The importance of a high-quality test to measure student success cannot be overestimated. It gives the instructor a reference for how well the student is doing and in what areas focus needs to be given in order to help the student succeed.
That being said, a poorly constructed test can not only be ineffective, it can hinder student development by reducing motivation and putting false goals in students’ minds. Using intuitive exam software can make all the difference in helping them succeed.
A good exam is a measure of a student’s learning, but it also tells you what they haven’t mastered at that point. If attention is paid to only that which a student has a firm grasp of, a crucial opportunity to help them shore up their weaknesses will be missed. Focus not only on where they went right, but where they went wrong.
Consistency in testing helps create a baseline by which student progress can be measured. When testing fails in this regard, a student’s difficulties may well slip beyond the instructor’s radar. Testing methods can be varied to an extent to ensure students don’t learn strictly to pass exams, but looking for the same consistent outcomes will allow the teacher to adequately monitor competencies.
A multiple choice test is certainly adequate when trying to determine if a student has remembered, say, what year the Declaration of Independence was signed. However, if the goal is to see if the student has understood the significance of the signing, a multiple choice test with four options will be less helpful if a student can just guess the most reasonable answer.
An essay question in which they must explain in their own words what made it important may be more beneficial. Instead of prompting students to parrot what they’ve read, they’re required to reach into their own vocabulary to find meaning in the event and explain its context. This will require independent critical thinking and a test in which guesswork will be of no use.
When students understand what is expected of them, they will be more prepared to deliver. If a course has focused on the scientific method and students are aware that they must have a firm understanding of the steps involved, a test that asks them to design a simple mock experiment will be in line with that learning if they have prepared for it in class.
It also outlines the importance of that information in the broader subject matter by reinforcing how the scientific method is used throughout disciplines. Make it clear to students how the exam reflects the material they’ve studied so that they are better able to integrate the information.
Nothing is more frustrating for a student who is struggling, or even one who excels, than having ambiguous instructions on a test.
If a student is left guessing the correct answer because of poor instructions or a question’s intent, they won’t be able to fully demonstrate their abilities. Clear, simple instructions allow the student to focus not on attempting to discern what they’re supposed to do. Instead, they can articulate the knowledge they’ve gained.
A student may come into the classroom confident in their knowledge, but find that they completely freeze when the test hits their desk. Remember that for these students, it’s important that they know that they have every opportunity to do well.
As an instructor, keep in mind that adequate time for the exam needs to be provided so that students won’t feel unnecessarily rushed and therefore become careless. A calm atmosphere and a sense of encouragement will also go far in helping students who may be less than confident in their testing skills.