Tuesday Teaching Tip: Use a Pre-test

Have you ever created a pre-test and given it to your group members? You can do this activity with kids, students, and adults. It’s just like it sounds – a test given before a Bible study is experienced by the learners. The pre-test serves two main functions:

  1. It is a learning readiness activity. It helps focus the attention of group members who often come to our Bible studies with lots of cares. It focuses their minds on some of the topics you’ll cover in the Bible study.
  2. It tests group members’ knowledge of a particular topic. It helps you, the group leader, know how to make micro-changes to your lesson depending upon the aptitude of the group members.

Multiple-choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, and matching exercises can be used in the pre-test. A few weeks ago I taught a Bible study from LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life series. The topic? Satan and demons. Here’s how a few pre-test questions might have looked:

  1. True or False? Satan is omni-present (meaning he is everywhere at the same time).  True____ False____
  2. Jesus said that demons, Satan’s helpers, can be cast out of people only by ______________.
  3. Check all that are correct:  Demons are (1) unlimited in number (2) more powerful than angels (3) relatively harmless (4) harmful to man

It doesn’t take a long time to create a pre-test, and it helps set the table for a learning experience. If I’d give this pre-test to my group members, I could have adjusted my Bible study based on their understanding of demons.

A final thought: A reporter from the NY Times wrote a piece about the value of pretesting and how it improves performance throughout a course of study. Here is what his research demonstrated:

This is the idea behind pretesting, one of the most exciting developments in learning-­science. Across a variety of experiments, psychologists have found that, in some circumstances, wrong answers on a pretest aren’t merely useless guesses. Rather, the attempts themselves change how we think about and store the information contained in the questions. On some kinds of tests, particularly multiple-choice, we benefit from answering incorrectly by, in effect, priming our brain for what’s coming later. That is: The (bombed) pretest drives home the information in a way that studying as usual does not. We fail, but we fail forward.

Here’s the link to his article if you’re interested.


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  1. In all the MANY years I have been leading Bible studies and seeking a wide variety of helps (clear by to the old study course books thru current blogs and other on-line helps), I have not seen the pre-test suggested. The example was especially helpful. How about including additional examples in the Extras for Teachers on the Lifeway website occasionally?

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