Teacher Made Tests

We have all come out of a test that we know we have bombed, and it doesn’t feel good to be a student that day. We even know that the test was unfair and doesn’t reflect what we know on the topics being tested. It was simply a poor test of our knowledge. This is because teachers previously didn’t realize that creating a poor or trick test only harmed students. It didn’t point out who could answer the trick questions or guess correctly, it just hurt students’ grades. After the information that I received from one of the jigsaw sections, I learned some tips to making a “good” test. First of all, pre-tests should be given before students begin a unit of study to see what they already know or don’t know about the topic. This can change the way the teacher teaches the class. Post-tests are given after the unit has been studied for a summative evaluation.

Tips for Creating a Fair Test: 1. Multiple Choice Questions:

  • The sentence should clearly state the question or issue
  • All choices should be plausible and related to the question (no left-fielders here, please)
  • Avoid using the options “all of the above” and “none of the above” (these statements are confusing to students that are already placed in a stressful situation, and remember that we are creating FAIR tests so no one should be utterly lost)

2.  Matching Questions:

  • The items in each column should be related
  • The directions should be clear! (state if students can use a choice more than once)
  • How many choices are there? (state clearly if there will be more choices than blanks or the same number so students understand if there should be left over blanks or if they are to use each answer)
  • Each column list should be random or alphabetical order (students may see a pattern if there are several in a row and guess the remaining choices instead of reading the sentences fully)
  • Use the rule of 10 (the short column should have no more than 10 options so students do not search endlessly for an answer)

3. Alternative Response Questions:

  • Do NOT try to trick students (remember, be fair!)
  • Focus each statement and limit it to one issue
  • Avoid use of: always, never, all, generally, occasionally, and every (students think these signal correct answers)

4. Other Tips:

  • Always be clear on what you are asking of the students (it doesn’t hurt to read through the directions with the class and ask for clarifying questions BEFORE they begin)
  • Remember to keep the difficulty level appropriate to the students level of mastery (i.e. beginning, approaching, or high-level)
  • Check for gender, class, and racial bias (are there spots that some students may have a disadvantage because of their life experiences?)
  • Use traditional (i.e. matching, true/false, fill in the blanks, multiple choice, definitions, short answer, and essay) and non-traditional (analogies, drawings or diagrams, real life applications, demonstration, etc.) prompts in your exams
  • For True and False questions, provide the T / F for students to circle so that you do not misinterpret messy writing
  • For Matching questions, keep the person or definition word list on the right and the actions or definitions on the left for right to left reading
  • Fill in the blanks should use the blank at the end of the sentence
  • Keep like sections on a single page (i.e. matching, fill in the blank sentences, etc.)

When teachers know how to create better tests, they are able to more clearly identify what the student knows about the topic and to what extent. Having clear and fair tests benefits everyone, because the student will be more likely to find success, and the teacher will not have to re-teach concepts. One last tip, if the student hasn’t written or completed the exam, don’t give a zero! Use the symbols “NHI” or “IP” to indicate that the student has not yet competed the exam, instead of lowering the average because of a missed test.

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