Step-by-step guide for conducting a knowledge check effectively

Cydnie Smith
Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
min read
min watch

Can you imagine taking a road trip without a map or GPS?

As a kid, my dad insisted on loading us into the car and just seeing where the road took us. Sure, we’d end up at our destination… eventually. But nine times out of ten, the journey was filled with detours, missed turns, and a whole lot of frustration (for my mom).

Of course, this brief glimpse into my childhood isn’t just a playful walk down memory lane. It’s actually a pretty accurate analogy for your employee’s learning experience if you don’t conduct knowledge checks.

Without regular knowledge checks, you're essentially sending your employees on a training journey without a map or GPS, as you’ll have no idea how they’re progressing through the process.

  • Are your employees truly understanding their training material?
  • Or are they lost and confused while “driving” through your corporate training program? 

Sure, they’ll complete the required learning modules, but just like my family’s road trips, it's likely to be a bumpy ride with many missed learning and growth opportunities.

Since I want your corporate training program to be as successful as possible, throughout this article, I’ll examine how knowledge checks can help guide decisions around the frequency, timing, length, and style that shapes your training, along with the training impact on your organization’s KPIs (key performance indicators) or business goals.

We’ll answer important questions about the knowledge check process, like

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first define a knowledge check.

What is a knowledge check?

A knowledge check is a low-stress assessment tool that evaluates your employees’ knowledge levels before and after corporate training. Unlike graded quizzes or tests, knowledge checks help learners become aware of how well they know the training materials and offer insights into areas where they may have knowledge gaps.

Whether conducted at regular intervals between courses or at the end of your training program, the primary goal of these checks is to gauge the effectiveness of your eLearning efforts and help your employees to solidify their understanding of the training material.

Keeping with the theme of our analogy, conducting a knowledge check is essentially touching base with your GPS to ensure your employees are still en route to their learning destination.

A practical look at knowledge checks

Now that we’ve explored what a knowledge check is, let’s look at its definition through a more practical lens.

Let’s say you’re the sales team manager for your organization. This quarter, your revenue goal is $500,000. Would you simply relay the goal to your team and walk away, hoping it all works out? Probably not.

You’d likely have weekly check-ins to ensure your employees meet the sales targets required to achieve that goal.

On a broader organizational scale, do you simply hire employees and never touch base with them again?  Again, the answer is no. You probably conduct regular one-on-ones with your team and annual (or quarterly) performance reviews to ensure your workforce meets business standards.

Three line graphs in a row with the title, "knowledge checks improve training, in a practical sense." Each graph shows "time" along the x-axis, and "knowledge" along the y-axis. The left graph shows a line starting near the (0,0) point and taking a sharp incline up to the right, titled "How people think learners receive training and retain it". The graph in the middle shows a line starting at the same (0,0) point area, taking a brief-but-sharp incline, and then dropping off, titled "How learners actually receive training and retain it." The final graph on the right is another line starting at (0,0) but it goes up in a wave, with small spikes followed with small dips, but continually increasing as it goes up to right. It's titled, "How knowledge checks help improve training retention over time."

A knowledge check functions the same way.

For your employees, this review process offers immediate feedback on their learning progress and helps them identify areas where they may need more time and focus.

For you and your leadership team, a knowledge check provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of the training program and helps identify areas for improvement.

Why are knowledge checks necessary in a corporate training program setting?

Okay, so you may be thinking: “Is a training check-in really as important as a performance review?”

The short answer is: absolutely!

Without knowledge checks, there is no way to determine if your employees are retaining the information being taught and applying it to their work – which can waste valuable time and resources.

Knowledge checks help mitigate this risk by serving as checkpoints along the learning road trip. Conducting regular knowledge checks provides valuable data about your employees’ learning journey, allowing you to make informed decisions about your training program.

Let’s say, for example, your learners answer many of the knowledge check questions incorrectly. Perhaps your training course material is not being retained, it is too difficult to understand, or learners aren’t engaging with it meaningfully.

On the other hand, if your employees are answering all of the knowledge check questions correctly, your training or knowledge checks themselves might be too easy or too basic for your learners' skill level.

Ultimately, your instructional design team can use the results of knowledge checks to alter your training program, helping it become even more effective for your learners.

Of course, for the best results, it’s important to offer frequent knowledge checks, for example – using a microlearning platform, as learners proceed through their training to gauge whether their skill or knowledge levels are improving.

As well, as a training manager or L&D director, you can automate the training adjustments your learners receive by using an adaptive learning platform.

What are the different types of knowledge checks?

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to knowledge checks. You can employ many kinds of knowledge check assessments to meet the needs of your organization and learners.

However, to keep things simple, I decided to group the types of knowledge checks into three main categories: basic comprehension, applied knowledge, and interactive process.

Ready for a closer look?

