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Tips for Top Tests. FOSL fall September 10, 2007 Adapted from “Tools for Teaching” by Barbara Gross Davis. General Strategies. It is important for a test to be balanced : to cover most of the main ideas and important concepts in proportion to the emphasis they received in class.

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Tips for top tests

Tips for Top Tests

FOSL fall

September 10, 2007

Adapted from “Tools for Teaching”

by Barbara Gross Davis


General strategies
General Strategies

  • It is important for a test to be balanced: to cover most of the main ideas and important concepts in proportion to the emphasis they received in class.

  • Use a variety of testing methods. Write questions that test skills other than recall.


Construction of effective exams
Construction of EffectiveExams

  • Prepare new exams each time you teach a course.

  • Create test items throughout the term.

  • Ask students to submit test questions.

  • Consider making your tests cumulative.

  • Include a few words of advice or encouragement on the exam.

  • Put some easy items first.

  • Try out the timing.


Allaying students anxieties about tests
Allaying Students’ Anxieties About Tests

  • Give students advice on how to prepare for the exam.

  • Give a diagnostic test early in the term.

  • Duplicate extra copies of the exam.

  • Plan for “what ifs.”

  • Actively proctor.

  • Return test papers promptly.

  • Use class time to discuss the overall results and provide answer key.

  • Makeup Test Tips


Multiple choice tests
Multiple-Choice Tests

  • Make sure that at least some test items require higher-level learning (examples)

  • Instruct students to select the “best answer” rather than the “correct answer.”

  • Give advice on how to take a multiple-choice or matching test. Can students guess?

  • Put all relevant material in the stem and keep it short and grammatically consistent (examples)


More on multiple choice
More on Multiple-Choice

  • Limit number of response alternatives and keep distracters appealing and plausible.

  • Avoid always, never, all of the above, none of the above and negative wording.

  • Vary the position of the best answer.

  • Evaluate the test items after you have scored them.


Matching test items
Matching Test Items

  • Keep the two sets of items homogeneous.

  • Try to order the responses.

  • If you include distracters, let students know that some of the entries do not apply.

  • Be conscious of layout and format. Avoid flipping pages to find answers!


Short answer and essay tests
Short-Answer and Essay Tests

  • Do not use essay questions to evaluate understanding that could be tested with multiple-choice questions (examples)

  • Give students advice on how to approach an essay test.

  • Don’t give students a choice of questions to answer.

  • Ask students to write more than one essay.

  • State the question clearly and precisely (examples)


More on short answer and essay tests
More on Short-Answer and Essay Tests

  • Decide on guidelines for full and partial credit (examples)

  • Read exams without looking at students’ names or grading on extraneous factors.

  • Choose examples of exams to serve as anchors or standards.

  • Write comments on the exams.

  • Place the grade on the last page of the exam.


Preventing academic dishonesty
Preventing Academic Dishonesty

  • If you suspect students of cheating or plagiarizing material, confront them directly and immediately.

  • Make certain that you (or proctors) are in the room at all times. Honor system?

  • Check student photo IDs?

  • Take action with “wandering eyes.”

  • Spend some time in the back of the room.


More on preventing academic dishonesty
More on Preventing Academic Dishonesty

  • Be aware of “blue book tricks.”

  • Clearly mark incorrect answers.

  • Distinguish between fraudulent, legitimate, and unacceptable excuses.

  • Recognize that the excuse “my grandmother died” is more likely to be valid than fraudulent.


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