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Here is a test to assess your knowledge of a specific topic

Do you really know what you think you know?

2021 July 06 | by Arduino Mancini Effective thinking - Training and development

Today I want to talk to you about a test that might be useful in assessing your knowledge on a specific matter.

It is a short test that I learned to take on two important occasions:

  • whenever I am about to face a task that is new to me, at least partially;
  • when I want to check the depth of my knowledge of topics I think I can master.

You can do it all by yourself, without the help of experts: and then, you can yourself assess the result.

Do you want to know more? Here is a short summary.

When can you use it?

  • Anytime you feel it might be helpful to test your knowledge of a topic you will be required to employ shortly.

How long does it take?

  • No longer than 15 minutes.

What tools can you use?

  • An A4 sheet of paper, a pencil and an eraser.
  • Alternatively, you can use PowerPoint or WORD; white paper and pencil are definitely more effective.

What should you NOT use?

  • Disconnect from the Internet so that you cannot give in to the temptation to collect information.
  • For the same reason, do not access your personal computer hard drive.

Identify the topic you want to assess your knowledge of.

  • It doesn’t need to be broad; choose a specific aspect whose understanding may prove crucial in managing the task you expect to tackle.

Choose a target audience

  • Imagine that you have to explain the matter of your interest to one or two people (no more, so as not to add to the difficulty of managing a large audience).

Prepare your presentation

  • Use the white paper to explain the topic, giving organic structure to your knowledge and making sure that at the end he/she has understood at least the essential elements.
  • A few tips:
    • if after 5 minutes you haven’t done much, don’t get discouraged: collecting the knowledge may turn out to be a difficult exercise, and may not be immediate;
    • be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that you know the matter very well and consider the exercise useless;
    • if the structure of your presentation requires more than one sheet of paper, do not hesitate to get more.


  • Did you succeed? Do you think you did a good job?
  • I’m very glad!
  • However, if after 15 minutes you feel you haven’t achieved much, don’t get discouraged.
  • Just stop for a while and identify the areas that you need to strengthen and get prepared.
  • Then repeat the test.

What do you think about the test? Can it be a helpful tool?

I have used it successfully in selection interviews, or when I wanted to help a team member to consciously check the mastering of specific knowledge.

However, it is on me that the test has been most helpful:

its brutal effectiveness in laying naked my ignorance has every time a bitter taste,
which I have learned to bear and appreciate.

Especially when I think that going crashing can be much, much more painful.

Don’t you think?

Post Scriptum

Should you find it difficult to identify a subject to submit to the white paper test, here below are a few topics I’ve seen respected professionals falter on.

Human Resources

  • Describe, in a concise and immediate format, the performance management process.


  • Identify the 5 main indicators of business profitability and the related methods of calculation.

Project management

  • Identifies the flowchart of a project, describing the key parameters.


  • How many types of innovation do you know? Can you give a concise definition?
  • How do they differ from one another?

Production process

  • What are the variables you keep under control when managing a manufacturing process?
  • For what reasons?

Social media marketing

  • How do you select the social media to employ in your marketing campaigns?

Sales management

  • How many different kinds of salespeople do you know?
  • Can you briefly profile them?

Starting with these examples it may be easier for you to identify a topic to test your knowledge.

After the test, would you let me know if it was helpful?

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