Tips for Teachers: When to Use Short-Answer and Essay TestsFitness Gear & Equipment
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.