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Essay questions

Essay exams are good to use when trying to determine what students know about a few broad topics. Essay exams typically consist of a small number of questions to which the student is expected to demonstrate his/her ability to:

Students should be given the criteria used to grade the exams in advance to help them prepare for them.

Strengths

Example

Example question for each cognitive learning level:

Example question Learning level

What are the five sections of a research report?

Knowledge

In one sentence give the point of a written passage.

Comprehension

Given the data available on an issue, take a position and defend it.  

Evaluation

Given an argument for the abolition of guns, enumerate the positive and negative points presented.  

Analysis

Construct an original work which incorporates five common materials in sculpture.  

Synthesis

Write a short poem in iambic pentameter.  

Application

Given two opposing theories, design an experiment to compare them

Evaluation

Limitations:

Tips for writing essay questions:

Example

(Points: 10) 1. In order for an authoritarian government to maintain its….

(Time: 15 minutes) 1. In order for an authoritarian government to maintain its…

Example

Original: Explain the interval combustion engine? How does it run?

Revised: Explain the interrelationship of the fuel, the mixture of fuel and air in the carburetor, and the piston in the operation of an internal combustion engine.

Suggestions for scoring:

Additional information

Marshall, J. C., & Hales, L. W. (1971). Classroom test construction. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, p. 56.

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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