University of Wisconsin–Madison

October 2016 U-CLaSS: Top Ten List of Mistakes Instructors Make on Exams

The October 2016 U-CLaSS chat focused on gathering student feedback about examinations and developed a top ten list of mistakes INSTRUCTORS make in their exams. Check out the list below.

Top Ten Mistakes Instructors Make on Exams
1. Exams don’t correlate with course content.
2. Exam is written at instructor level of mastery rather than student level.
3. Exams include content students have not had a chance to practice prior to the exam.
4. instructors do not provide clear instructions on the exam. (Example: How long does a ‘short’ essay response need to be in order to correctly answer the question.)
5. instructors are not clear about exam formats at the start of the term. (Students take notes differently depending on the type of exam they expect in the course.)
6. Instructors write exams that are intentionally too challenging for most students in the class and then curve the results rather than write exams that truly assess what the students should know.
7. Lack of consistency from instructor to instructor, both within a course and on campus in general. (Definition of midterm versus quizzes can vary widely from one instructor to another.)
8. Too much weight for entire course grade rests on only midterm and final exams.
9. Exams are designed in such a way that time pressure is a factor. What does time pressure assess?
10. Lack of logistical preparation for exam; miscommunication between instructor and teaching assistants, late announcement of exam or exam location, exams schedule for time outside of class when students may be working, and exams late at night.

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