Constructing Short Answer Tests

Not as easy as you think

How nice are you going to be

A short answer test is where a word or phrase will answer a question. Similarly, in a completion test, the word or phrase is supplied to an incomplete statement. These types are often adequate for measuring simple learning outcomes such as terminology, simple facts and interpretation of data. They are very easy to construct and can literally be done on the spur of the moment. They may also be given orally although oral tests challenge listening skills and students who may have hearing difficulty. Furthermore, when a one word answer is appropriate, this type of test is better than multiple choice, since the success of guessing is greatly diminished.

However, they are not as structured as the other types of objective tests, sometimes making scoring difficult. For example:

The most obvious characteristic of a cumulonimbus cloud is ——————

Lightning, thunder, hail, tornadoes, high winds and rain are all possibilities. Rain, however, often comes from other types of clouds, too. Other types of clouds are sometimes associated with wind, but they don’t cause it. You’ll need to consider the alternative answers you will accept. Sometimes you can write the statement so as to limit the choices, but this might provide clues to the correct answer. Another way you may inadvertently provide clues is by making the length of the blank appropriate to the answer. Therefore, all blanks should be of equal length.

Also, what will you do if the answer is right, but it’s spelled incorrectly? It’s usually a good idea to simply insist that the kids learn how to spell all the terms or names in your unit. Otherwise, your scoring becomes subjective in deciding how bad the spelling has to be before you will mark it wrong.

At what point would you no longer consider this answer correct if you don’t count spelling?

English speaking countries use this temperature scale.






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