I wrote:

We have developed a computer program for spelling training. In this program, a student takes spelling tests on a word list.

Actually the user spells some words using this program. Is each of these spellings a test? Is the whole session a test? Can it be used for either or both? What are other useful words in such a scenario?

  • The complement of "on" in this context is typically a subject or topic, or your knowledge thereof. We took a test on World War I. You will be tested on your knowledge of calculus. "A word list" doesn't quite qualify semantically as a subject, like geography, or binomials, or RNA, or qualify as knowledge in an area. That's why "on a word list" doesn't work well here.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


We have developed a computer program for spelling training.
In this program, a student takes spelling tests from a word list.

The words to be spelled are on a list, and each one is taken from the list when the student is asked to spell it

Tests can be either big or small from single questions to hours long, which are then called examinations or exams. Short tests may be called quizzes and usually only take a few minutes. Teachers use them to ingrain lesson materials into students. If a quiz is given unannounced, it may be called a pop quiz. Exam and quiz describe the relative lengths of a test.

The essence of being tested is to respond with the correct answer when asked a question.

Each of the questions is a test of knowledge, and the overall collection is also called a test if it functionally can be thought of as a single entity, usually on one topic of interest. Exams are usually a collection of tests on several different topic and the process may last all day. One sits an exam, but not a quiz.

Other words which might be used to express the same process are

spelling drills
spelling practice
spelling exercises

  • Somewhat more "metaphorical", perhaps, but I'd be perfectly happy (perhaps even more so) with taking spelling tests against a word list. Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 21:49
  • Thank you but, "test" as I saw takes "on" preposition. We have a test on irregular verbs tomorrow, then why I can't use "on" here.
    – Ahmad
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 7:02
  • @Ahmad your example says "spelling tests (plural) from a word list (singular)". "A test on a word list" is the entire list, so you are saying the student would take multiple tests from the same list (maybe word order changes?). If each test has some different words than the previous test, then the whole word list is not used, and the ones that are used are taken from the word list. You could say "spelling tests on different word lists".
    – Peter
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 7:14
  • Tests can be against things such as "against the clock" which is a timed test. "spelling test against a word list" has the same meaning as using on but because against is a stronger word, has more emphasis on the word list.
    – Peter
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 7:17
  • How to differentiate the complete session with individual tests on each word? In another part I wrote The procedure for doing a test on a word is as follows..., Does emphasizing "on a word" make it distinct?
    – Ahmad
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 7:30

Pretty much as you said, you can write:

In this program, a student spells words on a word list

Don't use test since you say it is not really a test (just spelling some words does not qualify). A test has multiple questions and will be scored as a whole.

However, in an informal sense you could call it a quiz.

  • I don't think you can say it's not a "test" if a student is only asked to spell a single word. "I'm really good at English!" "Says you! Let me give you a spelling test. Spell amoeba." "A-M-O-E-B-A" "Okay, I agree you're good" Sounds like a credible conversation to me. Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 20:05
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I call that a quiz. As for test: "5. a set of questions, problems, or exercises for determining a person's knowledge, abilities, aptitude, or qualifications; examination"
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 20:22
  • We can all pick and choose from definitions of words with a range of meanings (the first two definitions in your link seem to be more about answering a single question, for example). As @Peter says above, Tests can be either big or small from single questions to hours long. And so far as your quiz alternative goes, a single question quiz gets only 6 Google Books hits, where a single question test gets 65. The words just aren't that "fixed". Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 21:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .