Designing Valid Exams

In our current work we are extending the model for writing exam tasks into a model for the whole examination. It is possible for individual questions to be valid, but to be put together in ways that do not allow the exam as a whole to do its job properly.

We focus on the concept of evidence: valid assessment depends on getting the right kind of evidence and evaluating it in the right ways. The evidence comes from how students respond to the demands put into the exam paper by the examiners, and we believe that that the key to creating a valid exam is to understand the nature of the demands that you want to include, and those that you do not want.

To judge what demands are appropriate everyone involved, teachers and examiners, needs to agree on a statement of the trait: what is important in the course, and so what would constitute evidence of achievement.

The job of the exam is to judge the students using the right evidence
The job of the Mark Scheme is to evaluate the evidence properly
The job of the question is to elicit the right evidence to evaluate

Further information

For more information, download these papers from Our Publications:

Title Authors Date Publication
Outcome Space Control and Assessment Alastair Pollitt and Ayesha Ahmed November 2008 AEA Europe, Hissar, Bulgaria

See also: Pollitt, A, Crisp, V and Ahmed, A (2007) The demands of examination syllabuses and question papers. In Newton, P, Baird, J, Patrick, H, Goldstein, H, Timms, P and Wood, A (Eds) Techniques for monitoring the comparability of examination standards. London, QCA.

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