overview: the extra credit assignment
Extra-credit assignments should help the instructor improve the course and should help the student master course material. This assignment does both. It provides me with potential test items (questions) that are written from a student perspective. This helps me think "outside the box" about course issues and helps me assess what people are learning in my course. Writing items is hard work, but rewards you in three ways. By writing items, you'll master course ideas, learn how tests are constructed, and possibly earn extra-credit points.
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to try your hand at writing test questions or items for possible use in this course in future years. (No items submitted by current students will appear on the exams for this semester; sorry.) Items will not be automatically accepted; your items must fulfill the criteria below to earn extra credit. There will be no partial credit on any single item. You may submit as many items as you like, but the maximum achievable points per student is limited regardless of the number of items submitted. All items become my property after you submit them.
to write items: a short guide
. comprehension: restating or recognizing what has already been learned
. synthesis: combining familiar ideas into an idea new to the learner
. analysis: breaking ideas down into components; examining relationships
. application: problem-solving, applying familiar ideas to unfamiliar situations
. evaluation: judging against established standards
Third, what is an item, exactly? What are the elements of an item? An item has three elements:
. the stem (a sentence or phrase posing a question or introducing a problem)
. the key (the correct answer)
. two or three distractors (possible answers)
1. When did detective fiction first become popular with readers? (stem)
b. around 1800 (this is a distractor)
c. around 1850 (this is the key, or correct answer)
d. around 1900 (this is a distractor)
The stem should be written first. State the problem concisely and completely. The stem can be a complete question ("What is the most frequently used type of question on college-level examinations?") or an incomplete statement ("The type of test question most frequently used on college-level examinations is"). You should avoid using negatives ("not," "never," etc.) in stems. As you go to write the options, remember that the key and distractors should be:
. grammatically similar (phrasing should be uniform)
. the same length (avoid making the key longer than the distractors)
. short (most of the item's information should be in the stem)
The key should be written second. It is the best answer to the question. Make readers think carefully. The best answer should not be immediately obvious. Do not use combination keys ("both A and C") or "none of the above."
should be written last. As you write your distractors, remember:
. At least two distractors should be nearly true and thus attractive to test-takers. (This allows the instructor to distinguish between those who really know the answer and those who are just guessing.)
When time permits, we'll discuss item-writing at the end of class, so bring your in-progress items with you to class. However: I will not evaluate items before they're handed in, or help individuals write items. No exceptions.
Check, double-check, and triple-check your items against these instructions and for accuracy.
©Lisa Jadwin, 1997-2008. All rights reserved.
Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2008.