Test Types

Broadly speaking, there are two types of tests you will design; essay and objective tests. Essay tests can be anything from short answer to those requiring a page or more of explanation. Objective tests are far more directive and structured. Matching, fill-in, true/false and multiple choice tests are examples. Let’s review some characteristics of each of these types.

Essay Tests

1.  When faced with this kind of test, students are encouraged to learn broader relationships, cause and effect and organization of knowledge. Essay tests are appropriate for measuring the higher cognitive skills: comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. (See chapter 12, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives.)

2.  It is relatively easy to construct an essay test, since there are few questions. However, scoring is time consuming and somewhat subjective. Kids will often think better of their answers than you, protesting your inability to see hidden meanings. Also, essay tests encourage bluffing (feigning knowledge not in evidence), which further complicates scoring. On the other hand, correct guessing is almost impossible.

3.  It is difficult to sample large amounts of course content, since you are limited to only a few questions.

4.  Students with limited writing skills will do worse than their knowledge or level of understanding might warrant.

Objective Tests

1.  These tests encourage the memorization of facts at the expense of relationships. Nevertheless, when carefully constructed, understanding and thinking skills can be tested.

2.  Construction is time consuming and difficult, since many questions are needed, and care must be taken to avoid ambiguity. On the other hand, scoring is much easier, since there is usually only one correct response, and there is no extraneous material for you to read.

3.  These allow the testing of large amounts of knowledge, but guessing can, to some small degree, give a better than warranted impression of student learning.

Go to “Constructing Essay Tests


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