Tips for Taking Tests and Quizzes

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The most effective teachers assess student learning often. This discourages student procrastination and cramming and provides a more accurate assessment of student learning. These are some tips that you need to get through for taking test and quizzes of your students:

1.      Strive for higher order levels of thinking in your questions. The biggest disadvantage of multiple-choice questions is the over-reliance upon rote memorization. One research study found that of all the things a student learns, 80 percent is forgotten in one year. Most of what is forgotten are facts memorized for one quiz or test.

2.      Develop a file for your old tests and worksheets. A large three-ring binder or manila file folder will work. When a test is used, jot notes on the top as to which questions should be replaced because they are too hard or too easy.

3.      If you give diagnostic tests at the beginning of the year, code the test items related to each skill area. Students then receive a checklist indicating their deficiencies. The checklist can also reference pages in the textbook. On the final exam, students only have to complete those areas in which they did not show mastery on the pretest.

4.      Some teachers choose to make the first test relatively easy so as to build students’ confidence.

5.      Run two-page tests back to back and grade all of the same page at once. When done with the whole stack, just turn it over and begin grading the other side. This way you do not waste time turning all the pages over before you can start grading the second page. Also, you do not have to flip the pages back to page one to begin scoring. Just turn the stack over again. Tests run double-sided do not consume time with collating and stapling. Answer sheets help with multiple-page objective tests. You may only have to grade one sheet instead of flipping through several pages. You can then save the test copies for future use and do not have to run them off again.

6.      Use publishers’ textbook tests when possible, but feel free to adapt them to your objectives.

7.      Use as few items as necessary to assess a skill or knowledge. Why use a 50-item test if 20 items will give you the same information?

8.      Some teachers do not give make-up exams except for extended absences. By allowing each student to throw out his or her lowest grade a single missed test does not penalize a student.

9.      Develop a computer test file. A variety of software programs are available to permit the development of a test bank. Tests and quizzes are easily and quickly generated. With some you can even save performance data, allowing you to eliminate ineffective questions.

10.  Do try to include questions of a higher cognitive level. Items merely memorized tend to be forgotten as soon as the test is over.

11.  Provide adequate notice and help in preparing your students for examinations.

12.  Let students review in study teams before an exam.

13.  Set up a self-checking station for students to grade their own multiple-choice quizzes and homework assignments. Have a laminated answer key and colored marking pens available. Students are not allowed to bring their own pens or pencils to the checking station and only one student at a time is allowed at the station. When done, the corrected work is left in a tray at the station. As you record grades, spot check the work for accuracy and honesty. Research shows students are generally quite accurate in their self-scoring.

14.  Keep a copy of evaluation sheets when you rate the student’s essay or product. Keep one and return the other to the student to keep.

15.  Experiment with giving collaborative tests. Groups of three students get to work together on the test. You might randomly assign groups each time or carefully select a stratified sample so one high- and one low-ability student get included in each group. To succeed, a cooperative climate must already be established in your room.

16.  Give some attention to reducing test anxiety among your students. One tactic for reducing test anxiety and helping students prepare for an examination is to permit them to ask any question about the test that may be answered “yes” or “no.”

17.  Immediately before an examination lead the class in some relaxation exercises: focused breathing, positive affirmations, stretching, perhaps even shoulder rubs.

18.  Provide adequate feedback on students’ test performance. Help them understand where they erred and to correct mistakes and misunderstandings. Any assessment should help a student learn.

19.  Some teachers use cooperative learning groups to take weekly quizzes together and then individual final examinations. The cooperative group may then meet after the examinations are scored to help each other understand questions missed.

20.  If any students are very upset about their exam scores, offer to meet with them the next day. Give them some time to cool off first. Make it a policy to never argue with a student about a grade in front of the class. Nobody wins, and the results usually will only be unpleasant.

21.  If a large number of students do poorly on an exam, reconsider its worth. While it is tempting to blame large numbers of failures upon incompetent, apathetic students, sometimes it is the instruction or assessment that was defective. Try to remain objective.

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December 2010
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