How to use sample test questions in the classroom

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While we often think of exams as a way to demo students’ comprehension of material, exams can serve more than one purpose. Being aware of why we are testing students and what exactly we want to thử nghiệm can help make students’ and instructors" experience of exams more useful. The following tips will gear you towards issues you should think about during the entire exam process, from planning lớn reflection. 

Before you start preparing an exam

Why are you giving an exam to your students?

To evaluate & grade students.

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 Exams provide a controlled environment for independent work and so are often used to lớn verify students’ learning.To motivate students lớn study. Students tend to mở cửa their books more often when an evaluation is coming up. Exams can be great motivators.To add variety khổng lồ student learning. Exams are a form of learning activity. They can enable students khổng lồ see the material from a different perspective. They also provide feedback that students can then use lớn improve their understanding.To identify weaknesses and correct them. Exams enable both students and instructors to lớn identify which areas of the material students do not understand. This allows students lớn seek help, và instructors to address areas that may need more attention, thus enabling student progression & improvement.To obtain feedback on your teaching. You can use exams khổng lồ evaluate your own teaching. Students’ performance on the exam will pinpoint areas where you should spend more time or change your current approach.To provide statistics for the course or institution. Institutions often want information on how students are doing. How many are passing & failing, & what is the average achievement in class? Exams can provide this information.To accredit qualified students. Certain professions demand that students demonstrate the acquisition of certain skills or knowledge. An exam can provide such proof – for example, the Uniform Final Examination (UFE) serves this purpose in accounting.

What vị you want khổng lồ assess?

What you want to assess should be related lớn your learning outcomes for the course.

Knowledge or how it is used. You can kiến thiết your test questions to lớn assess students’ knowledge or ability khổng lồ apply material taught in class.Process or product. You can thử nghiệm students’ reasoning skills & evaluate the process by focusing the marks and other feedback on the process they follow to lớn arrive at a solution. Alternatively, you can evaluate the kết thúc product.The communication of ideas. You can evaluate students’ communication skills ­their ability lớn express themselves - whether this is by writing a cogent argument, or creating an elegant mathematical proof.Convergent thinking or divergent thinking. You can demo your students’ ability khổng lồ draw a single conclusion from different inputs (convergent thinking). Or you may alternatively want them to lớn come up with different possible answers (divergent thinking). Bởi you expect different answers from students, or vì chưng you expect all of them to lớn provide the same answer?Absolute or relative standards. Is student success defined by learning a set amount of material or demonstrating certain skills, or is student success measured by assessing the amount of progress the students make over the duration of the course?

How vày you decide what lớn test & how to kiểm tra it?

The overall exam should be consistent with your learning outcomes for the course. There are a number of ways to review and prioritize the skills and concepts taught in a course. You could:

Use the topics danh mục provided in your course outlineSkim through your lecture notes to find key concepts and methodsReview chapter headings và subheadings in the assigned readings

What are the qualities of a good exam?

A good exam gives all students an equal opportunity khổng lồ fully demonstrate their learning. With this in mind, you might reflect on the nature và parameters of your exam. For example, could the exam be administered as a take-home exam? Two students might know the material equally well, but one of them might not perform well under the pressure of a timed or in-class testing situation. In such a case, what is it that you really want to lớn assess: how well each student knows the material, or how well each performs under pressure? Likewise, it might be appropriate khổng lồ allow students khổng lồ bring memory sida to an exam. Again, what is it that you want khổng lồ assess: their ability to lớn memorize a formula or their ability to lớn use & apply a formula?Consistency. If you give the same exam twice to the same students, they should get a similar grade each time.Validity. Make sure your questions address what you want to evaluate.Realistic expectations. Your exam should contain questions that match the average student’s ability level. It should also be possible khổng lồ respond to lớn all questions in the time allowed. To kiểm tra the exam, ask a teaching assistant lớn take the chạy thử – if they can’t complete it in well under the time permitted then the exam needs to be revised.

