Sample Questions

This page provides sample questions from the CPTC Foundation exam. The sample questions show the range of topics from 9 core skill areas in technical communication and the types of questions that will be asked. The rationale and correct responses for the questions are located at the bottom of this page. All questions are based on material found in the body of knowledge used for the exam, Richard Johnson-Sheehan’s textbook Technical Communication Today, 5th ed. (ISBN-10: 0134419391). Candidates who intend to self study may wish to review the STC Study Guide before taking the exam.

10 Sample Questions

1. What is an editor on a technical communication team typically responsible for?

a) Maintaining a document schedule and meeting minutes

b) Collecting information and coordinating empirical research

c) Evaluating missing content areas and how information is organized

d) Document layout, images, and information graphics

2. Which of the following statements are correct guidelines for writing plain sentences?

1. Use the doer as the subject of the sentence

2. Write sentences that are breathing length

3. Eliminate nominalizations

4. Put the subject toward the end of the sentence

a) 1, 2, 3

b) 1, 2, 4

c) 1, 3, 4

d) 2, 3, 4

3. Which approach is NOT applying the visual design principle of grouping?

a) Use borders to break the page into more manageable sections

b) Offset the elements on a page to create a stable feeling in the text

c) Use horizontal straight lines (rules) to signal places to pause in the document

d) Use the white space appropriately to frame items on the page

4. Which of the following statements about the focus of substantive editing are true?

1. The content should be checked for any gaps or digressions.

2. The document should be designed for the target audience and the context of use.

a) Only 1 is true

b) Only 2 is true

c) Both 1 and 2 are true

d) Neither 1 or 2 is true

5. Which communication situation is MOST likely to use the technical genre of activity reports?

a) Presenting an innovative idea to management for their consideration

b) Reporting on an issue and its future implications for the workplace

c) Reporting findings from a study and making a recommendation on the next steps

d) Describing how to complete a workplace activity or process

6. Which is a factor for consideration when using symbols in documents for a global audience?

a) Use of symbols can result in unintended consequences

b) Symbols add little value to technical documents

c) Shapes such as circles or squares are too simple to add any value

d) Symbols can confuse readers of documents not in their first language

7. Which of the following are major patterns of arrangement for a section of a document?

1. Cause and effect

2. Chronological order

3. Comparison and contrast

4. Mandatory and optional

a) 1, 2, 3

b) 1, 2, 4

c) 1, 3, 4

d) 2, 3, 4

8. According to Johnson Sheehan, which of the following statements about project outcomes and deliverables are true?

1. Project outcomes are the visible and measurable results of the team’s efforts.

2. Deliverables are the real products or services that you will deliver to clients upon a project’s completion.

a) Only 1 is true

b) Only 2 is true

c) Both 1 and 2 are true

d) Neither 1 or 2 is true

9. Which of the following is NOT a benefit of using reader profiles for technical communication?

a) Provides information on how readers will use the document

b) Helps with the presentation of the same information to different audiences

c) Provides a visual way of presenting ideas and understanding their logical relationships

d) Helps determine suitable pattern of arrangements for the body of the document

10. When strategically planning the work of a technical documentation team, in what sequence are the following typically undertaken?

1. Create a list of tasks

2. Develop a timeline

3. Set objectives

a) 1, 2, 3

b) 2, 3, 1

c) 2, 1, 3

d) 3, 1, 2

 Rationale for the Sample Questions

1. Topic Area: Content Management

Correct Answer: C

Test Objective: The responsibilities of each of the four typical roles in a collaborative technical writing team.

a) Incorrect. The coordinator is responsible for maintaining the project schedule and meetings. Ref: Page 42

b) Incorrect. The researcher is responsible for collecting information and coordinating empirical research. Ref: Page 42

c) Correct. The editor is responsible for evaluating missing content areas or where information needs to be reorganized to achieve the project’s purpose. Ref: Page 42

d) Incorrect. The designer is responsible for document layout, images, and information graphics. Ref: Page 42

 

2. Topic Area: Written Communication

Correct Answer: A

Test Objective: The eight guidelines for writing plain sentences.

a) Correct. (4) Putting the subject toward the end of the sentence is an incorrect guideline. The subject should be early in the sentence. Ref: Page 424

b) Incorrect. (3) Eliminate nominalizations is a correct guideline. Ref: Pages 425

c) Incorrect. (2) Writing sentences that are breathing length is a correct guideline. Ref: Page 426

d) Incorrect. (1) Use the doer as the subject of the sentence is a correct guideline. Ref: Page 424

