Written examinations

How to see what your students have learned, in black and white. 

The advantage of written examina­tions is relatively clear: testing condi­tions, questions and grading scales are the same for every­one and the know-how of a large number of students can be tested in a short time­frame. There is a greater variety of types of written examination than one can imagine, yet they also have their limitations. 

There are more varieties of “written exam” than one can imagine; they range from the typical written exam with open and closed or multiple choice questions to seminar papers through to learning port­folios, where students are provided the opportu­nity to reflect on their own learning process. But that’s not all. Within the various exam types there are many different forms of question, from those asking purely factual information to those requiring the practical appli­cation of know­ledge. These various types of questions and formats enable the precise examina­tion of learning out­comes. 

Before deciding which type of examination you would like to use, it is important to reference the examination regula­tions for the univer­sity, in general (APSO), and your degree program, specifi­cally (FPSO). These regula­tions stipu­late which forms of examination are permissible and how they are to be administered.  

To administer a written exam as fairly and objectively as possible, the require­ments and con­ditions of the exam should be made trans­parent to students as early as possible. You may consider making old exams or sample questions available. One draw­back of written exams is the relatively one-sided picture of the student they provide in that only a smaller percen­tage of their know­ledge can be tested and such individual factors as the fear of exams are diffi­cult to take into considera­­tion with this type of exam. To ensure objectivity, it is impor­tant that you, as the exam administrator, make clear ahead of time what your evalua­tion criteria will be and what kind of model answer you would like to see. You should consider, too, the extent to which answers are inter­depen­dent and formulate a strategie on how to deal with conse­quential errors. 


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