Basic comprehension

Typically delivered in the form of multiple-choice questions, true/false questions, fill-in-the-blank questions, or short answer questions, these checks assess an individual's understanding of basic concepts and information. They are great for learning quick facts or information as they mainly focus on whether the individual has a basic grasp of the material and can recall it accurately.

Use case #1:  Imagine you’re in the hospitality industry, and your hotel is undergoing major renovations. As a result, you have limited services available during designated days and times. Your existing employees need to know which options are available and when.  A basic comprehension knowledge check would allow you to name a service and have the employees select the day and time it is accessible by guests.

Applied knowledge

Applied knowledge checks assess an individual's ability to use the knowledge they have acquired in new situations. For this method, you can use problem-solving questions, case studies, or simulations to determine whether employees can take the material they have learned and apply it effectively to real-world situations.

Use case #2: Let’s say you work in the manufacturing industry, and your employees must complete regular safety training. You don’t want your staff to click through modules mindlessly. You need them to actively apply their training on the job to keep themselves and their coworkers safe. So, how do you ensure they retain the knowledge or skills acquired through safety training? You can provide a simulated situation where they must apply the use of proper safety protocols.

Interactive process

These checks review an employee’s ability to engage in a collaborative or interactive approach. To assess their skills, you can use group discussions, role-playing exercises, or interactive scenario-based training or simulations and evaluate whether the individual can work effectively with others, communicate effectively, and apply their knowledge in a collaborative setting.

Use case #3: Suppose you manage a customer service team. You might use an interactive process to help improve an employee’s (let’s call him Tom) soft skills. In that case, you might have another employee role-play as an irate customer and ask Tom to implement your organization’s de-escalation protocol.

Each type of knowledge check assesses a different aspect of an individual's understanding and ability to use the information they have learned. So, my advice for narrowing down the type of knowledge check to employ? Combine them as needed!

By blending different types of knowledge checks, you can get a more accurate and complete picture of your employees’ understanding and mastery of the material.

How to conduct a knowledge check – step-by-step guide

Alright – it’s pretty clear that a knowledge check is a valuable tool to assess the effectiveness of your corporate training program. And you’re likely ready to implement this process within your organization.

But the real question is, how do you perform a knowledge check?

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Here's my step-by-step guide to help you conduct an effective knowledge check within your team.

The 8 steps to conducting a successful knowledge check separated into three "lanes". In the first lane, "Pre-knowledge check planning," are steps 1-4: 1) Outline knowledge check objectives; 2) Choose format for knowledge check; 3) Create questions; 4) Test and/or run a pilot. The middle lane is entirely step 5, "Conduct the knowledge check," but separated into 3 items: compile and gather results. training delivery, question types. In the final lane, "Post- knowledge check evaluation," are steps 6-8: 6) Analyze results; 7) Provide feedback to employees; 8) Evaluate effectiveness of knowledge check process.

Step one: Outline the objectives of your knowledge check

Before setting off on a road trip, you need to know your destination, right? Similarly, before creating a knowledge check, you need to determine the objective of the check.

  • What do you want to evaluate, and what are the long-term and short-term learning goals you want to achieve?
  • Do you want to assess your employees’ understanding of a particular topic, or do you want to assess their overall knowledge of the training program?
  • In which areas of performance are employees struggling, and what specific skills do they need to succeed in their roles?

Not only will understanding your learning objectives help you design the knowledge check in a meaningful and relevant way for your workforce, but this baseline will also help you measure your employees’ training progress.

Step two: Choose the appropriate format for your knowledge check

Once you have determined the objectives of the knowledge check, the next step is to choose an appropriate format. As we’ve discussed, there are several ways to conduct a knowledge check, including multiple-choice questions, simulations, role-play, or a combination of these formats. Choose the option(s) that best aligns with your learning objectives and the type of material you want to assess.

Step three: Create your questions

As you develop your assessment, it’s important to choose questions that accurately assess your training material. They must be clear, concise, and relevant to the training content. They should also be well-structured and easy to understand to avoid any misinterpretation. Finally, when developing your knowledge check questions, keep in mind the format you have chosen and the objectives of the knowledge check – that way, you yield the best results when measuring the effectiveness of your eLearning program.

Step four: Test! Test! Test and run a pilot with your learners!

The last thing you want is to spend significant time planning for your knowledge check only to gain little to no perspective on your employees’ progress. To mitigate this risk, it's important to test the effectiveness of your questions before delivering them to your workforce. Give the questions to a small group of learners and ask for their feedback. Doing so will help you identify any unclear questions or potential biases in your knowledge check. Make any necessary revisions based on the feedback.

Step five: Conduct your knowledge check

Now, for the moment, we’ve all been waiting for…

Once you develop and test your questions, it's time to conduct the knowledge check! There are several ways to conduct a knowledge check, including online, paper-based, and in-person assessments. Choose the most appropriate method for your training program and the learners.