3. Topic Area: Visual Communication

Correct Answer: B

Test Objective: Understand the principle of grouping and how it is used to add visual structure to information products.

a) Incorrect. Carving pages into smaller groups of information using borders is applying the grouping principle. Ref: Page 460

b) Correct. Offsetting items to create a stable feeling in the text is applying the design principle of balance: Pages 450 and 451

c) Incorrect. Rules can be used to carve a page into smaller groups of information. Ref: Page 460

d) Incorrect. Appropriate framing of items using white space is applying the design principle of grouping. Ref: Page 457

4. Topic Area: Rewriting and Editing

Correct Answer: C

Test Objective: To identify the focus of each level of editing, specifically level 2: substantive editing

a) Incorrect. (2) is true. Substantive editing checks whether there are any gaps of digressions in the content. Ref: Page 501

b) Incorrect. (1) is true. Substantive editing checks whether the document is designed for it’s readers and the contexts in which it will be used. Ref: Page 502

c) Correct. See Rationales A and B

d) Incorrect. See Rationales A and B

5. Topic Area: Content Development

Correct Answer: B

Test Objective: The types of communication situation each the activity report technical genres is typically used for

a) Incorrect. The technical genre of proposal is usually used for presenting plans or ideas for future consideration. Ref: Page 225

b) Correct. The technical genre of activity reports is usually used to objectively present ideas or information within a company on what has happened, what is happening and what will happen in the near future. Informing management or clients about an ongoing issue would typically be done using this genre and white papers or briefings. Ref: Page 231

c) Incorrect. The technical genre of analytical reports is usually used for formal documents that present findings and make recommendations. While the basic model of the activity report would have some use for setting out the findings of a study, the analytical report is more suitable. Its organization is better suited to describing the research methodology used, presenting and discussing the results and making recommendations. Ref: Page 254

d) Incorrect. The technical genre of instructions and documentation is usually used for describing step-by-step tasks. Ref: Page 191

6. Topic Area: Visual Communication

Correct Answer: A

Test Objective: To identify the guidelines for using symbols in documents for a global audience.

a) Correct. Symbols do not always translate exactly across cultures, so you need to check use of symbols with readers from other cultures. Ref: Page 492

b) Incorrect. Symbols can be very helpful in technical documents because they enhance translation and comprehension Ref: Page 494

c) Incorrect. A good approach to avoid offense, particularly with religious symbols, is to use simple shapes such as circles or squares. Ref: Page 469

d) Incorrect. Symbols can enhance understanding of second language readers. Ref: Page 492

7. Topic Area: Organizational Design

Correct Answer: A

Test Objective: Recall the patterns of arrangement for the body of a document and how they are used

a) Correct. (4) is not one of the suggest major patterns of arrangement. Ref: Page 403

b) Incorrect. See Rationale (A).

c) Incorrect. See Rationale (A).

d) Incorrect. See Rationale (A).

8. Topic Area: Production and Delivery

Correct Answer: C

Test Objective: Understand the relationship between project outcomes and final production deliverables.

a) Incorrect. (1) is true. Project outcomes are the visible and measurable results of the team’s efforts. Ref: Page 41

b) Incorrect. (2) Deliverables are the real products or services delivered to clients upon a project’s completion. Ref: Page 41

c) Correct. See Rationales A and B

d) Incorrect. See Rationales A and B

9. Topic Area: Project Analysis and Developing a Reader Profile

Correct Answer: C

Test Objective: Why are reader profiles important for technical communication?

a) Incorrect. The reader profile gives detailed information about how readers will use the document. Ref: Page 19

b) Incorrect. Different reader profiles for the same document help with the presentation of information to two very different kinds of audiences. Ref: Page 24

c) Correct. A reader profile is about understanding the target readers. Whilst this understanding will influence the content of the document, the technique of concept mapping is used for visually presenting ideas on content. Ref: Pages 19 and 335

d) Incorrect. Patterns of arrangement help with organizing information in the document. The information required will depend on the needs of the reader identified in the reader profile. Ref: Pages 21 and 403

10. Topic Area: Project Planning and Technical Communications

Correct Answer: D

Test Objective: How to strategically plan the work of a technical communication team.

a) Incorrect. See Rationale D

b) Incorrect. See Rationale D

c) Incorrect. See Rationale D

d) Correct. The proper sequence in strategically planning the work of a technical writing team is to set objectives, create a list of tasks, and set a timeline. Ref: Page 330