Pre-tests or knowledge
the academically diverse classrooms of our community colleges, it is
most helpful to give a diagnostic pre-test, also known as a knowledge
survey. Usually given on the first day of class, this instrument
will give you and your students information on which topics they have
mastered and those areas in which they may need additional review or
skill building. You may present some of the topics, key concepts, and
major ideas you expect to cover in the course, and ask students
to self assess their familiarity with each.
To create a knowledge
survey, take the core objectives of your course and the learning
objectives of each class meeting and arrange these in the form of test
items in the order of course presentation. Students then rate their
knowledge to answer each item on a 3 point scale: Unable to answer question,
partially able to do so or know where to find the answer, or fully able
to answer. By giving the survey at the start and end of a term,
any instructor can validate the learning that took place as result of
You may assign a short writing
assignment that will allow you to identify their strengths and weaknesses,
especially if the course will involve a great deal of writing.
You may also want to give
an ungraded test during the first week of class. While not exactly a
pre-test, this test gives your student an idea of how you will be monitoring
their learning throughout the course. Though ungraded, this test should
be similar to the ones that will follow. Communicating your learning
goals along with your methods for evaluating these will reduce frustration
and confusion later.
American schools, these are the most widely used form of testing. While
multiple choice tests can be used to test all of the Bloom Taxonomy
levels of thinking, they are most widely used to test knowledge and
comprehension. They can be easily and reliably scored. Good multiple-choice
questions are difficult to write.
choice will let students get the correct answer half of the time, so
these are less reliable than other types of tests. Some faculty require
students to write a short explanation justifying their response.
indicate that students study more efficiently for essay type exams than
for selection types of tests such as multiple choice. Where the tests
can be returned with comments, essay exams may give students more practice
in organized, creative thinking about a subject, with opportunities
to check their thinking against the standards of someone more expert
in the field. Depending on the number of questions given, the disadvantages
of essay exams are the limited amount of content they assess, and the
subjectivity of the grader.
Short Answer Tests
Well written short answer
questions can test more than recall, and they are easier to grade than
essay exams. Assessing more than content, they give you an opportunity
to see how students express their thoughts, but not as well as essay
Commonly done in math and science, these can be excellent tools
to assess procedural and process thinking.
Take Home Tests
These allow students to work at home with access to books and materials.
Essay questions and problem sets are the most appropriate kinds of take
-home exams. Be explicit in your instructions regarding consulting with
other students and the length of their answers. A variation of this
is to give the students take-home questions which they answer in class.