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Automating the Test Publication Process—Getting Started

October 26, 2017  | By  | Leave a comment

The test publication process involves many steps, from form assembly to translation services to Subject Matter Expert (SME) reviews to, finally, paper or electronic distribution of exams. Each step in the process requires the use of several types of applications, numerous data imports and exports, and plenty of file manipulation to produce the final product. Specialized software to streamline the publication process can be costly, limited, and difficult to customize. Using advanced features of applications you most likely already have, can greatly reduce mistakes and increase efficiency of your test publication process by automating repetitive, error prone tasks.

Test Publication Automation

One of the best ways to automate repetitive tasks is to use macros. Common applications like Microsoft Word and Excel have robust macro recording and writing features. You don’t have to be a coder to write elaborate, customized macros to suit your specific publication process needs. Since every test publication process is different, you’ll need some time and patience in the beginning to get familiar with how macros work and how to find what you need online. The time spent putting automation in place pays off later when something that used to take 8 hours now takes 5 minutes.

To begin the process of automating your most time consuming and repetitive tasks, pick one task and thoroughly document it. In your documentation, include things like where to get source data, how to export it, how to import it, and what each manual step is to create the final product (file). This documentation will help you when you are creating a macro to automate the process later on.

Once you thoroughly understand a process and have it well documented, it’s time to start writing macros! Well, you may not be writing macros…yet. But you can start by looking for steps in your tasks that are always exactly the same and then recording those steps using the “Record Macro” feature, or by working with your test publishing company to help with automating your own internal processes.

Even if you use an outside vendor to assist in the automation of test publication activities, it is important to start with documentation. This will serve as a foundation for you, or anyone who is working to streamline the test publication process, and will help not only with automation, but also with getting organized. If you don’t know where to start, talk with your test publication company to see what advice they have on streamlining your existing processes.

For more topics on test publishing, check out our blog on Transitioning an Exam Program in the Modern Age or on Computer Adaptive Testing: An Overview and Considerations.

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