Goals for student learning:

  • Master course material
  • For midterm and final exams, synthesize diverse course material
  • Assess own learning

Be aware that:

  • Exams may reward short-term (i.e. “shallow” or “strategic”) learning rather than long-term retention of information or skills.[1]
  • High-stakes exams may tempt students to cheat. “The more pressure you put on a single exam, the more likely the chance that students will respond by using any means necessary to succeed on it.”[2]
  • Students may be tempted to alter a graded exam and request a re-grade. You may wish to directly address this temptation with your students. You may also wish to require students to write a short written statement about each question they want to be reconsidered explaining why it should be.  

To encourage active, deep, and honest engagement: 

  • Decide how an exam will not only test your students’ knowledge but also ask students to apply that knowledge in a new context.
  • Generate a grading rubric that matches your goals; how will you reward originality, elegance, or creativity (for instance) as well as correctness?
  • Discuss the purpose of an exam in class, and offer students guidance on how to prepare for it.
  • Consider assigning multiple exams or different forms of assessment over the term.
  • Specify what information a student may access during a take-home exam, and clarify your collaboration policy.
  • Invite students to use their exam results for self-assessment (what material do they understand? What are they still struggling to master?).

Assignment types and examples:

  • Quiz
  • Mid-term exam
  • Take-home exam
  • Seated exam
  • Oral exam 

Resources for faculty:

Svinicki, “Authentic Assessment: Testing in Reality” 
Tomorrow’s Professor, “Exam Wrappers”

[1] James M. Lang,Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Harvard UP, 2013), 41.
[2] Lang, Cheating Lessons, 105.