Test Beyond the Facts

Sep 18
nClass Classroom Testing

Test Beyond the Facts

We all know it’s important to test more than factual knowledge. We must help students develop critical thinking,  reasoning and communication skills to articulate their ideas and thoughts. Appropriate test questions can be difficult to formulate. Essay questions seem like the go-to to test higher-level thinking, but are time-consuming to grade.  Instead, tweak your your multiple choice questions to dig for deeper knowledge. Have students…

    • Choose from plausible distractors – To build a quality multiple choice question, you have to start with a good foundation. This means you must avoid clueing your students to the answer! To avoid clueing, create  distractors (aka incorrect choices) that are almost right, but not quite. Students will see through extreme statements, non-sequiturs and comparatively short or long choices, so avoid distractors that stand out in length or use words like “always” and “never”. Instead, choose distractors that make students stop and consider the most correct answer, pushing students’ critically thinking farther.


    • Critique an excerpt – Whether it’s a literature, social studies or science class, have students evaluate a quote. Have students gather meaning from a paragraph in a book they’ve read, analyze a historic activist or politician’s position, perhaps scientific validity of a modern public figure’s claim. Just make sure all distractors seem plausible, and there is only one correct answer.


    • Apply knowledge to a real world scenario – After all, education is ultimately a preparation for the real world. Why have students learn facts that stay mentally separate from the world around them? Students simply stand a better chance of remembering material if they see how it’s used. Thus the stem (aka your multiple choice question’s setup) should be a short scenario involving your material. End with the need for a decision and several alternative plans of action. Students can then analyze problems the way professionals in their field might. Bonus points if the scenario actually happened.


    • Assess a primary source image – Like excerpts, primary source images force students to synthesize information in class. However, they have the added advantage of conveying information quickly. Rather than reading through long text, students simply look at a relevant maps, political cartoons, graphs, and advertisements, which can speed up analysis on a long test. Not to mention, many of these images (or the data needed for a visualization), can be accessed for free through government websites and included on nClass with your multiple choice question.

How do you engaging students in deeper learning? Let us know in the comments.

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