How to write effective exam questions for college students
Author: Alana Joli Abbott
Types of Exam Questions
Which type of test question do you prefer: true or false? Multiple choice? Long-form essay? How do you create exam questions?
To help you choose the right questions to measure your students’ learning, think about what you want to gauge in college students’ knowledge when designing an exam. There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of question. These exam tips will help you choose the best teaching strategies for your exam.
In McKeachie’s Fourteenth Edition Teaching Tips, Wilbert J. McKeachie, and Marilla Svnicki pointed out that there are two parts to exams that can be time-consuming for professors: grading and construction. “Unfortunately,” they wrote, “it seems to be generally true that examinations that are the easiest to construct are also the most difficult to grade” (McKeachie 86). Multiple choice and true/false tests are easy to grade, and can be tempting to offer large classes because of the number of tests taken.
These forms can limit the information you can gain about college students’ learning. For example, true or false questions give test takers a 50% chance to be right on any question. Multiple choice questions are better but it can be difficult for questions to be constructed with plausible incorrect answers. These questions are less effective at reaching higher levels of goals, according McKeachie and Svnicki. They recommend using “some essay question, problems or other items requiring analysis integration or application” (McKeachie 86).
Advantages and disadvantages of different types of exam questions
Multiple choice questions can be varied and require students to write very little during the exam. However, multiple choice questions can be difficult to write according to the UNC Charlotte Center for Teaching and Learning exam tips guide. The article’s authors recommended that you create a single, clearly stated problem for each question without using any extra words.
Written problems, which are most common in science and math disciplines, can help students demonstrate their understanding of the process of problem solving. However, students may not be able to understand the steps or formulas if they have too many problems.
If the questions are well-defined and limited, short-answer questions can be used to measure student knowledge. They don’t require students to recite facts. You can ask students to solve a problem or form a hypothesis to emphasize critical thinking. These answers are important for grading. They should be accompanied by comments, not just simple points.
These questions are the most difficult to design, but the easiest to grade. Because one essay question requires college students to spend more time than the others, they are assessed on less material. Students learn more efficiently for essay tests, and they are more likely to read extensively if they don’t know the topic in advance.
Refer to McKeachie, Wilbert J., and Marilla Svinicki. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips 14th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.