You may have horrible memories of taking tests as a student but now that you are teaching, it is important to test your students on the material you cover in class.
Tests are essential because they allow both you and your students to evaluate their performance. You will discover what areas they are struggling with and they will find out where they need to focus their attention. Here are some things to remember when testing students.
How to Proceed
Rather than save material from the whole year to include in one massive exam, consider quizzing students at the end of each chapter and then every quarter or semester to break material up into more reasonable amounts. It may seem like students are always preparing for a quiz or test but as long as they have clear goals and material is covered thoroughly, they should adapt to the routine easily. Another benefit is that with more tests, each one is a lower percentage of the overall grade so there is less anxiety about performance on individual tests.
Sometimes tests should focus on very specific material while others should be more comprehensive. It is important to check that students are retaining information in the long term and not just memorizing information. Use questions or question types that students have already seen in class. Springing a new type of question or activity on them during an exam can be incredibility confusing while including the exact questions from the study guide can be too easy. Take the middle ground here. Use familiar formats and ask different questions or variants of questions. This will give students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned without getting bogged down in reading directions.
If possible try to include a variety of exercises in your tests. Not every school is able to do this but interview tests can be very effective because students have to demonstrate their ability to listen and speak as well as read and write. Since the first two are critical for students who will have the opportunity to speak English outside the classroom, they are also very important in the evaluation process. You can also use projects to grade students if you are willing to attempt something new. Perhaps for one semester skits can be the primary factor in determining overall grades. While these can be a challenge to evaluate compared to multiple choice questions, they also give students who do not perform well on tests the chance to more fully demonstrate their abilities.
It is important to help students prepare for exams so that they can feel confident going in to them. By creating a study guide, reviewing material in class, giving students information about the test, and answering any questions students have, you will help them immensely. Stress can reduce student performance so simply encourage them to study the material and do their best. By reducing their anxiety, you have ensured that they will be more successful.
You can also set goals for your students when it comes to exams so that they have something specific to work towards. Depending on your students, you should consider individual and class goals. Make these reasonable but challenging and do not reveal individual test scores to the class as this might cause some students some embarrassment. You may decide the goal should be a class average of 85%. Assuming that students performed about this well on past exams, this should be a reasonable and attainable goal. The incentive might be that you will not assign homework for one week which will help motivate students to achieve their target score.
After returning the graded tests to students, go over the answers so that students can figure out what they did incorrectly. Simply telling them the answers will not help them understand their mistakes. You can mark the papers without correcting them and then go over each and every question in class so that students can correct their answers and ask questions. While students really should take advantage of this opportunity to correct their mistakes so that they have correct material to review another time, you may need to use an incentive to encourage students to make corrections.
In most courses, you will have to give your students tests on the material you cover in class.
While they are actually great tools to gauge how well students are doing, tests also cause learners a lot of anxiety so try to make them as painless as possible. You are not out to make students miserable so avoid trick questions. Approach the material directly and in familiar ways so that students can succeed.