Progressive Exams

Progressive Testing-What is it?

Progressive testing is based on the concept that one does not build on a weak foundation. It also values the concept that students typically do not “get it all” on the first pass. It is significantly different than “Chunk Testing”, which is what many of us have used for years.


Chunk testing is where you cover a chapter and then give a test on the chapter. You then might go over any questions that were missed and expect this form of remediation to be successful. The next chapter is evaluated in precisely the same manner and so on. The students are expected to learn all of this from these two experiences and demonstrate competency on the final, midterm, or modular exam where this information is evaluated again. This type of teaching and evaluation promotes compartmentalization and negatively impacts higher-level thinking.


Progressive testing fully uses the principles behind Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. First taught, then evaluated, would be the foundational aspects of the first chapter. This would be the knowledge and comprehension level material. The student can often obtain this information by just reading the text or following a PowerPoint lecture online or in the classroom. Any questions missed are then remediated and RE-EVALUATED to correct any flaws in the foundation. Chapter One is further explored using the application and analysis levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This is done through straightforward scenarios and cases where the students examine the situations and apply solutions based on the principles and foundations just mastered. Again, evaluation is provided.


Before teaching the higher Bloom levels of synthesis and evaluation, the student prepares for the next chapter and is examined on the foundational material again. Remediation occurs with weaknesses discovered in this foundation. Then it is built upon with application and analysis materials from chapter two using the same philosophy as before, straightforward scenarios and cases. Now that we have two chapters, we can combine information and help the student think outside of the box at the problem-solving levels of synthesis and evaluation. Students are repetitively being evaluated on all material with questions missed and remediated appearing on subsequent examinations until they are no longer missed.


A sample schedule follows to help clarify the concept.


Prior to Day 1

  • Students are directed to read the first chapter and then take an evaluation.

  • The evaluation is composed of low-level (knowledge and comprehension) questions

    from Chapter 1.

Day 1

  • The teacher provides remediation for any missed questions from the evaluation.

  • Material is presented in Chapter 1 by use of straight-forward scenarios and cases

    (Bloom levels application and analysis) and involvement of the students.

  • The students are then sent home with an assignment to read Chapter 2 and take an examination prior to arriving at the next class session.

  • The examination consists of any questions missed on the first evaluation. Also included are application and analysis-level questions from Chapter 1. Finally, Chapter 2 foundational-level questions are included.

Day 2 

  • The instructor provides remediation for any questions that were missed on the assigned


  • Material is presented in Chapter 2 by use of straightforward scenarios and cases.

  • Material is presented in Chapter 1 using “Outside-the-Box” scenarios and cases and

    requiring higher-level reasoning to resolve the situations.

  • The students are then again sent home with an assignment. Read Chapter 3 and take

    the next evaluation prior to arriving at the next session.

  • The examination consists of any questions missed on the second evaluation. Synthesis

    and evaluation-level questions from Chapter 1. Application and analysis level questions from Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 foundational level questions.

    This process is continued throughout the program. It is worthwhile to point out that problem-solving experience begins on day 2. In order to be successful, students must learn to integrate learning and not compartmentalize. Students are progressing with a solid foundation upon which to build further learning. Students also take a more active role in this type of learning which results in greater retention. Finally, because lessons are taught using cases and scenarios, the question of “When are we ever going to need this information?” is readily answered.


If you would like to learn more about progressive testing and how to implement this concept, please schedule a Meet with an Educator training session.  


This article was originally written by Doug Smith.

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