Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

General Steps in Test Construction

  1. Before or after each class period, write ideas for test items on index cards based on the lesson’s learning objectives.
  2. Produce a test blueprint, plotting the content to test against some hierarchy representing levels of cognitive difficulty or depth of processing.
  3. Sort test item cards from step 1 to match blueprint. Create new test ideas as indicated by blue print.
  4. Write the first draft of test items using the appropriate guidelines. Write the complete item on the index card.
  5. Put all the cards with the same topic together in order to cross-check questions so that no question gives the answer to another question.
  6. Put the cards aside for one or two days.
  7. Reread the items from the point of view of the student, checking for construction errors.
  8. Order the selected questions logically:

    1. Place some simpler items at the beginning to ease students into the exam.
    2. Group item types together under common instructions to save reading time.
    3. If desirable, order the questions logically from a content standpoint (e.g., chronologically, in conceptual groups, etc.).
    4. Have someone else review the questions for clarity.
  9. Time yourself in actually taking the test and then multiply that by four to six depending on the level of the students. Remember, there is a certain absolute minimum time required to simply physically record an answer, aside from the thinking time.
  10. Once the test is given and graded, analyze the items and student responses for clues about well-written and poorly written items as well as problems in understanding of instruction. Record any problems indicated by student responses on the item card so the information can be used in future exams.

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