Teaching Talia

Written Answer Questions in Exams

Posted on: May 26, 2010

I’ve been inputting and mapping questionsfor some electrical competencies. The exams were written by another RTO, but it got me thinking about what type of questions should be differeing question types.

We’re fortunate enough to use Moodle as our LMS, so we have heaps of question types to choose from, but the question type I’m specifically looking at is written answer questions- the ‘essay’ type in Moodle. I find that in this exam I’m inputting there are written answer questions which require the answer with a single word, a yes or no, or title of standard or text the question is referring to. Is this a good use of written answer questions that take time for a trainer to manually mark?

Before I continue I think it’s worth mentioning that I am not pro mulitple choice and true/false questions for assessment. In an ideal world all questions in exams would be thought provoking, and the answer have to be written by the student. But the thing to consider, is the time that it takes to mark that. Multiple choice questions can be marked automatically by the Moodle, but written answer questions need to be manually marked. This means that you need someone who is able to spend the time marking questions. For a questions that requires a one word answer, is this an effective use of their time? My argument today, is No, it’s not.

I think that the most useful way to implement written answer questions is when you ask a student to justify, or explain a topic or opinion about the topic they’re studying. Below I’ve included an example of a bad written answer question, and good written answer question.

Bad Example:

“A customer requests a phone outlet be installed 1.5 meters from an open shower, is this allowed? Are there any rules that apply?”

Good Example:

“A customer requests a phone outlet be installed 1.5 meters from an open shower. Once you’ve explained to them that you can’t do this they tell you that they want it done anyway. Explain to the customer why you can’t do this, and what rules apply”.

So what do other people think? Am I way off, or is there (at least some) truth to what I’m saying?


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Just finished my Graduate Certificate in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design with UNSW.




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