Pop Quiz: Exam Formats. What Works Best?
This week has been filled with exams for several of the classes I teach. Due to this I got to thinking about test formats. I know a few of my colleagues who teach general education classes who give straight Scan-tron multiple choice exams. According to them it is easier for the student to just see the answer as part of one of the choices then to have to fill a blank in from memory. I have some colleagues who think that this is a horrible approach to evaluating what their students have and have not learned. Their reasoning is that this really only determines how well the students can guess or backward engineer the answers. They tend to give pure essay questions where the students must explain a concept or two from class clearly. They argue that if the student cannot clearly explain themselves then they have not learned the subject matter properly.
Of course, I suppose it depends on the course you teach but for any of my general education classes my exams are probably considered one of those levels of hell that Dante wrote about. I have multiple choice, fill in the blank, true and false, and short essay all on one exam. This way I figure I can get a rounded evaluation of what they know and what is partially guessing. Whether this is a pedagogical correct method I do not know but it works for me.
What exam formats do you think accurately evaluate a students retention and understanding of the topics introduced in your courses? Do you have any strong feelings about just multiple choice vs. just essay exams?
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The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).