Standards for question writing
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Standards for Question Writing. Mary Grantner, MA Senior Manager, Physician Assessment. Fundamentals. What is a test? An instrument that tells us something about student knowledge, skills, and/or abilities. . Fundamentals. What is a test item?

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Standards for Question Writing

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Standards for Question Writing

Mary Grantner, MA

Senior Manager, Physician Assessment


Fundamentals

What is a test?

An instrument that tells us something about student knowledge, skills, and/or abilities.


Fundamentals

What is a test item?

Cue requiring student response with rules for scoring response.

Response can be prompted by an instruction to perform a task,

or a question requiring an answer.


Fundamentals

By definition, ARS employs a question requiring an answer.

The default test item is multiple-choice.

  • Stem

  • Responses

  • Single correct response (best-answer format)


Use those nifty keypads

A multiple-choice test item can measure which of the following student achievements?

  • Critical thinking skill

  • High-inference psychomotor skill

  • Declarative knowledge

  • High-inference cognitive ability


A multiple-choice test item can measure which of the following student achievements?

  • Critical thinking skill*

  • High-inference psychomotor skill

  • Declarative knowledge*

  • High-inference cognitive ability*


Approach to Writing

  • Identify Key Concepts

    • What do you want to measure?

  • Identify Actions

    • What do you want the learner to be able to do?

  • Ask for Direct Action/Concept

  • Provide a Single Correct Answer


Identify Key Concepts

  • Start with learning objectives

  • When they walk out of the room, will learners ask “so what?” What should they now understand?

  • Put each concept into a declarative sentence.


Identify Actions

  • Drill down – what should the learner do with the concept?

  • Verbs “do” – consider some verbs that apply to the Key Concept.

  • Put each action into a declarative sentence.


A Word about Verbs

  • Strong verbs are vital to any good writing.

  • Be direct and active.

    • Form of “to be” + past participle – Mary was given a book by John – is passive.

  • Avoid forms of “to be” when possible.

  • And (drumroll please)…


“When you see an adverb, kill it.”

-- Mark Twain

What does it mean to walk quickly?

Briskly?

Urgently?

Fast?


Choosing Verbs

Measure Recall or Understanding, use:

Characterize

Define

Demonstrate

Describe

Find

Illustrate


Choosing Verbs

Measure Problem-solving, use:

Classify

Conclude

Diagnose

Determine

Plan

Recommend


Ask for Direct Action/Concept

  • Focus on a single Key Concept at a time.

    • Less really is more.

  • Using an active verb, ask a direct question.

  • Ask the learner to do something.

  • Keep it simple!


Provide a Single Correct Answer

  • Focus on “real life”.

  • Be as brief as possible.

    • Answer should contain only what is absolutely necessary.

  • Keep it simple!


Keypads Up!

Which of the following best defines adverb?

  • Modifies a noun or other substantive.

  • Ob to be executed by item writer.

  • Expresses action, existence, or occurrence.

  • Modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb.


Which of the following best defines adverb?

  • Modifies a noun or other substantive.

  • Obliged to be executed by item writer.

  • Expresses action, existence, or occurrence.

  • Modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb. *


Try This

Identify Key Concept:

Pulmonary embolism (PE) and deep venous thrombosis (DVT) are part of the same complex and common process (i.e. venous thromboembolism), which has a wide spectrum of clinical presentations and consequences, ranging from no symptoms or sequelae to a lethal outcome. DVT usually starts in the deep calf veins and propagates superiorly, and it is associated with symptomatic PE in about one-third of untreated patients. DVT is commonly confused with other conditions such as cellulitis, leg edema, and chronic venous insufficiency, and PE is also notoriously difficult to diagnose.


You Decide

  • As the content expert, it’s up to you to decide what is most important.

  • Let’s choose this:

    PE is also notoriously difficult to diagnose

  • Write a direct question based on the paragraph.


The Question

Which of the following statements best explains the difficulties in diagnosing lower extremity DVT?

Answer:

Is clinically similar to other conditions of the lower extremities.


Wrong Answers

  • Also called distractors, are hard to write.

  • Try using these:

    • Common misconceptions you’ve seen;

    • Misapply a principle (i.e. add when you should subtract);

    • Ways in which things are related (cause or coincidence?).


Which of the following statements best explains the difficulties in diagnosing lower extremity DVT?

Is a distinctly different process than PE.

Occurs rarely in cases of symptomatic PE.

Is clinically similar to other conditions of the lower extremities.*

Usually originates in difficult to image deep veins of the thigh.


Other Rules/Hints

  • Just as in life, a fact is seldom absolutely true or absolutely false. No T/F questions!

  • “All / None of the Above” is essentially T/F – Not allowed.

  • Avoid any negative question

    • Which is false?

    • Which is incorrect?


Other Rules/Hints

  • Stem is short and options long – a poor item!

    • As much information as possible in the stem and keep the options short

  • Avoid absolute terms.

    • Words like “always” or “never” are rarely true in life and so are almost never the right answer on a test.

  • Avoid word repeats (word that appears in both stem and response); points to a correct answer.

  • Language in the options must be parallel (i.e. all diagnoses, or all anatomic entities).


Questions?

Mary Grantner

[email protected]

630-368-3733


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