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UIC TA Handbook - Checklist for Constructing Better Tests

Well-constructed tests help motivate students and rein­ force their learning while enabling us to assess their mastery of course objectives. Tests also provide us with feed­ back on our teaching, often showing us what was and was not communicated clearly. Designing tests is one of the most challenging tasks confronting college instructors. Unfortunately, many of us have had little, if any, preparation in writing tests. While always demanding, test writing may be made easier by considering the following suggestions for general test construction.

1.            Overall Guidelines

  • Test questions should reflect your objectives for the unit.
  • Your expectations should be clearly known to the students.
  • Each test item should present a clearly formulated task.
  • State each item in simple, clear language free of irrelevant material, extraneous clues and race, ethnic, and sex bias.
  • One item should not aid in answering another.
  • Allow ample time for test completion.
  • Assignment of points should be determined before the test is administered.

2.            Test Format and Directions

  • Place similar type items together in the test to minimize the number of directions needed.
  • Balance proportion of correct answers (e.g., A, B, C, D) and avoid patterning when sequencing answers (e.g., A, B, A, B).

3.            True - False Items

  • Write the statement so that it can be unequivocally judged true or false.
  • Make statements brief and in simple language.
  • Use negative statements sparingly. Eliminate double negatives.
  • Avoid specific determiners (e.g., always, sometimes, may) and other clues (e.g., length).

4.            Multiple-Choice Items

  • The stem of the item should present a single clearly formulated problem.
  • The stem should be stated in positive form, wherever possible. If negative wording is used in the stem, emphasize (by underlining or caps).
  • The intended answer should be correct or clearly best. Make distracters plausible and attractive to the uninformed.
  • Alternatives should be grammatically consistent with the stem, parallel in form and free from verbal clues to the correct answer.
  • Avoid the alternative "all of the above". Use "none of the above" only when appropriate.
  • Vary the relative length of the correct answer, to eliminate length as a clue.

5.            Matching Items

  • Each matching item should contain only homogeneous material.
  • Keep list of items short, with brief responses on the right.
  • The list of responses should be longer or shorter than the list of premises, to provide an uneven match.
  • Directions should clearly state the basis for matching and that the responses can be used once or more than once.

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