with lengthy texts. In any case, by using film clips you know for sure that you are measuring the actual understanding of the subject matter, and not reading comprehension!

  1. Multimedia and specificity / objectivity of the test

Test questions are often introduced by a situation sketch in the form of a case study. If you want to be complete and comprehensive when writing such a case, it is almost impossible not to give away (part of) the essence. You have to be very specific when providing information. Suppose you want to test whether a candidate understands what has gone wrong in a conversation. In that case, it is very difficult to describe a situation in such a way that it is clear what mistake is being made in a conversation, without being explicit. Everything you explain can be a clue to the right answer. The reverse is also sometimes the case. By remaining vague, there is a risk that the question will be open to multiple interpretations, leading to a discussion about the correct answer. In that case, the question is no longer objective.

The advantages of using multimedia in testing

Summarising and ‘freely’ translated, there are six advantages of using multimedia in digital testing:

  • Professional practice is incorporated into the question.
  • The situation is recognisable to the candidate.
  • Little explanation is needed; after all, a picture says more than a thousand words.
  • Using seeing or hearing, instead of requiring comprehensive reading.
  • No unintended references to the correct answer.
  • Ensuring objectivity.

Conclusion – when to use multimedia in testing?

Given the number of advantages, it is a good idea, if the software allows it, to use multimedia in your tests. This becomes particularly important if you want to extensively describe a practical case and do not want to run the risk of unintentionally giving away the right answer. The importance of multimedia testing is even greater for candidates who have difficulty with comprehensive reading. In conclusion, multimedia offers an absolute added value, on condition that the applications are used with the candidate in mind.

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