Create and save test templates

By Diana Eggers

Do you find yourself developing new tests at the end of each unit or project? Or trying to find a copy of the old test so that you can update it for this year?

Templates are perhaps one of the best timesavers available to educators today. From award certificates to restroom passes, templates can reduce the amount of paperwork that teachers must do. You can design tests and other assessments tools by using templates that you create to match your teaching style.

What is a template?

Most teachers have used templates or have tried to use the concept of templates for one purpose or another. The concept is to create a document and use it as a model for future documents. That is, you format a handout the way you want all of your handouts to look, save it, and then, when you want to create a new handout, open this document and save it under another name as the starting point for your new handout.

Using templates created in Microsoft Office Word 2003 involves a different approach. Instead of opening the saved handout itself, you create a document based on your handout template.

For the purposes of this article, a template is a guide that's used over and over again for similar documents. It's a predefined set of formatting characteristics that includes margin settings, columns, text styles, and headers and footers.

Why use templates?

The obvious reason for using templates: Over the long run, they will save you time. By creating templates for your various test needs, you create documents that are easy to change, update, and (hopefully) easy to find next year.

Templates also provide a consistent look to the documents you create. This is especially helpful for students taking tests; if they're familiar with the style, look, and feel of the test, it's much easier for them to focus on the questions.

Before you start

First, identify the items that you include on every test. These might include the class title, unit being tested, date, and page numbers. Next, identify the information that you typically ask students to fill in, such as name and period. Finally, consider putting at the top of the test a score box that includes a line for the student's score and one for the highest possible score.

Now think about the types of questions that you typically include in your tests. Your tests might consist of one type of question (such as multiple choice) or mix several question types (such as short answer, fill in the blank, essay, matching, true/false, and multiple choice).

Getting started

At the top of a new Word document, enter the information that you want students to fill in, such as name and class period. In the footer, enter the information that you include on all of your tests, including class title, unit being tested, date, and page numbers. Also consider using the Insert AutoText command on the Header and Footer toolbar to insert the file name — this will help you find the document in future.

Entering question types

For each type of question that you might ask on any given test, write brief instructions for answering that question type. The following is a table of question types and corresponding instructions.

Question type Generic instructions for question type
Multiple choice For each of the following questions, circle the answer that most correctly answers the question.
Short answer Answer each of the following questions in three to five sentences.
Essay Answer each of the following questions by using the five-paragraph format.
True/false For each statement, circle "true" or "false."
Matching For each of the words on the left, select the correct definition from the list on the right. Write the corresponding letter of the definition next to the word.
Fill in the blank Complete each sentence with a word from the word bank.

Aesthetics and formatting

It's important that your tests are easy to understand and to read. Consider the following formatting ideas:

  • White space.     White space is one of the key ingredients of an easy-to-read document. Be sure to leave enough space between questions and answers. Use one-inch margins on all sides of your document.
  • Consistent style for headings.     If your test is divided into sections, be sure that all section headings of the same level match in font, size, and formatting. You can do this by using the Styles and Formatting command on the Format menu.
  • Fonts and font sizes that are easy to read.     Use bold, italic, and underlined fonts when needed, but do not overuse these styles.
  • Tables.     Tables are a good way to organize test questions and answers. A table is ideal for matching-type questions and for creating lines in the document on which students can respond to essay and short-answer questions.

Saving your template

Now you're ready to save your template. Everything entered so far is generic and does not apply to a specific test. Each time you open your template, you'll modify it with the specific questions for the given test.

ShowTo save a document as a template

  1. On the File menu, click Save As.
  2. In the Save as type list, click Document Template, and then click Save.

 Note   By default, templates are saved in the Templates folder. To save them elsewhere, before you click Save, click another location in the Save in list.

Creating your first test

To create your first test, open the template that you created. Enter the class title and unit name in the footer; you may also want to insert the unit name at the top of the first page. Also enter the highest score possible in the score box at the top of the first page. Next, modify the sample questions and the answer choices. Finally, save the test to a location and with a title that will be easy to remember.

Using form fields in your test template

After you begin creating templates for your tests, you'll likely discover another feature that goes hand in hand with templates: forms. Setting up your template as a form will enable you to design a professional looking document to use as your test template.

 Note   However, some of the form features do not work well for tests that will be taken on paper. For example, form fields include check boxes, text fields, and drop-down lists. If you're printing your test, obviously you won't be able to use drop-down lists in your template, and you'll need to be sure to create a large enough text field for students to handwrite their answers.

However, if all of your students have access to computers, consider offering the test online. Each student can open the test template on a computer, take the test, and save it to a common folder.

Creating different versions to foil cheating

Whether you print the test or to administer it online, it's often necessary to create different versions to maintain security. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do in Word.

ShowTo create different versions of a test

  1. Open the test for which you want to create new versions.
  2. Reorder the questions (you may need to do move only the first question on each page).
  3. On the File menu, click Versions.
  4. Click Save Now.
  5. In the Save Version dialog box, enter any comment that you want about the version, and then click Save. The version is saved and listed by date.

 Note   If you're printing the test, you can print each version on a different color paper and distribute tests so that no student has the same version as the students nearby.

Creating an answer key

Now that you've completed your test, save it again by clicking Save As on the File menu and then renaming the file to indicate that this copy is the answer key. Then go through the test and mark the correct answers. For the short-answer and essay questions, write the key words/phrases/concepts that you'll be looking for as you grade the exams. When you're finished, save the key. If you created multiple versions of the test, you'll need to create corresponding keys.

More than just a timesaver

Creating templates may seem time-consuming at first, but over the course of a school year, templates should save you several minutes and possibly hours in creating each new test. What's more, using the same template again and again will help provide a consistent format for assessing your students' learning.

About the author     Diana Eggers has taught special education and is the former instructional technology coordinator for the Kent, Washington, school district, where she developed curricula to help other teachers integrate technology in the classroom. She was also the founding executive director of The Learning Space, a nonprofit organization focused on helping teachers integrate technology in the classroom. Diana currently teaches video production, computer graphics, and advanced applications of the Microsoft Office System.

Applies to:
Word 2003