I really hate marking exams – it’s mind-numbingly boring. I find that one of the most frustrating aspects of this tedious task is the time I waste just hunting for the answers. Consequently, I am always looking for new types of exam questions and new exam formats that can make the answers easier to find. A while back I posted some advice on setting effective exams – which included suggestions for streamlining the marking process. I was planning to try the idea of using a summary sheet at the front of the exam where the students could put their answers, making it easy for me to find them. I’ve actually had some time now to refine that idea and test it out on a couple of exams, and here’s what I’ve come up with. I think it works pretty well.
I don’t know about you, by my least favorite job as a professor is marking exams. I’m always keen to give students as much credit as possible for their knowledge, but sometimes finding a correct answer can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Consequently, it’s wildly time consuming, not to mention discouraging and frustrating. Setting an effective exam can be a challenge, as well – it’s not too informative if the exam is so easy that everyone aces it. On the other hand, if everyone fails, you’ll be left wondering whether you’re a terrible teacher, they’re terrible students, or it’s just a terrible exam.
Over the past 23 years I’ve given my share of all types of exams – from WAY too easy to brutally difficult, and everything in between. I’ve learned to do some things well and managed to do some things terribly wrong. I’ve kept lots of notes on what worked and what didn’t, and I thought I’d come up with some pretty good methods. However, I recently attended a seminar on setting effective exams and I got some new and cool ideas from that, as well. So I guess that means I’ll be learning new things about this until I retire. Nevertheless, I think I might be able to save you some time and energy by telling you what I’ve learned so far. Continue reading