When it comes to student learning and growth, using a pretest and posttest in education can have a strong, positive impact on students retaining knowledge and succeeding.

Pop quiz!

What’s the average time each year that students spend taking standardized tests?

a. 10–15 hours

b. 20–25 hours

c. 40–45 hours

If you answered b, you’re right. And that’s a lot of hours.

Testing just to test is a waste of time for teachers and students — not to say that all standardized testing is bad. But it does have a time and place. However, when the students can see the purpose behind the test, the better the results will be.

What are pretests and posttests?

Before diving into why pretests and posttests matter in education, it’s important to gain a basic understanding of what these tests are and how they differ.


Put simply, pretests are non-graded assessments where a teacher determines each student’s knowledge of and proficiency in the subject matter.

When used at the beginning of the course, pretests give teachers a way to gauge student knowledge, prepare students for future content and, in the end, measure student growth.

Pretests also serve as a way for educators to understand where gaps in learning may have formed during breaks from school — making that first of the semester test more vital.


Unlike pretests, posttests are graded assessments.

Posttests show whether a student gained the knowledge required to successfully complete the course. And they reveal how much each student’s knowledge grew and how much students improved during the course.

Some posttests give students the opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications that validate the knowledge and skills they gained in the course. Students can then use that certification to join the workforce or skip entry-level college courses.

Why do pre and posttests matter?

When used together, these assessments are a powerful tool for educators and students alike. Particularly for Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses where students are developing skills and knowledge to meet industry and employer needs. Here are five reasons pretests and posttests in education matter.

1. Pretests outline clear standards and expectations.

With pretests, students are empowered by clearly defined classroom and learning expectations.

In a research guide on testing published by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching, one cited study suggests that “pretesting students’ knowledge of a subject may prime them for learning.” In other words, pretesting makes students more aware of the types of questions they need to answer and the key concepts and facts they should pay attention to during the course.

For educators, pretests help build structure using knowledge standards — or the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each level — to support meaningful learning experiences in the classroom and beyond.

2. Pretests establish a baseline of student knowledge.

What student wants to pay attention in class when they already know the subject matter at hand?

Think back to the hit sitcom Parks and Recreation. When Andy Dwyer decides to sample college classes, he chooses to sit in on a beginner’s guitar class thinking he can get an easy passing grade because he’s already an accomplished guitarist. But, after hearing the class would spend four weeks on basic chords, he groaned about being bored already.

To which, Ron Swanson responded, “Of course you are, you’re not challenging yourself.”

Andy Dwyer exits his guitar class playing the guitar.

Students want to be challenged.

And pretests help create that challenge by showing educators where to focus their teaching based on the knowledge their students already have. Using data from their students’ test scores, they know where to spend time reviewing concepts, where to cover material more in-depth and where problem areas might arise.

3. Pretests and posttests measure student growth.

Pretests establish what students need to learn; posttests show what they have learned.

By establishing a baseline with a pretest, educators can better track and measure student growth in each of the knowledge standards.

While not all students will show mastery by the end of a course, pretests show students their personal growth too. And that builds their confidence and motivation to succeed. As Moises Venegas, a student who attended a Customer Service Boot Camp by Virtual School in Riverside, California, said:

“Coming to this was something new, so I didn’t really know what to expect. As I was taking [the pretest], I was like ‘I don’t know a lot about this.’ I ended up failing. I got a 58, but I didn’t let it affect me because I knew that’s what I was here for — to improve. By the end, I did improve. I did end up passing.”

4. Pretest and posttest data improve curriculum efficacy.

Data-driven decisions are important in education. And pre- and posttests are an excellent way for educators to gather that data to improve instruction and, ultimately, benefit future students.

While pretests help educators tailor curriculum on the front-end, posttests help educators see where changes need to be made to improve students’ ability to comprehend and retain the material in the future. And comparing pre- and posttest scores lets educators drill down into specific areas of improvement.

Take the story of Tami Grow, a middle school teacher in the Alpine School District in Utah. She increased her final assessment passing score from 50% to 78% in two years. How? By using the test scores from her students’ pre/posttests to make data-driven decisions on how to structure her curriculum.

5. Pretests build confidence in students for the posttest.

Heart racing. Sweaty palms. Upset stomach. Brain fog. Many students go through these feelings when preparing to take a test, particularly when they don’t know what to expect.

That’s where the beauty of pretesting comes in. Pretesting gives students a preview of what’s to come without the pressure of potentially earning a low grade.

Students become familiar with the testing format. They have a preview of the information that’s covered. They have the knowledge standards to use as a study guide.

And their confidence soars.

Benefits of pre- and post-testing with Precision Exams by YouScience

Research shows that students in CTE programs graduate at a rate 13% higher than the national average. That’s because students in CTE programs actively connect why they’re learning with what they’re learning.

And earning a Precision Exams by YouScience certification is the cherry on top. It gives students real-life evidence that they have the skills and the know-how to pursue their chosen career path.

The YouScience Platform ­— YouScience Discovery (aptitude assessment), Precision Exams by YouScience (certifications), YouScience Insights (reporting) and YouScience Connections (employer awareness) — takes talent discovery and career exploration, preparation and connection to the next level.

In one place, the YouScience Platform supports students, educators and schools with everything listed above and provides:

  • Actionable data to easily align students’ aptitudes and interests with their best-fit pathways —whether certifications or postsecondary schooling.
  • Unlimited access to 200+ certification exams across all National Career Clusters and 21st Century Skills (also known as soft skills) designed with education and industry experts to meet current industry needs.
  • Increased visibility to identify nontraditional students for under-represented pathways, enhance program diversity and maximize Perkins V funding.
  • Simple, 100% online exam delivery with a remote proctoring option available to support educators and students whether they’re meeting in-person or virtually.
  • On-demand reports to easily track student growth from pre- to post-testing, see students’ certification results in real-time and drive program improvements.
  • Pathways to effortlessly develop stackable credential programs as end-of-course or end-of-program milestones for students.
Connect students to their best-fit pathways, careers, and post-secondary opportunities. 

To learn more about YouScience and how this unique platform is changing students’ lives, connect with one of our regional directors.