What Is Bloom’s Taxonomy and How Can It Boost Your Knowledge Assessment?

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How can you create fair, yet challenging tests that accurately gauge learners’ knowledge? One way to do this is with the help of Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

In this article, we’ll explain how Bloom’s taxonomy works and how you can leverage it to provide effective assessments.

What Is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework that helps check knowledge that learners gain through eLearning courses, webinars, and live training sessions. Assessments created following the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy show which topics are difficult for the learner to comprehend and whether they are ready to put their new knowledge into practice.

The Importance of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Benjamin Bloom developed this theory in 1956. The concept is based on the idea that learning is a sequential process. It consists of 6 levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Each level builds on the previous one: comprehension is impossible without knowledge, application is dependent upon comprehension, and so on. For example, if a person doesn’t know what a hammer is, they won’t understand how to drive a nail with it.

According to Bloom, training evaluation also touches each of these levels, proceeding from simple to complex: from knowledge to skill assessment. For example, it is important to check how well a salesperson has learned the theory of sales techniques. If they commit errors on basic concepts, it’s pointless to test their skills.

How to Use Bloom’s Taxonomy in Test Writing 

Benjamin Bloom found that when questions are written in a complicated or inaccurate manner, the learner might answer them incorrectly even if they had studied the material well. To prevent this, the scientist suggested using specific action verbs in questions for each level of assessment. They help a trainer or teacher word a question correctly, provide an objective knowledge check, and allow the learner to understand what is expected of them in this task.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs
LevelVerbsWhat it checksTask example
KnowledgeDefine, describe, name, identify, select, match, choose the correct answer, list, provide a definition, repeatThis level shows who has learned new information and who hasn’t. It also helps find weak points in the course – where information and details are missing.Choose what ADDIE stands for.
ComprehensionExplain, compare, generalize, find, paraphrase, give an example, describe, estimate, infer, rewriteThis level helps check whether the learner has simply learned the material by heart or if they truly understood the topic. It also shows if your course lacks explanations and details.Find the processes that refer to the Analysis phase of the ADDIE model.
ApplicationApply, decide, calculate, use, modify, transform, classify, arrange, discover, demonstrate, prepare, produce, writeThis level checks if the learner can apply new knowledge in practice. It also shows if the course lacks practical value.Make up an example of a training goal that can be set at the Analysis stage.
Analysis + SynthesisCompare, contrast, separate, change, find, collect, combine, summarize, group, match, collect, set upQuestions on these levels make the learner go beyond the instructions and figure out the situation themselves.Match the phases of ADDIE with what they address.
EvaluationJustify, judge, recommend, rate, evaluate, relate, predict, appraise, argue, supportThis level checks if the learner can come up with a new solution based on new information, evaluate the situation, and act independently.Draw a conclusion on how the ADDIE model can be useful for instructional designers.

The action verbs from Bloom’s taxonomy will help you write test questions correctly. Download the chart →

The 6 Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and How to Apply Them in Quiz Creation

To check learners’ knowledge effectively, Bloom suggests creating six types of questions. Each type corresponds to a specific taxonomy level. For example, you can first check how well the person learned the material, then find out what they understood, learn what knowledge they can apply, and so on.

If the learner answers the first type of questions correctly, they get access to the questions of the next level. If the learner makes a mistake, they have to revise the material and take the test again.

Example. When answering the first group of questions, James gave 4 correct answers out of 10. The main objective of these questions was to check how well he had learned the material from the course. Because Jack failed more than half of the questions, there’s no use testing him further and checking his practical skills. It will be best if the test automatically sends him to the beginning of the course for retraining or provides additional information on problematic issues.

Quick tip. You can set up branching for your courses and quizzes with the iSpring Suite authoring toolkit. If the learner answers incorrectly, they can be automatically redirected to the theory block. 

Read this article on branching scenarios to learn how you can easily create nonlinear courses and tests with iSpring. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 1: Test Knowledge

What Bloom’s theory says. At the “Knowledge” stage, it’s important to check how well a student learned new information: specific facts, dates, and terms. If they know the answers, you can test them further.

How to write test questions. Use verbs like “define,” “describe,” “name,” “select,” “show,” “provide a definition,” or “choose the correct answer” because they are concrete and the learner clearly understands what is expected of them in this question. 

Examples

This question is structured according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy: we used the action verb “choose.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 1 good example

The question is worded correctly – it excludes the possibility of a “double bottom.” The structure of the question leaves no room for doubt: there is only one correct answer.