Step six: Analyze your results

After conducting your knowledge check, your next step is analyzing the results to determine your employees’ understanding of the training material presented. Look for patterns and trends, and identify areas where participants struggled. You can use this data to establish knowledge gaps within your team and identify any modifications you need to make to your training program.

Step seven: Provide feedback to your employees

Arguably, the important step in conducting a knowledge check is to provide feedback to your learners. You can do this through individual feedback sessions, group feedback sessions, or written feedback. The most important thing to remember is that your feedback should be clear, concise, and specific. It should highlight the learner’s knowledge gaps and provide suggestions to help them improve.

Step eight: Evaluate the effectiveness of the knowledge check process

During the knowledge check process, you’re not only evaluating your training programs. You’re also assessing whether or not your knowledge check achieved its objectives. This step is crucial to maintaining the longevity of the knowledge check process.

So how do you evaluate the results of your knowledge checks?

You know how at the end of a great road trip, you take some time to look at all the photos you took on your trip, unpack your bag to survey the souvenirs you may have bought, and call your friends to re-cap and review the experience?

Similarly, at the end of a knowledge check, you must evaluate your journey and identify areas for improvement. Your evaluation process could include analyzing the results of your assessments, collecting feedback from your team, and using this information to support your employees’ learning needs better.

Your knowledge check evaluation should include measurements of each employee’s:

  • Understanding: Did they understand the material covered in the training program?
  • Retention: Did they retain the information taught in the training program?
  • Application: Did they apply the information taught in the training program to their work?

Ultimately, the evaluation process helps you determine the effectiveness of your training program and make the modifications required to produce a more effective and successful corporate training program.

If you’ve read any of my most recent articles, you know that now is a good time to do a little GPS check-in of our own!

So far, we’ve covered the “what, why, and how” of knowledge checks – by now, you may be thinking that you’d like to include this process in your training strategy.

Of course, I want to give you all the tools you need to succeed in this endeavor. So let’s break down some best practices for implementing knowledge checks within your organization or team!

How can you effectively implement knowledge checks within your organization?

We’ve already established that knowledge checks guide your team in the right direction and help them reach their learning goals. But let’s pause for a moment and return to our GPS analogy.

Have you ever been in a rush, punched an address into your GPS, and took off without actually looking at the route it suggests? (Full disclosure: this happened to me last week).

In the best-case scenario, you arrive at your destination without major hiccups. In the worst-case scenario: Carleton Avenue becomes Carleton Place – which in my case, is 40 minutes in the OPPOSITE direction of where I’m trying to go.

The point is improper planning, and poor execution led to a major impediment in my journey. And the same can be said for knowledge checks. Without proper planning and execution, knowledge checks can quickly hinder your team's progress.

So, how can you ensure that your team's knowledge checks are effective, efficient, and enjoyable? Here are some tips to help you navigate the road to success.

The 7 keys to conducting effective knowledge checks separated into 7 blocks with icons. Frequency (calendar); Relevancy (target with arrow); Length (3 bars of varying length); Difficulty (gauge with the needle to the far right); Accessibility (universal access icon with a person in a circle); Incentives (gem stone); Explanations (speech bubble).
  • Check-in regularly: Just as you periodically check your GPS for directions, you should also implement regular knowledge checks to identify instances where you may need to reroute your training program or offer additional support to your employees. The frequency with which you conduct knowledge checks is one of the keys.
  • Make them relevant: Your knowledge checks should directly relate to the training material and what you expect your learners to retain as knowledge and to be able to recall while on the job. That way, learners see the value of the checks and understand why they're essential.
  • Keep them short and sweet: While it's important to include enough questions to test learners' understanding of the material, it's also important to limit the number of questions to avoid overwhelming learners. A good rule of thumb is to include no more than 10-15 questions per knowledge check.
  • Vary the difficulty level: It's important to vary the difficulty level of your knowledge checks to challenge learners and keep them engaged. For the best results, include a mix of easy, medium, and difficult questions or adjust the complexity of the questions based on the learners' progress through your online training program.
  • Make them accessible: Ensure your knowledge checks are accessible to all learners, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Provide user-friendly checks for less tech-savvy individuals and closed captions, audio descriptions, or alternative text for those with visual or hearing impairments.
  • Provide incentives: Offer rewards, recognition, or extra training opportunities to encourage employees to take the knowledge check seriously. Boost the interest and engagement of your knowledge checks with gamification elements.
  • Provide opportunities to improve: Regardless of your knowledge check, it's important to provide adequate explanations and feedback to your learners for each question. These explanations help learners understand why they got a question right or wrong and allow them to learn from their mistakes.

