Asking Good Test Questions
Questions not only measure what students know, but can reveal different levels of knowledge and learning.
Good test questions:
- Assess what you intend for them to assess.
- Allow students to demonstrate what they have learned.
- Elicit answers that reveal students’ intellectual progress.
- Motivate students and help them structure their academic efforts.
- Can discriminate between students who have learned what you had intended them to learn and those who have not.
Some basic steps:
- Determine what you want students to know. Revisit the learning outcomes you may have articulated at the beginning of the course.
- Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to review verbs that could inform test questions, such as apply, compare, describe, etc.
- Examine the different types of questions: fill-in the blank, short answer, multiple choice, matching, essay question, etc. Use multiple question types, as different students may be better or worse at answering various types of questions.
- Examine whether the questions ask, “How much do you remember of what has been covered?” rather than “What can you do with what you have learned?” (Dressel, 1976).
- Come up with a few possible questions after each lecture; this may increase the quality of test questions because they are more likely to be more representative of your instruction.
- Consider having students create and submit test questions after a class. Review them for possible use.
- Have a colleague or TA review and provide feedback on test questions.
This Test Construction Manual is a useful resource when designing your exam and revising your draft questions (see pages 18-29).
Dressel, P.L. (1976). Handbook of Academic Evaluation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.