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Tips for Teachers: When to Use Short-Answer and Essay Tests

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The tips below provide the reader with a brief overview of when to use what type of test - short answer or essay. It is best, perhaps, to maintain a balance between both types of tests, since some students do better on one type than the other.
                                   short answer or essay tests

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The tips below provide the reader with a brief overview of when to use what type of test - short answer or essay. It is best, perhaps, to maintain a balance between both types of tests, since some students do better on one type than the other.

Use short-answer test in the measurement of educational achievement when:

  • The group to be tested is large.
  • Highly reliable test scores must be obtained as efficiently as possible.
  • Impartiality of evaluation, absolute fairness, and freedom from halo effects are essential.
  • The teacher is more confident of his ability to express objective test items clearly than of his ability to judge essay test answers correctly.
  • There is more pressure for speedy reporting of scores than for speedy test preparation.

Use essay tests in the measurement of educational achievement when:

  • The group to be tested is small; and the test should not be reused.
  • The teacher wishes to do all possible to encourage and reward the development of student skill in written expression.
  • The teacher is more interested in exploring the student's attitudes than in measuring his or her achievements.
  • The teacher is more confident of his or her proficiency as a critical reader than as an imaginative writer of good objective test items.
  • Time available for test preparation is shorter than the time available for test grading.

Use either short-answer or essay tests to:

  • Measure almost any important educational achievement a written test can measure
  • Test understanding and ability to apply principles
  • Test ability to think critically
  • Test ability to solve novel problems
  • Test ability to select relevant facts and principles, to integrate them toward the solution of complex problems
  • Encourage students to study for command of knowledge.
  • Avoid verbatim textbook and workbook statements, since use of such statements promotes memorization.
  • Use the same form and length of true and false statements. For example, do not make true statements consistently longer than false statements; test-wise students will recognize a pattern.
  • Present a similar number of true or false items.
  • Use simple grammatical structure. Avoid dependent clauses and compound sentences, since they may distract the student from the central idea. There is also a tendency for the knowledgeable student to see a more complex item as a trick question or to read more into the meaning than is intended.
  • Be clear and concise. Avoid unfamiliar language and wordiness since they confuse the student and test reading comprehension rather than knowledge.
  • Place the idea being tested at the end of the measurement. Most students focus more attention on the last portion of the item; thus the teacher's intent and student's attention will coincide.

1 comment

Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy
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Posted on Jun 30, 2011

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Levy Dalumpines

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