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Offer multiple ways khổng lồ obtain full marks. Exams can be highly stressful & artificial ways to lớn demonstrate knowledge. In recognition of this, you may want to lớn provide questions that allow multiple ways lớn obtain full marks. For example, ask students to danh sách five of the seven benefits of multiple-choice questions.Free of bias. Your students will differ in many ways including language proficiency, socio-economic background, physical disabilities, etc. When constructing an exam, you should keep student differences in mind to lớn watch for ways that the exams could create obstacles for some students. For example, the use of colloquial language could create difficulties for students whose first language is not English, & examples easily understood by North American students may be inaccessible lớn international students.Redeemable. An exam does not need to lớn be the sole opportunity khổng lồ obtain marks. Assignments & midterms allow students to lớn practice answering your types of questions và adapt khổng lồ your expectations.Demanding. An exam that is too easy does not accurately measure students’ understanding of the material.Transparent marking criteria. Students should know what is expected of them. They should be able khổng lồ identify the characteristics of a satisfactory answer and understand the relative importance of those characteristics. This can be achieved in many ways; you can provide feedback on assignments, describe your expectations in class, or post mã sản phẩm solutions.Timely. Spread exams out over the semester. Giving two exams one week apart doesn’t give students adequate time khổng lồ receive và respond khổng lồ the feedback provided by the first exam. When possible, plan the exams lớn fit logically within the flow of the course material. It might be helpful to lớn place tests at the end of important learning units rather than simply give a midterm halfway through the semester. 

After the exam is ready

Prepare a marking scheme or rubric

Preparing a marking scheme ahead of time will allow you to reviews your questions, khổng lồ verify that they are really testing the material you want lớn test, and to think about possible alternative answers that might come up.

Look at what others have done. Chances are that you are not the only person who teaches this course. Look at how others choose to assign grades.Give consequential marks. Generally, marking schemes should not penalize the same error repeatedly. If an error is made early but carried through the answer, you should only penalize it once if the rest of the response is sound.Review the marking scheme after the exam. Once the exam has been written, read a few answers and đánh giá your key. You may sometimes find that students have interpreted your question in a way that is different from what you had intended. Students may come up with excellent answers that may be slightly outside of what was asked. Consider giving these students partial marks.When marking, make notes on exams. These notes should make it clear why you gave a particular mark. If exams are returned to lớn the students, your notes will help them understand their mistakes và correct them. They will also help you should students want to reviews their exam long after it has been given, or if they appeal their grade.

Inform students of the purpose and parameters of the exam

Clearly communicate with students about what your goals are for any chạy thử or exam. Don"t assume that students know what the pedagogical purpose of the chạy thử or exam is. Have a discussion about your goals và desired outcomes, and help students understand how specific aspects of the demo or exam fit these goals. Be open to making some changes if students have ideas lớn offer. Although you might not provide students with exam questions in advance, you should be prepared khổng lồ answer questions such as:What will the exam cover?How much emphasis should I put on the textbook / lectures / etc…?What material (if any) am I allowed to bring into the exam room?When will I get my mark?What happens if, for a good reason, I can’t attend the exam? bởi vì I get khổng lồ re-write?Will I be given the chance to choose the topics on which I vì questions?Will I be told which criteria I am being assessed on?If I disagree politically or philosophically with the marker, will I get poor marks?Will allowances be made if English is not my first language?

After your students write the exam

Monitor the quality of your exams

Exams provide you with the opportunity khổng lồ obtain feedback on student learning, your teaching methods, & the quality of the exam itself.

Write impressions on your exam & keep them. During the exam and the marking of the exam, keep track of which questions seem lớn be well understood, & which questions were frequently misunderstood.Collect numerical data. If you have machine-scorable exams, you can get statistics on your questions, such as which questions were missed most often or which distracters were most often chosen. In other cases you can collect an overview of the marks.

Reflect on the gathered information

Reviewing examination results can help you identify concepts & methods that students are having difficulty with – questions that were missed – as well as concepts and methods that were well understood – questions generally successfully answered. Or it may highlight well-constructed or poorly ­constructed exam question. Consider using this information to:

Change how you teach the remainder of the termCheck for improvement on specific topics or methods over a termRedesign the course or the examination for future classesAssess your teaching practice – what is working especially well và what can be improved upon

Resources

Brown, S., Race, P., và Smith, B. (1996). 500 tips on assessment. London, UK: Kogan Page.Brown, S., và Smith, B. (1997). Getting to grips with assessment. Birmingham, UK: staff và Educational Development Association.McKeachie, W., & Svinicki, M. (2013). McKeachie"s teaching tips: Strategies, research, & theory for college & university teachers (14th ed.). Belmont, USA: Wadsworth Publishing.Worthen, B. R., Borg, W.R., và White, K. R. (1993). Measurement và evaluation in the schools. New York: Longman.

CTE teaching tips

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This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Preparing Tests và Exams. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.