Share
Explore BrainMass

Strategies in making up objective and/or essay tests

This posting provides the strategies for constructing an objective test for high school students, along with one essay question.

It includes true/false, matching, multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. The posting describes how to formulate "valid" and challenging test questions.

It also speaks to providing a short essay question, as well as preparing the class for the test, how to set up Scantron tests, the grading of non-Scantron tests, and accommodating special needs students during a test.

Included are short cuts and ways to avoid testing pitfalls.

Solution Preview

I find that objective tests are much easier to create, and certainly to grade, than a subjective test. Subjective tests require more in-depth analysis on the student's part, which is why they are better assessments to check for the students' higher levels of understanding. However, to check for a general understanding, objective tests will do the job. Objective tests include true/false, multiple choice (MC), matching, and fill-in-the-blank.

First, decide which concepts lend themselves to absolute answers (true/false). For this kind of answer, there has to be an absolutely correct or incorrect answer. Anything in between will confuse your students, and invalidate the test question.

Next, in choosing to include multiple choice, which I prefer, you must be able to come up with several possible answers for each question. It is a generally accepted practice to make sure that students have a chance to get the correct answer by not making the answers too similar. Some students tend to over-analyze questions on tests so be careful that those students who have studied and paid attention are rewarded with an obvious correct answer: obvious only if they are prepared for the test. For example, note the following question:

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, whose advice seems to hold the most influence over Macbeth's decision to kill Duncan and the others, in order to be king? a) Banquo b) Lady Macbeth c) the witches d) Malcolm

For this question, Banquo is absolutely incorrect if anyone has been paying attention. He is a man who cannot be swayed from what is good; he cares only for supporting the King, who he admires and loves. He also ends up being one of Macbeth's victims even though they are very close friends. Malcolm is also incorrect; he is one of the king's sons, and does not speak to Macbeth at all before Macbeth starts his killing spree, starting with Duncan. Answers b. & c. are the ones that students will need to really choose between. Lady Macbeth certainly eggs Macbeth on; after all, she will be queen, and she insults his manhood and pushes him hard so he can muster the courage to take Duncan's life. However, it is the witches' predictions that hold the most weight with Macbeth because they not only prove their worth when one of their first predictions comes true almost immediately, but they also promise that he will be king one day, and that no one can kill him. (They trick him with word games on this last one.) Answers b. & c. both hold merit, but only one is the correct answer. Changing the question and asking who has a great deal of influence over Macbeth's decision to kill Duncan would require both b. & c. As the question stands, only c. is correct. The student who knows the material--and is paying attention--will be able to make the distinction.

(These kinds of questions create a sense in students that you are a "hard" teacher, but the truth is that you are challenging them to do their best, and that there are no "freebies." If you want your students to be prepared with the information you are teaching, challenging them on tests makes them work harder to listen, study and ultimately understand your lessons. It makes them better students for other classes as well. If your tests are too easy, they will think you are a pushover and you will lose your credibility.)

I also like matching questions. As with multiple choice (MC), the answer is there in front of them, so if they know their material, finding the correct match to the question should not be difficult. In this section (as with MC), it doesn't hurt to have two questions that may seem similar so that the prepared student will have to choose one based on the material covered that clearly conveys one answer to be correct over the other. If you want to make the test a little easier, you can provide only one additional answer in the list ("one answer will not be used"), so that students must choose from what is there. The extra answer will clearly be wrong for the student who is prepared for the test.

If you are testing on specific concepts that are multifaceted, you can have, for example, ten questions that use one of three answers provided, with one being the "red herring" ...

Solution Summary

Making up tests for students requires that you adequately cover the material you plan to test on. Challenge your students on the test, but don't be unfair and make the test tricky. There is a difference between a student having to study and carefully read the question, and being at a disadvantage because the answers they are to choose from are too similar.

Be mindful, also of the academic level of your students. Don't feel sorry for them because they don't study and change the test; but don't test above the class's ability level. Learning disabilities and/or students with low reading levels need to be considered.

Make sure the test is proofread carefully, and when you're satisfied, copy it, giving yourself one full day before the test to make sure the copier works, and that you've covered all the material on the test. Make up the key ahead of time to make sure you catch any mistakes you may have made on the actual test.

$2.19