Tips on Writing Your Own Tests - Part II

Write you own classroom test! Trust me...I think it is something every teacher should try! There are six tips I live by when writing my own chemistry tests. The first three points were detailed in the blog post "Tips on Writing Your Own Tests - Part I". Check out tips #4-6 below!

#4 - Teach to the CONTENT and make sure the Test matches!

We should teach to the CONTENT and DESIRED LEARNING OUTCOME. Then, we should make sure that our test lines up with the CONTENT and DESIRED LEARNING OUTCOME! At times, our class work is over basic recognition of facts, and then the test contains higher level thinking questions about the topic. Make sure the classwork and test questions line up!

#5 - Test All Levels of Knowledge within each Topic

Let’s say that I am teaching Ionic Bonding. I want to give students a name such as calcium chloride, and then expect students to be able to give back to me the correct formula, CaCl2. This sounds great! However, there are some different skills students have developed in this process, so I should provide some basic level skill questions within the test along with the higher level thinking questions. First, I might ask students what is the charge of a calcium ion. Then, I might ask students what is the charge of a chloride ion. Finally, I would ask for the ionic formula of the compound. With questions broken down in this manner, I as the teacher can gain a better understanding of where student understanding and misunderstanding lie. My test might look something like the questions below.

1. What is the charge of a sodium ion?

2. What is the charge of an oxygen ion?

3. A nitrogen ion has a -3 charge. Is it an anion or cation?

4. What is the formula for calcium chloride?

5. In the compound calcium chloride, what is the cation?

Sometimes, your students know basic information but have not yet mastered the higher levels of thinking. Include all types of questions in your tests. This may seem obvious, but I have observed several school district supplied tests that fail to apply this concept. My students fail the district test, but in reality, they do have some level of knowledge. They just didn't have the opportunity to present that knowledge on the test. (PS - You can always make the higher level thinking questions worth more points!)

#6 - Free Response

Rather than multiple choice questions give free response. I don't mean essays. Just ask a question and expect a direct answer. You will easily find out the extent of your students’ knowledge!

One time, I was debriefing a district test with my students. On one particular question, my students scored very poorly. I asked what had been the hold up. My students responded that the question was too long and wordy. Rather than reading it, they simply circled a random answer...YIKES!

This is a SAD story, but sadly our students do randomly circle answers - especially when they don't know what to do. Free response can help with this. I realize that your time is limited, and you have many students so grading must be completed easily and quickly. Therefore, my recommendation is to perhaps mix up free response questions with some matching, multiple choice, or true/false questions. Below are some example free response questions.

1. An atom has 1 proton, 0 neutrons, and 0 electrons.

a. What is the atom's atomic number?

b. What is the atomic mass?

c. What is the charge?

2. Nonmetals

a. List two nonmetals

b. List two properties of nonmetals

3. What is the noble gas configuration for Bromine?

4. Define Atomic Radius:

5. What is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide?

6. Balance the following chemical equation:

____H2 + ____O2 --> ____H2O

I find that it is much easier and quicker for me to write free response questions like this than to develop multiple choice questions.

Hopefully, you found some of this helpful and can start writing your own classroom unit tests!

Happy Teaching :)

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