Prepping for the Test!

If you struggle with writing exams, know that you are not alone. Constructing well-written, clear and meaningful exams can give any faculty pause. We strive to link learning and course objectives to the assessment while providing an accurate measure of learning and knowledge–not an easy task. We often know what to test, but getting at the heart of that in a meaningful and well-phrased, concise question is an art. Here are some resources to stimulate your thinking and exam prep.

In Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis (p. 362-365), the general strategies include:

  • Focusing on learning outcomes and the learning to be assessed
  • Viewing the test as a means of understanding students’ intellectual progress
  • Concentrating n validity and reliability
  • Using a variety of testing formats and question types

Indiana University in Bloomington’s How to Write Better Tests, A handbook for Improving Test Construction Skills offers a primer on all facets of testing and the pros and cons of different strategies. The handbook includes new ideas, such as the T/F—fill in the blank combination question and advice on scoring exams.

The Center for Instructional Development and Research is an important resource for writing any exam. Here you will find articles in critical target areas such as aligning exams with learning, writing exams, question types and grading.

Multiple choice exam questions:

Essay Questions:

Other Resources:

Some teaching books that we really like here at GCC with information on assessments and writing strong test questions: (Copies of these books are available at the library.)

  • Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis
  • Effective Grading, A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College by Barbara E. Walvoord and Virginia Johnson Anderson

The end of another academic year!

Here we are in the last week of classes and starting final exams. While it is easy to let off the accelerator a little bit, this is the time to put all our efforts into the final lap around the track. Role model the behaviors and attitudes that you want to see from your students–help them carry their natural momentum to the end of the academic year. With final exams fast approaching, we need our students to stay focused and committed to learning.

The last day of class is a time to praise students and show them how far they have come in a few short months. Everyone deserves and needs a pat on the back! Read what some faculty do to end the semester on a high note and ideas for the last day of class and  think about how you can adapt these ideas to fit your students, discipline and teaching style.

Think about incorporating some new review techniques into final exam preparation. Show students that getting ready for the final exam can be fun and productive.

Share these studying tips and techniques with your students. They can help this semester and in the future! Encourage study groups and ways of connecting that might make this time of year less stressful.

Once the grades are calculated and entered, it is easy to out the semester to bed and forget about our own learning. We have all learned so much this semester, from our students and our colleagues—reflect on this learning. Review your syllabus from the semester and decide NOW what worked well and what needs revision.  The postmortem should include assessment of how well you believe students met learning objectives and course competencies. Your assessment will give you a head start on next semester.



Creating a Rubric: The why and how…

Creating an effective rubric can seem daunting, but is well worth the effort and will save time grading. Grading rubrics are valuable tools for both instructors and students not only for grading purposes, but also as a tool to communicate expectations about skills and information mastery.

Sharing student learning goals and how these will be measured helps students to understand your assessment strategies. Rubrics also describe the importance of individual grading items and can emphasize learning priorities for students. Rubrics help students meet learning objectives and actually do better on assignments. It is a measure of respect we provide to students about how they will be assessed—they are less likely to be caught off guard.

Many resources exist for rubric construction, but most start with learning objectives for each lesson that are clear, specific and measurable. Once we know what students need to learn and how they are going to accomplish it, we can look at how to assess their progress and how to weight each learning goal in terms of relative importance.

This link to Carnegie Mellon University provides a strong induction to using rubrics and examples of rubrics for assignments, projects, presentations and more.

This primer on creating rubrics offers a simple how-to for creating a rubric. How to Create a Grading Rubric

MA is now designated as a Leap State which means that the AACU Value Rubrics are important for measuring program level student outcomes. Look at this resource for more information on Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE).

For examples of rubrics for assessing different types of learning, multiple disciplines and skills, look at Stephen F Austin State University, Association for the Assessment in Higher Education or the University of West Florida.

If you have interest in sharing a rubric you use any an assignment, please do. Send them to and they can be added to the T & L site.

Rubrics and Assessment

The Testing Center at GCC

The Testing Center is a testing option for students who miss tests or need disability accommodations to use The Testing Center. Learn more about this resource and how to send exams to the center for students to complete.

Testing Center FAQs 2013

proctored exam coversheet Sept_2013

Sample Rubrics and Insight into Rubric Development

Sample Rubrics  from GCC


A helpful primer on assessment from Carnegie Mellon.

Consider new and innovative approaches to assessment  in online classes.