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class, reassuring students of the value of the assessment and ensuring a safe and effective learning and assessment space where students see this as an opportunity to show what they know is essential to success with this style of assessment.
• In-tray exams: much more ‘real life’ testing situations, where instead of a question paper on the exam-room desk there is a folio of documents, which students need to study and prioritise in the opening part of the exam, before the questions are issued. They then use the folio to answer relatively short, sharp decision-making questions which can be issued at intervals throughout the exam.
• Open-book (or ‘open-notes’) exams: where students
don’t have to rely on memory and have with them the texts
or materials of their choice (or a known-in-advance selection
of texts and papers), and where the exam questions test
what they can do with the information already on their desks. Another approach is to get students to prepare a ‘cheatsheet’ - they like doing this. If students are unprepared for these kinds of exams however they may be tempted to just write out what they have available, so careful brie ng is essential.
• Poster displays: These involve students preparing posters (typically A1 in size), including text and image individually or collectively for display and critique by tutors and possibly peers. Such posters are nowadays a common feature
of academic and professional life so can be authentic assignments where students’ individual or collaborative ability to explain complex information succinctly and clearly can be tested, and design and originality can be among the attributes measured. With the recent requirement by employers for enhanced IT skills, embedding the use of technology on occasion through the programme is worth considering, hence asking students to develop e-Posters using different freely available software packages to enrich their poster is also an innovative option.
Often, only on the  rst occasion when they mark exam scripts do lecturers  rst become aware of just how sensitively the questions need to be designed, and how clearly the assessment criteria and marking schemes need to be laid out to anticipate as many as possible of the different ways that even the most unambiguous looking question can turn out to be answered in practice. If you  nd yourself ‘in at the deep end’ regarding setting exam questions, the suggestions below may help to spare you from some of the headaches which can result from hastily drafted and ill-thought through exam questions.
to accommodate alternative approaches in your marking scheme, or to adjust the wording of your question so that your intended or preferred approach is made clear to students.
3. It’s well worth having your intended learning outcomes in front of you as your draft your questions. It is all too easy to dream up interesting questions which turn out to be irrelevant to what you said students would be able to know and do. Furthermore, it is possible to write too many questions addressing a particular learning outcome, leaving other outcomes unrepresented in an exam.
4. Never, ever, set out to trick your students by writing ambiguous questions. This is unfair on students, especially those from disadvantaged or international backgrounds and never ends well!
5. It can help a lot to keep your sentences short! You’re less likely to write something that can be interpreted in more than one way if you write plain English in short sentences. This also helps reduce any discrimination against those students whose second or third language is English.
6. Work out what you’re really testing by thinking hard about the verbs. Is each question measuring decision- making, strategic planning, problem solving, data processing (and so on), or is it just too much dependent on memory? Most exam questions measure a number of things at the same time. Be up-front about all the things each question is likely to measure. In any case, external scrutineers of your assignments may interrogate you about whether your questions (and your assessment criteria) link appropriately with the published learning outcomes for your programme or course.
7. Try not to measure the same things again and again.
For example, it is all too easy for essay-type exam questions to repeatedly measure students’ skills at writing good introductions,  rm conclusions, and well-structured arguments. Valuable as such skills are, we are likely to need to be measuring other important things too in many applied and practical subjects.
8. Think about including data or information in questions to reduce the emphasis on memory. In some subjects, case- study information is a good way of doing this. Science and Social Science exams often tend to be much better drafted than those in other subjects in this respect, and it is always appropriate to be concentrating on testing what candidates can do with data rather than how well they remember facts and  gures at higher education level especially given the ready access to information on the web nowadays.
9. Check the timing. You’ll sometimes  nd that it takes you
an hour to answer a question for which candidates have
only half-an-hour assigned. Assessors setting problem-type questions for students often forget that familiarity with the type of problem profoundly in uences the time it takes to solve it. Students who get stuck on such a question may end up failing the exam more through time mismanagement than through lack of subject-related competence. A good rule of thumb is to allow students double the time that it would take you to write
a model answer to the question, to allow them to create their own answers in the pressure of an exam room.
10. Work out what the assessment criteria will be. Check that these criteria relate clearly to the intended learning outcomes. Make it your business to ensure that students themselves are clear about these intended outcomes, and emphasise the links between these and assessment. When students are aware that the expressed learning outcomes are a template for the design of assessment tasks, it is possible for them to make their learning much more focused.
Try to avoid doing it on your own! Make sure you get feedback on each of your questions from more experienced colleagues. They can often spot whether your question is at the right level more easily than you can. Having someone else look at one’s draft exam questions is extremely useful. It is better still when all questions are discussed and moderated by teams of staff. Where possible, draft questions with your colleagues. This allows the team to pick the best questions from a range of possibilities, rather than use every idea each member has.
It can be helpful to get one or two colleagues, alumni
or students in higher levels of study to actually answer your questions - or even to do it yourself! Sometimes even sketched out answers can be helpful. This may be asking a lot of busy colleagues, but the rewards can be signi cant. You will often  nd that they answered a particular question in a rather different way than you had in mind when you designed the question. Being alerted in advance to the ways that different students might approach a question gives you the opportunity

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