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Test Writing Strategies

Opportunities to Improve Our Educational Approach

Using Bloom’s in Test Writing


When I first started considering Bloom’s Taxonomy, I thought it was good to help expand my ideas on how to test but I struggled with applying it directly.  I appreciated the increasing cognitive levels but needed help in writing test questions that utilized them.

What I found were lists of verbs associated with each level.  A good one to start with is:


A table of suggested verbs mapped against the Anderson and Krathwohl adapted levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognition Cognitive Level Verb Examples

  1. Remember: define, repeat, record, list, recall, name, relate, underline.
  2. Understand: translate, restate, discuss, describe, recognise, explain, express, identify, locate, report, review, tell.
  3. Apply: interpret, apply, employ, use, demonstrate, dramatise, practice, illustrate, operate, schedule, sketch.
  4. Analyse: distinguish, analyse, differentiate, appraise, calculate, experiment, test, compare, contrast, criticise, diagram, inspect, debate, question, relate, solve, examine, categorise.
  5. Evaluate: judge, appraise, evaluate, rate, compare, revise, assess, estimate
  6. Create: compose, plan, propose, design, formulate, arrange, assemble, collect, construct, create, set-up, organise, manage, prepare.

Here is an extensive list that is printable on one page, useful for reference while you are designing your test:

Bloom’s Verbs, one page.

Other useful lists:

Bloom’s Verbs for Math

Bloom’s Question Frames (looks very good for English, literature, history, etc.)  This gives you nearly complete questions which you can manipulate into test items appropriate to your discipline.

More Bloom’s Question Frames (2 pages).

Bloom’s Verbs for Science

What comes across to me again and again throughout the sources is that considering the hierarchy when designing exams creates a culture of learning that involves thinking deeply about the course material, taking it beyond simple rote memorization and recitation.

This culture would benefit from also considering Bloom’s while you are teaching.  Modeling higher level thought processes, showing joy at cognitive challenges, exploring topics in depth (if time permits) or mentioning the depth exists (if time is short) can send a strong signal that thinking is valued and important to learning.

Another view on Bloom’s as applied to test writing is to consider the knowledge domains inherent in your course material.  They are:


The kinds of knowledge that can be tested

Factual Knowledge

Terminology, Facts, Figures

Conceptual Knowledge

Classification, Principles, Theories, Structures, Frameworks

Procedural Knowledge

Algorithms, Techniques and Methods and Knowing when and how to use them.

Metacognitive Knowledge

Strategy, Overview, Self Knowledge, Knowing how you know.

When I put this list with the verbs lists, I get more ideas for test questions and directions for exploring student acquisition of the course knowledge.

2 comments on “Using Bloom’s in Test Writing

  1. dominic o reilly on


    i’m dealing with high school levels 7 8 & 9 in bangkok thailand
    we are expected to consider Blooms Taxonomy in our english exams but are given no guidance
    can you offer any specifics when dealing with these age groups
    what aspects of B T should they be capable off

    thank you

  2. Tracy on

    Hi Dominic,

    I’m no expert but I think that age level group can handle all parts of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The key is to restrict what you ask to the information you are teaching, and perhaps push them a little bit to consider interpretation or concepts just a little past that. I would write one or two of those types of “pushing” questions and use them as the “A/B breakers” — people who really know the course material should be able to answer them and the people who don’t might not. You can foreshadow what they will be learning in the next grade with those questions.

    Use the verb list to help you phrase questions in the knowledge domains listed above. Check that your questions address a variety of knowledge domains–I noticed it is too easy to write questions that ask about facts, and I require myself to consider questions about the other domains. This is so helpful!

    Good luck! Let me know how it goes!


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