Writing exams and assignments

Writing good assessments, including exams, paper or project assignments, can be challenging. Many instructors struggle to find the right balance: not too hard but not too easy, clear and detailed instructions without giving away the answers or writing ten pages of guidelines.

  • In general, the first place you want to start is with your learning outcomes – if you are clear about what you want students to know and be able to DO, the assessments sometimes write themselves. 
  • Selecting the right type of assignment often depends on what you are trying to assess. Are you assessing students’ understanding of basic knowledge, or their ability to analyze and evaluate? It can be helpful to think about which level of Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning is represented by the learning outcome being assessed; this grid provides suggestions of corresponding activities and question stems. This table provides similar suggestions for Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning.

See the following links and resources for additional guidance on the actual writing/construction of exam items and assignments: