RE: Technical Writing Certifications

Subject: RE: Technical Writing Certifications
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Lauren" <lt34 -at- csus -dot- edu>, "Dori Green" <dgreen -at- associatedbrands -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2007 12:39:02 -0400

Rant alert.

As the certification thread rears its ugly head for (what?) the fourth
time this year, some members were bantering about STC providing a "Basic
TW Skills" test that would be useful to employers as a screening aid.

I'd say that it would also be useful to current and prospective
Technical Communicators who wanted to "see how I'm doing, how I measure
up on what some people consider 'basic' to this kind of work".


There's always a "but". If you develop a test that is useful and
comprehensive, to the extent that candidates find it worthwhile to take,
and employers (and others) find it worthwhile to see outcomes... what is
the absitively, posolutely, guaranteed next thing that will happen?


Ah, I see some knowing nods in the audience.

Well, as soon as it becomes of value to any significant number of
people, somebody will crack it. Just like at schools everywhere, a
little industry will grow, centered on acquiring the latest version and
selling the answers.

Nothing is more vulnerable to that kind of thing than multiple-choice.

Also, on a completely different tack:

When I speak the same "language" as the test-maker, I _love_
multiple-choice tests. Easy-peasy. It's clear to me what each question
is asking, and it is clear WHY answers B and C are different. I can
often ace a multiple-choice test about which I have far less education
than the test-maker would have hoped.

By the same token, if the test-maker doesn't have exactly the same set
of assumptions and terminological slant and background that I do, then I
thoroughly HATE multiple-choice tests. I could answer B if I take the
question to mean THIS, but I could just as plausibly answer C if I take
the question to mean THAT. Sometimes on a paper multiple-choice test, I
go back and revise earlier answers because some later questions have
revealed a slant that explains which interpretation of the earlier
question was actually meant by the test-maker. Online tests often don't
let you go back once you get to question 51 and the light goes on... "Oh
THAT's what they meant back in question 33... or was it 34..."

Multiple-choice tests refuse the test-taker the opportunity to explain
why they made a choice. Often that explanation would be more valuable
than the actual placement of the tick-mark.

So, like personality inventory tests that have to repeat the "same"
question a dozen times, throughout the test, using slightly different
phrasing each time, you'd have to add that kind of bulk-inducing
redundancy to your test, making it an hours-long ordeal for the taker.

One of the nastiest situations to be in, when confronted with a
multiple-choice test is to realize that you are FAR more worldly and
educated than the test-maker, such that they cannot even conceive of the
three _other_ ways their simple, obvious question could be taken.


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RE: Technical Writing Certifications: From: Dori Green
RE: Technical Writing Certifications: From: Lauren

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