Knowledge checks can be an incredibly effective tool for assessing and reinforcing learning within your organization. Following these tips and tricks can create engaging, effective, and accessible assessments that deliver real value to your learners.

However, even with the best intentions, roadblocks may still appear during the knowledge check process.

What common mistakes occur during knowledge checks, and how can you avoid them?

Just like any road trip, you may encounter barriers that slow down or disrupt your knowledge check experience. To ensure your implementation process is successful, let’s review some common mistakes that render a knowledge check ineffective and explore how to avoid them.

  • Overloading employees with information: Avoid overwhelming your employees with too many questions at once, as it can be overwhelming and defeat the purpose of the knowledge check.
  • Making questions too easy or difficult: The questions should be challenging enough to assess the employee's understanding but not so difficult that they become discouraged.
  • Neglecting to use the results: The results of the knowledge checks should inform and help you adjust your training program. Neglecting to do so defeats the purpose of the knowledge checks.

And, of course, the most common mistake you may encounter when performing a knowledge check?

(drumroll, please!)

Treating the knowledge check like a quiz! Do not do this!

Remember when we defined a knowledge check as a low-stress assessment? Well, that’s precisely what it is.

Knowledge checks are not exams or quizzes. Instead, they should evaluate an employee’s comprehension of course material progress in a relaxed setting.

When presenting a knowledge check as a quiz, people tend to focus on getting the answers right, which can lead to rote memorization rather than actual learning and knowledge retention. The scoring process can also put pressure on employees, resulting in an inaccurate assessment of their understanding. As a result, knowledge checks mustn’t be graded in percentages or pass/fail terms.

Instead, while employing a knowledge check, it's essential to approach it as an opportunity to identify areas of mastery and areas where an employee needs to improve. During a knowledge check, you should give learners feedback on their responses so they may seek the correct answers and know where to direct their attention as they progress in the learning process.

How can knowledge checks improve the overall effectiveness of your corporate training program?

By avoiding these common mistakes, not only are knowledge checks more meaningful for you and your employees, they can also improve the overall effectiveness of your online training program.

In fact, let’s zoom in on some of the benefits of conducting a knowledge check when performed correctly.

Inform future training programs

By gauging your employees' understanding of training material, you can identify any gaps in their knowledge and address them in real time – which helps to ensure that your employees retain the information they need for their roles. It also provides valuable insight into what your eLearning program does well and highlights areas for improvement. Ultimately, this data can help you adapt your future training to improve your learning outcomes and address your employees’ needs and wants.

Reinforce learning

While organizations collectively spend billions per year on learning and development, only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in training programs to their jobs. Knowledge checks can help mitigate the risk of wasted resources and inadequate training by allowing employees to reinforce their learning. By reviewing and applying what they've learned, employees are more likely to retain the information and feel confident in their ability to use it on the job.

Three donut charts in a row with the title, "Reinforce learning with knowledge checks." The first donut has an area with 75% filled and below it reads, "75% of 1,500 managers surveyed across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s L&D function." The middle chart is 12% filled and says, "12% of employees apply new skills learned in training programs to their jobs." The last chart is 25% filled, and says, "25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance." Below the three charts is a block of text: Organizations spent $359 billion globally on training. (Source:

Encourage employee engagement

Conducting regular knowledge checks is a great way to get your employees involved in the training process. Not only does this process keep them motivated to learn and improve, but it can also add a bit of friendly competition between teams. Whether learners are competing against themselves or each other, incorporating elements of competition, like leaderboards, badges, and other forms of gamification, can increase motivation and engagement.

Use knowledge checks to guide your team to eLearning success

In a nutshell, knowledge checks serve as an essential tool in corporate training, acting as a GPS to guide your team on their training journey. When used effectively, knowledge checks can help guide your online training program, help avoid learning roadblocks, and ensure that your team arrives at the destination of mastery efficiently and successfully. With proper planning, execution, and evaluation, knowledge checks can help you improve the overall effectiveness of your corporate training program and keep your team driving toward eLearning success.

So, what’s next? Well, it's time to hit the road and incorporate knowledge checks into your corporate training program! By following the steps in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to designing more impactful and effective corporate custom eLearning programs for your employees.

If you need assistance implementing knowledge checks within your organization, don’t forget you can always get in touch with us. Our eLearning advisors are here to answer questions and help guide you through the knowledge check process so you can create meaningful training programs that meet your workforce’s unique learning needs.

Or, you can head back to our Learning Hub to learn more about how custom eLearning development can help you achieve your desired business goals and learning outcomes.

Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
Cydnie Smith

Cydnie is an experienced writer, editor, and blogger who believes that accessibility plus a dash of creative storytelling is essential to cultivating a memorable learning experience.

Become part of our L&D community

We publish a new learning hub article — full of useful, practical topics —  weekly.

Not sure where where you want to start? Jump into one of our recently published articles and see where it takes you!