Rules For Writing Tests

  1. Student who completed and understood all of the lab assignments in a course should expect to get at least an 90 in the course. Questions requiring a deeper understanding than what was explained in the course should take a 90 and give the student a 100.
  2. Some courses cover one subject, such that knowledge of the end of the material implies knowledge of it all: examples, intro to comp science, linear algebra. Other courses cover various topics with little or no interdependency, eg. unix, op. systems. In these courses exams should either cover each and every topic covered or if they cover just a selection , then they should offer alternitive questions so that lack of knowledge of one topic will not cause a disproportional point loss simple because of an unlucky question selection by the teacher. Also, sometimes teachers have six topics, and they put 3 on the moed alef and 3 on the moed bet. This is very misleading o the students. Better to ask all 6 on both exams.
  3. Hard questions should be worth fewer points than easier questions. Thus weaker students who get these questions wrong will not be unduly penalized.
  4. Multiple choice or true/false questions should be worth no more than 5 point (perferablly 2-3 points). Multiple choice questions (American Questions) can be gotten wrong because of simple errors or mistakes. If there are many questions then statistically the better students will get more right. But if there is just one question and it is worth 25 points, even a good student can error and lose 25 points. A word question, or one which allows an answer with an explanation is less prone to small errors and allows for partial credit.
  5. Trick questions should be considered hard and should not be worth too many points (less than 10 points). During tests, students are nervous and should not be required to catch a trick in order to get a grade above a 75. But it is reasonable for a trick question to be worth 5-10 points.
  6. Trick questions should not have built into them other questions which are not tricks, unless the total points for all the questions is small. Because if the person misses the trick he will also stumble on the non-tricky parts since the questions are co-dependent.
  7. In general hard questions should not have built into them easy questions such that if the student misses the hard part of the question he will also thereby get the easy questions wrong. This effectively would mean that missing the hard question would cost far more points to the student than the teacher intended.
  8. Be sure you know what you are trying to test in each question. Often if you clarify what information you are testing, you can simplify your question. If you are testing knowledge in one area, the student should not be penalized for not knowing some other field. I.e. if you are testing the students knowledge of algorithms, the question should not require him to catch an intentional error in the syntax of a loop.
  9. Test questions should be simple, short and unambiguous. Ideally, they should require the student to use what s/he has learned, in order to apply it to a new situation. Not just regurgitate the course material.
  10. Never give open-ended questions. A question like "Memory paging is complex but useful. Agree or disagree. Explain." invites too many possible right answers and will be extremely hard to grade. Write your question such that there is only one right and unambiguous answer. It will be more clear to the students what you intend and will be much easier for you to grade. For example, "Memory paging is designed to prevent fragmentation. Agree or disagree."
  11. Do not expect students to remember something you said only parenthetically during a lecture. Emphasize that which you want them to know. It is probably unfair to tell student they must know everything in the book even though you do not discuss it in class.
  12. Do not repeat questions from previous years. Students have copies of your old tests.
  13. In general you should spend a lot of time sharpening the question so that there is only one right answer. The more time you spend writing the question, the less time it will take to grade it.
  14. One third of the questions should be easy, 1/3 hard and 1/3 in the middle.
  15. Your test should cover most (if not all) of the main subjects of the course and not be focused one a few topics only. Don't ask multiple questions requiring the same knowledge to answer. you don't want to punish a student who did not understand one topic which happens to appear multiple times on your exam.
  16. double check and proof read your test after two days to make sure questions are clear, not redundant, not overly difficult or easy etc.