Basic Guidelines for Developing Teacher

Basic Guidelines for Developing Teacher-Made Tests
By Greg Conderman
Most teacher-made tests can be placed into the following categories.
I. Supply (recall)
Completion (fill in the blank)
Short Answer
II. Selection (recognition)
A. Multiple Choice
B. Matching
C. True/False
Teacher Made Tests
1. Time Considerations
Elementary level (5-30 minutes)
Secondary (50-60 minutes)
2. Items
M/Choice (allow 1 per minute)
Fill in the blank (allow 1 per minute)
Short answer (depends on response desired)
True/False (2 per minute)
3. Response Format
Consider level of students
Consider objective (recognition, recall)
Make it clear, easy, straight forward
Clear response---increase validity and reliability
4. Scoring Format
Make it easy to correct and score
Consider checklists based on specific outcomes
Consider using charts/graphs
Developing Teacher Made Tests
A. Completion Items (Fill-in-the-blank)
Put blanks at the end of the sentences to provide meaningful context for the
Poor Item: The _______is the most frequently used score to report “averages.”
Better Item: The most frequently used score to report “averages” is the ______.
Write statements that allow only correct answers.
Make it clear to the student what information you are seeking.
Therefore, the question must be very specific.
Poor Item: The capital of Illinois is _______.
Better Item: The name of the capital city of Illinois is _______.
Don’t include the number of letters needed for a missing word.
If you use definitions, provide the word such as: Define the term assessment
(rather than provide the definition and forcing the student to retrieve the word).
Use the same length blanks, use only one blank, and leave only key words out of
the sentence.
Poor Item: _______carries blood back to the _______.
Better Item: Blood is carried back to the heart by the _______.
Completion is appropriate when it is necessary to assess the student’s knowledge
of quick, factual material.
B. Short Answers and/or Essay
Give short answer or essay responses directions. Also provide a bit of background
for the student. Items should be stated specifically and clearly as possible to focus
the student’s attention on the answer you are seeking.
Example: The use of IQ tests has been debated for several decades. In this
response, provide a rationale for the use of IQ tests and describe at least two
advantages and two disadvantages of IQ tests.
You may include values in an essay response (i.e. What do you think of it)? Grade
on the degree that the student supports his/her own opinion.
Indicate point value and the emphasis assigned to each item part
Example: (Total: 10 points) (rationale 2 points, each advantage/disadvantage 4
Avoid giving students a choice of which questions they can answer.
Have a model answer prepared in advance to increase objectivity for scoring or
have a rubric developed in advance
Essays should be graded on originality, communication, and organization.
For short answer, the student should be able to respond in 1,2, or 3 sentences.
Example: In one or two sentences define reliability as it refers to educational
Essays are appropriate to assess higher order thinking and to require students to
plan, develop, and write their own answers.
C. Listing
Used to assess factual material
Indicate if maintaining a special order is necessary
Indicate the number of items and the point value. Number the answer space for
each item.
1. List the four types of reliability (½ point each)
D. Selection-type
Include matching and multiple choice items
1. Multiple Choice
Give authority to the question, as appropriate (i.e., according to our text or
according to class discussion.)
Use specificity in the stem. The student must be able to anticipate the correct
answer after reading the question. The stem should clearly state the problem and
help orient the student by providing a frame of reference. The bulk of information
should go in the stem rather than the answer choices.
Poor item: Assessment is:
Better item: The authors of our text describe educational assessment as:
Put responses in logical order
A. Number---highest to lowest or lowest to highest
B. Dates---highest to lowest or lowest to highest
C. Proper names---perhaps alphabetical order
Poor item: Which year was the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) enacted
into law?
A. 1975
B. 1986
C. 1990
D. 1983
Better item: Which year was the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) enacted
into law?
A. 1975
B. 1983
C. 1986
D. 1990
Do not use any grammatical clues that would assist the students. Also, do not end
sentences or questions with a preposition.
Make sure the stem and responses are parallel.
Example: According to class notes, which two items belong in the background
information section of a report?
A. The child’s educational history and the child’s hobbies
B. The child’s hobbies and the child’s family status
C. The child’s educational history and the child’s IQ scores
D. The child’s health and the child’s hobbies.
Try to make all responses similar in length. A very short response or a very long
response often are clues that they are the correct responses.
Use all of the above sparingly.
In most cases, a direct question is preferred over an incomplete sentence.
Poor Item:
1. We live in the continent called:
A. North America
B. South America
C. Canada
D. Wisconsin
Better Item:
1. What is the name of the continent in which we live?
A. North America
B. South America
C. Canada
D. Wisconsin
2. Matching
In matching, have more responses than stems.
Provide clear directions. Are students supposed to write letters, match with lines,
etc? Label each list. Also, indicate if some items can be used more than once.
Include more options than premises, and keep the list to a minimum (no more
than 10).
The list containing longer phrases should be on the left.
Each of the premises should be numbered, and each of the options should have an
alphabetical letter to identify it.
Make all premises and options plural or singular to avoid giving unintentional
Make sure stems and responses are homogeneous. Don’t include one or two items
that are so clearly different or obvious that they are very easy to match. All of the
written information in each column should be of the same class and should be
arranged in logical order, such as alphabetical or chronological order.
Poor Item
_____1. The capital of Illinois
_____2. The year Iowa became a state
_____3. A river in Iowa
_____4. Governor of Illinois
_____5. President of United States
A. The Cedar River
B. Rod Blagojevich
C. George Bush
D. Springfield
E. Lake McBride
F. 1846
G. Las Vegas
Better Item-Match the states in Column A to their capitals in Column B.
_____1. Wisconsin
_____2. Iowa
_____3. California
_____4. Colorado
_____5. Nebraska
A. Des Moines
B. Denver
C. Madison
D. Lincoln
E. San Diego
F. Sacramento
G. Omaha
If you match vocabulary terms to their definitions, provide a rather detailed
definition rather than a simplistic one such as:
Poor Item-Matching Vocabulary
1. is like a weatherman
2. digs up old bones
3. studies rocks and rock formation
4. a doctor who works with children
Better Item-Matching Vocabulary
1. a scientist who studies weather
2. a scientist who studies rocks and rock formation
3. a scientist who studies prehistoric cultures
4. a scientist who studies the parts of the human body
3. True-False
Avoid absolute terms in true/false such as always, never, and sometimes.
Avoid negative statements because they often cause problems for students.
Don’t make a statement false merely by inserting the word “not” in an otherwise
obviously true statement. When an item contains an opinion, be sure to tie it to the
Make True-False items as short as possible by eliminating extraneous
Underline or call attention to clue words.
Write the same length statements.
Other Considerations
1. Make the first test item easy.
2. Place items from easy to difficult OR
3. Periodically place easier items in the test.
4. Consider placing material on the test to parallel the content coverage sequence.
5. All items of the same type should be together.
6. Don’t use more than two item types, in most cases.
7. For elementary students, use one item type.
8. Include directions for the total test and each test section. Include how to respond and
the point value for questions in each section.
9. Try not to include information that will offer answers to previous questions.
10. Try to put all matching on one page (etc.) so students do not have to turn pages to
match answers and responses.
11. Title the test and each section.