The question below is not written according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Because of incorrect question wording, the learner got confused and made a mistake.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 1 bad example

The learner has chosen the right definition of the ADDIE model, but the quiz creator meant to get the second answer, which is also correct, so the learner’s choice appeared to be false. Such situations may lead to learners losing motivation for learning because their efforts didn’t yield the expected result.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 2: Check Comprehension

What Bloom’s theory says. At the “Comprehension” level, a test helps check if the learner can go beyond basic recall and has understood the meaning and correlation of the key concepts. 

How to write test questions. Use verbs like “explain,” “find,” “define,” “compare,” “paraphrase,” or “generalize.” To answer such questions, the learner must not only know the terms, but also understand the concept.

Examples

This question is written according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We have used the action verb “find.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 2 good example

The appropriate wording of a question helps to check if the learner understands the material, and a verb explains what is required of the test taker.

The following question is not written according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Because of the confusing wording, the learner made a mistake.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 2 bad example

It’s not clear from the question what the learner needs to do. They didn’t understand that they could choose several options and provided a partially correct answer.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 3: Test Knowledge in Practice

What Bloom’s theory says. The third type of question focuses on Application. They help test the learner’s ability to put the acquired knowledge into action.

How to write test questions. These questions should start with verbs like “apply,” “decide,” “calculate,” “use,” “transform,” “change,” or “make up.” They help simulate an actual situation and nudge students to show that they can apply the information that they’ve learned.

Examples

The question below is composed according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We’ve used the action verb “make up.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 3 good example

Here, “make up an example” implies a specific action that the learner needs to perform to gain points.

The following question is not created according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Because of incorrect question wording, the learner got confused and didn’t provide a satisfactory answer. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 3 bad example

The task is worded incorrectly. It’s not clear what the instructor expects to see in the reply: what kind of goals can be set or examples of goals.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels 4 and 5: See if the Learner Can Improvise

What Bloom’s theory says. In some cases, it’s impossible to work by following a script or instructions strictly. To answer a question, the learner needs to analyze a situation. This skill is tested at the “analysis” and “synthesis” levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.

How to write test questions. Use the following action verbs: “compare,” “contrast,” “highlight,” “match,” “sort,” “find,” “summarize,” and “group.” Such questions push the learner to come up with their own solution instead of looking for ready-made answers. 

Examples

The question below is written according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We have used the action verb “match.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 4 good example

The question is formulated correctly: it makes the learner take clear actions. At the “analysis” and “synthesis” levels, the learner needs to extract the necessary information from learning materials and build logical connections on their own. 

This question is not written according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Because of inappropriate wording, the learner became confused and made a mistake. 

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 4 bad example

This question is similar to the previous one, but the learner couldn’t deal with it effectively, perhaps because of inappropriate wording. The question doesn’t explain what exactly needs to be done in order to score points.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 6: Check if the Learner Can Make Decisions

What Bloom’s theory says. At the “evaluation” level, you need to check if the learner is sufficiently immersed in the topic and can make decisions based on the new information. If you’re going to assess management skills, this type of question is a must. 

How to write test questions. These questions should start with “conclude,” “prove,” “justify,” “judge,” “check,” “evaluate,” and recommend.” At this level, it’s essential to use “essay” type questions. In this way, the learner won’t have any clues to look at — they will only be able to rely on their own knowledge and skills.

Examples

The question below is formulated according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. We used the action verb “draw a conclusion.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 6 good example

“Evaluation” level questions typically don’t have right or wrong replies. However, the way the learner answers will let you know how they can evaluate a situation and come up with new solutions. Such questions are aimed at making a person express their view on an issue.

This question is not written according to the rules of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Because of inappropriate wording, the learner became confused and made a mistake.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level 6 bad example

This question is not prompting reasoning. The learner can give a correct answer, but they won’t open up the issue, because the wording of the question doesn’t require it.

Takeaways

  • To take advantage of Bloom’s Taxonomy, make sure the questions in your test cover all 6 levels, from knowledge, comprehension, and application to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In this way, you’ll be able to check the learner’s knowledge and skills effectively.
  • In questions at each level, use specific action verbs. They will help you assess the depth of your learners’ knowledge. If a student can’t handle a certain type of question, ask them to review the material and take the test again. 

You can easily create courses and tests with branching scenarios with the iSpring Suite authoring toolkit. Simply download a free 30-day trial and start creating engaging eLearning courses and assessments right away. 

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