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Constructing and Scoring the Test

This is an excerpt from Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance 6th Edition With HKPropel Access by James R. Morrow, Jr.,Dale P. Mood,Weimo Zhu & Minsoo Kang.

There are many ways to construct and score the various types of questions to increase their efficiency. As we’ve discussed, essay questions are relatively easy to construct and time consuming to score, whereas multiple-choice questions are the opposite.

Semiobjective Questions

As stated, the three types of semiobjective questions are short-answer questions, completion questions, and mathematical problems. The short-answer question and the completion question differ only in format: The completion item is presented as an incomplete statement (a fill-in-the-blank), whereas the short-answer item is presented as a question. The task required to answer a mathematical problem can be specified by symbols or by words (as in a story problem). Because of their similarities, we will describe the uses, advantages, and limitations and provide construction and scoring suggestions for all three types of questions in this section.

Uses and Advantages
Semiobjective questions are especially useful for measuring factual material such as vocabulary words, dates, names, identification of concepts, and mathematical principles. They are also suitable for assessing recall rather than recognition because each examinee supplies the answer. The advantages of semiobjective questions include relatively simple construction, simple and rapid scoring, and a low likelihood of examinees guessing the correct answer by chance.

Because of the limited amount of information that can be given in one question or incomplete statement, it is often necessary to include additional material to prevent semiobjective questions from being ambiguous. Even when a fair amount of detail is included, the danger of ambiguity is not completely removed, especially for completion items. Occasionally, a blank left in a sentence can be filled by a word or phrase that is technically correct even though it is not precisely what the test constructor desired. For example, consider the following completion item: “Basketball was invented by                     .” The name James Naismith, the phrase a male, and the date 1900 are three possibilities that correctly complete the sentence. When this situation occurs, an instructor must decide whether to award credit. With mathematical questions, instructors may have to decide whether to award no credit, partial credit, or total credit if a student followed correct procedures but gave the wrong answer. Similar decisions are necessary when an examinee provides the correct answer but it is unclear how it was derived. These situations introduce some subjectivity and thus the possibility of inconsistency in the scoring procedure. Specific construction techniques can help reduce (but seldom completely eliminate) this problem.

Recommendations for Construction
Of the three types of semiobjective questions, ambiguity is most likely to occur with completion questions. Rephrasing the incomplete sentence into a question—that is, converting it into a short-answer item—often resolves several problems. However, if you prefer a completion question, these suggestions may reduce some ambiguities.

  • Avoid or modify indefinite statements for which several answers may be correct and sensible. Do this, in part, by specifying in the incomplete statement what type of answer is required. For example, “Basketball was invented by                     ” can be reworded as “The name of the person who invented basketball is                     .” A similar method for eliminating ambiguity is to present the item this way: “Basketball was invented by                      (person’s name).”
  • Construct the incomplete sentences, when possible, so that the blank occurs near the end of the statement. This technique better identifies the specific type of answer required than when the blank space occurs early in the statement. For example, in the item “The                      system of team play in doubles badminton is recommended for beginners,” the desired correct answer is side-by-side, but the blank could logically be filled in with the phrase least complex because it is not clear that the name of the system is desired. Rewording the statement so that the blank occurs near the end solves this problem: “The type of team play recommended for beginners in doubles badminton is called the                      system.”
  • Do not leave so many blanks in one statement that the item becomes indefinite. Consider this extreme example: “The name of                      who invented                      is                     .” As the example demonstrates, the more blanks in the statement, the less information given; answering the question becomes a guessing game. Give additional information by either explaining what is required or making several items from the one.
  • Do not give inadvertent clues. Occasionally the phrasing of the statement or the use of a particular article (a or an) or verb reduces the number of possible words or phrases that might complete a statement. Use the following format for the indefinite article: “Basketball was invented by a(n)                      (nationality).” If more than one blank occurs in a statement, each blank should be the same length to avoid giving students information about the length of the correct response.
  • If a numerical answer is required, indicate the units and degree of accuracy desired (e.g., “Round to the nearest one-tenth.”). Specifying this information simplifies the scorer’s task and eliminates one source of confusion for examinees.
  • Use short-answer questions where possible to reduce ambiguity. For example, using a short-answer question such as “An athlete from what country won the gold medal in the pentathlon in the 2016 Olympics?” rather than the completion item, “The gold medal in the pentathlon in the 2012 Olympics was won by                      (country)” increases the probability that the country will be identified rather than other possible information. Scoring consistency is enhanced because the examinees’ task is typically more clearly identified. You should also phrase short-answer items in such a way that the limits on the length of the response are obvious.

Recommendations for Scoring
If semiobjective questions are well constructed and you encounter no problems (e.g., when two or more answers are plausible for one item), the scoring process is simple, objective, and reliable. The answers can be scored easily by persons other than the test maker.

If the test consists of completion items, you can prepare an answer key by using a copy of the test and cutting out a rectangular area where each blank occurs. Write the correct answer immediately below or adjacent to the rectangular area. When the answer key is superimposed on a completed test, each response can be quickly matched with the keyed answer.

For short-answer items, having students use separate answer sheets speeds the scoring process. Because only one-word or short-phrase answers are expected, you can distribute, along with the test itself, a previously prepared answer sheet with a numbered blank space corresponding to each test item. Usually, you can place two columns of answers on one side of a standard-sized piece of paper. To score short answers efficiently, construct an answer key by recording the correct responses on a copy of the answer sheet and place this alongside each answer sheet. This procedure eliminates the need to search through the pages of each test to locate the answers.

More Excerpts From Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance 6th Edition With HKPropel Access