SIP 8.7 How to Eliminate Test Confusion

How to Eliminate Test Confusion

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Contrary to popular student belief, exams are not the means by which professors torture their students or determine how much they can memorize and regurgitate within a 24 hour period. Exams are meant to reinforce course material, and depending on how the exam is structured, can require students to use or think about what they have learned in a new way. In addition, exams can be used to evaluate the quality of instruction. Students’ performance on the exam can pinpoint areas where faculty could spend more time or perhaps change an approach. However, if there is confusion surrounding exams, test data may not present an accurate picture of student learning.

Students often complain that tests are too hard, the questions were too ambiguous, or the test didn’t reflect the course material or what the professor seemed to indicate was important. By eliminating test confusion, faculty can reduce the number of student complaints and exams will be a more accurate indicator of student mastery of material and provide useful feedback on course design and curriculum.

Take a SIP of this: How to Eliminate Test Confusion

Below are some ideas for eliminating test confusion and creating meaningful exams that accurately measure student learning. Review sessions: Give students an opportunity to review test content during class, the class period prior to the exam. This will give you an opportunity to answer student questions and clarify any misunderstandings about content. Review games are a fun way to engage students and reinforce learning.

  • Reinforce study skills: Just because students have made it to the college level doesn’t mean they know how to study. Many students graduate high school without really knowing effective methods for studying. You can provide students with ideas of how they can study based on their learning styles. Talk about different ways to study and encourage your students to figure out what works for them.
  • Let students know what to expect: Students should be told in advance, preferably at the beginning of the semester, about what kinds of exams will be given in your course. Is the exam multiple choice or essay? In class, online or take-home? What is the frequency of your exams? Provide explicit details of what to expect in your syllabus, including the specific outcomes being assessed. This will assist students in preparing for your exams.
  • Make sure your exams reflect your course objectives: Sometimes as we make changes in our course content or teaching methods, we forget to also make changes to our exams. Perhaps there are outdated test questions that were from an earlier edition of your textbook or questions based on a concept that you no longer cover. Going through each test question and matching the questions with the course objectives and materials will not only assist you in aligning course content with assessments but will also help you eliminate or change test questions that are no longer valid.
  • Give student’s practice tests or quizzes: This will assist students to review of the material and prepare them for the format of the test.
  • Offer multiple ways to obtain full credit: For many students, exams can be highly stressful and confusing. You may want to provide questions that allow multiple ways to obtain full points or allow students to choose between types of exams such as timed multiple-choice or take-home short answer/essay. You can provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate mastery of course material that doesn’t rely solely on exams.

Providing prompt feedback: Make the test a learning experience. Provide students with prompt feedback about which of their answers were correct and which were incorrect.

Still Thirsty? How to Eliminate Test Confusion

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