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Five Tips for Writing Challenging Rather Than Trick Questions

Excerpt from Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, Second Edition, by Linda Suskie

Five Tips for Writing Challenging Rather Than Trick Questions

  1. Use a test blueprint. It ensures that each item assess an important concept or skill.

  2. Make your tests open-book, open-note. Tell students they can bring to the test anything they like except a friend or the means to communicate with one. Using open-book, open-note tests forces you to eliminate items assessing simple knowledge that students can look up. Your test will include only items that assess deeper comprehension and thinking skills.

  3. Build items around common misconceptions. Many people, for example, think that plants get nutrients only from soil and water, not air; this misconception can become the basis of an effective botany test question.

  4. Create interpretive exercises. They assess thinking skills such as application and analysis.

  5. Evaluate your test results. Revise any misleading or unnecessarily difficult items before including them in another test.


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