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    Help Students to Learn from Returned Tests

    Exam wrappers, post-test surveys, and error analysis exercises are useful tools to help your students to learn from returned exams and to perform better on future tests.

    "All too often when students receive back a graded exam, they focus on a single feature - the score they earned. Although this focus on ‘the grade' is understandable, it can lead students to miss out on several learning opportunities that such an assessment can provide." (Ambrose, et al, 2010)

    The next time you return a test or exam, consider assigning your students an exercise to help them learn from the test.

    What can students learn from an Exam Wrapper, Post-Test Survey or Error Analysis Exercise?

    In the Error Analysis Exercise outlined by Du Bois and Staley (1997), students analyze their wrong answers to find three dimensions:

    1. Students "identify the informational source(s) of the questions" that they missed. Did the information come from the text, lecture, other source, or a combination of sources?
    2. Students then "identify the strategies they should have employed to make information more meaningful and memorable." Did the students have the information marked in their text? Were their notes about the topic sufficient for review?
    3. "Once students identify error patterns on our test, they generate a study plan to repair the deficiencies encountered in the analysis."

    What are some examples of Exam Wrappers or Post-Test Surveys?

    Sample Exam Wrapper for a physics course might include the following:

    1. Approximately how much time did you spend preparing for this exam? ______

    2  What percentage of your test-preparation was spent in each of these activities?

    a. Reading textbook section(s) for the first time ______

    b. Rereading textbook section(s) ______

    c. Reviewing homework ______

    d. Solving problems for practice ______

    e. Reviewing your own notes ______

    f. Reviewing materials from course website ______

    g. Other _______

    (Please specify) _______________________________

    3. Now that you have looked over your graded exam, estimate the percentage of points you lost due to each of the following.

    a. Trouble with vectors and vector notation ___________

    b. Algebra or arithmetic errors __________

    c. Lack of understanding of the concept __________

    d. Not knowing how to approach the problem ________

    e. Careless mistakes _______

    f. Other ________

    (Please specify) ___________

    4. Based on your responses to the questions above, name at least three things you plan to do differently in preparing for the next exam. For instance, will you spend more time studying, change a specific study habit or try a new one (if so, name it), make math more automatic so it does not get in the way of physics, try to sharpen some other skill (if so, name it), solve more practice problems, or something else?

    5. What can we do to help support your learning and your preparation for the next exam?

    (From Ambrose, et al, 2010)

    A General Post-Test Survey might include the following items:
    (This survey is from http://luc.edu/advisingservices/pdfs/postexam_survey.pdf)

    Part I -- How did you Study for the Exam

    1. Which part of the exam was easiest for you? Why?

    2. Which part of the exam was most difficult? Why?

    3. Activities completed prior to exam (answer 'yes' or 'no'):

    a. All required reading assignments

    b. Review of lecture notes

    c. Make study sheets from reading and lecture notes

    d. Self-testing/reciting of material

    e. Prediction of possible questions

    f. Study with friends

    g. Other:____________________________

    4. Which of the above did you find most helpful in preparing for this exam?

    5. How many hours did you spend preparing for the exam? On how many different days
    did you study?

    6. Did you feel prepared when you walked into the exam? Why or why not?

    7. How might you study for the next exam in this course differently than you studied for
    this exam

    Part II -- Identify the Problems You Had with the Exam

    1. Write the number of each item you missed in the top row of the chart.
    2. Check each sentence that fits the missed question.
    3. Total the checks in each row.
    4. Look at the sentences with the highest totals and decide what you can do to get a better test score next time.
    Question Incorrect          #
    Totals
    Insufficient Information
    The information was not in my notes.
    I studied the information but could not remember it.
    I knew the main ideas but not details.
    I knew the information but could not apply it.
    I studied the wrong information.
    I did not read the text thoroughly.
    Test Anxiety
    I spent too much time daydreaming.
    I was so tired I could not concentrate.
    I was so hungry I could not concentrate.
    I panicked.
    I experienced mental block.
    Lack of Test-Wisdom
    I did not eliminate grammatically incorrect choices.
    I did not make the best choice.
    I did not notice limiting words.
    I did not notice a double negative.
    I carelessly marked a wrong choice.
    Test Skills
    I misread the directions.
    I made poor use of the time provided.
    I wrote poorly organized responses.
    I wrote incomplete responses.
    I changed a correct answer to a wrong one.
    Resources:

    Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C. & Noman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Du Bois, N. F., & Staley, R. K. (1997): "A Self-Regulated Learning Approach to Teaching Educational Psychology. Educational Psychology Review 9 (2): 171-197.