How Students Answer Questions

This model describes what is happening inside a student's mind while they are answering a question and so highlights what can go wrong in this process. We have produced, and are continuing to develop, a classification of the causes of difficulty in exam questions, including the kinds of mistakes writers sometimes make when constructing questions.

Understanding these two aspects of the processes leads to ways to improve exam question writing and therefore to increase the validity of the assessment. We describe question writing as benevolent mind control, since the examiners want to make sure that students' minds are doing the things we want them to show us they can do.

We use our model as a framework for our research as it provides a systematic procedure for considering all elements of the question answering process, from the learning before the exam right through to the marking at the end.

Further information

For more information, download these papers from Our Publications:

Title Authors Date Publication
A New Model of the Question Answering Process Alastair Pollitt & Ayesha Ahmed May 1999 IAEA Conference, Slovenia
Improving the vaildity of Contextualised Questions Ayesha Ahmed and Alastair Pollitt September 2001 BERA Conference, Leeds, September 2001
Science or Reading?: How students think when answering TIMSS questions Alastair Pollitt and Ayesha Ahmed May 2001 IAEA, Rio De Janeurio, Brazil

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