Examinations can play an integral role in the assessment of a student's ability to demonstrate their knowledge and depth of understanding on any given topic during their course of study. Hence, it is essential that we design examination questions that are fair and valid, yet challenging.
Like other assessment tasks, examinations can be used to gauge both student learning and the efficacy of the learning process. So, we must ensure that the cognitive skills examined during the examination are constructively aligned to the skills required by the subject learning outcomes. The primary aim with examination questions is to provide students with a platform to demonstrate their knowledge and their ability to apply the knowledge in a context relevant to the subject learning outcomes.
What type of response is required?
A fixed response can be explained as an objective response where students select the correct response to a question, or supply a word or short phrase to answer a question or complete a statement. For example, multiple choice, true-false, matching or fill-in-the-blank questions.
A constructed response is a subjective narrative that challenges students to create an original answer. For example: short answer, long answer, essay, or performance test items.
Have you chosen the best test format for evaluating cognitive ability to meet the learning outcomes?
The verbs in the learning outcome can provide direction towards the choice of the question type. Some verbs such as identify, list, and select clearly indicate that students need to select the response. If the question is written in such a way that a student has to reason in order to select a correct response, student actions such as analyse or compare could be included in the selection of answers. Generally, verbs such as analyse, apply, interpret, compare, infer and predict indicate that a student should construct a response.
For instance, if the subject learning outcome is expecting the student to be able to synthesis information; then multiple choice questions (MCQ) would not serve as an appropriate assessment tool. Instead, a long answer question with clarity and emphasis on the importance of the student’s ability to synthesis information should be given. However, having MCQ as an assessment does not always mean that the questions are meant to evaluate lower order cognitive skills. MCQ type questions can be constructed to assess higher order cognitive skills like analyse, compare, judge etc.
Focus essay questions
Anatomy of MCQ:
Multiple choice question items consist of a stem and alternatives.
The stem comprises of the problem while the list of options with one correct or most appropriate (answer) + the incorrect answer (distractor) are called the alternatives (Steven et al., 1991).
General rules for THE STEM
General rules for THE ALTERNATIVES
General rules for THE ANSWER
General rules for THE DISTRACTORS
Item Analysis in Blackboard can help determine the effectiveness of the test questions, enabling us to see which questions might need to be revised. It provides:
When should you consider reviewing the question?