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Exam Writing and Grading Nan D. Hunter Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs November 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Exam Writing and Grading Nan D. Hunter Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs November 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Exam Writing and Grading Nan D. Hunter Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs November 2013

2 Overview  Writing the exam  Editing the exam  Why do a score sheet  Preparing students for the exam  The process of grading and feedback

3 Writing the exam – Big picture  Why is an exam like a budget?  A moment to rethink the goals of your course  Substantive content  Analytic skills  TEST WHAT YOU TEACH.

4 Building blocks  Issue spotting; dispositive and subtle issues.  Application of the law to these facts. This includes “showing your math” rather than conclusory statements; identification of missing facts necessary to the result.  Distinction between certain and uncertain results.  Application of policy concerns, purposes of rule/statute when results are not certain, other interpretive approaches.  Spotting gaps and ambiguities in statutory/rule text.  Which of these did you emphasize during the semester?

5 Basics Checklist Start drafting the exam NOW. Format (open/closed book or take home) - You cannot change format now. Use word (not page) limits for take-home exams. Time limits – Allow more than enough, but be wary of too much. Students will use every minute (even of 48 hours). Signal importance of each question by % of grade. If short answer, allow for an explanation of yes/no.

6 Biggest student complaints  Unrealistic expectations as to time – Too many questions or questions that are too dense for students to answer well in the time given.  Exam focuses on only a small portion of the semester, especially if that portion was raced through.  Mistakes in the question or confusing facts that mislead students and eat up time.  If there are co-teachers, uncertainty about who will grade what.

7 Editing the exam  The need for editing is another reason to draft it now.  You will make mistakes and commit the sin of ambiguity.  Ask a colleague to read it for clarity.  Questions that are based on mistaken premises or that create genuine confusion can virtually destroy the validity of an exam. Treat writing the exam as you would any other important writing project – draft and redraft.

8 Absolutes for the exam itself  It MUST be an entirely new exam. No exceptions. You might not be able to find one of your old exams, but your students will.  Avoid multiple choice questions that can be graded by scantron machine.  Plan questions to elicit a bell curve.  Get the exam to the Registrar early if possible. (Minimum is 4 business days before the exam will be given.) If there are problems on the face of the exam, the Registrar will alert you, and you will have time to make corrections.

9 Why do a score sheet  A score sheet that outlines the issues to be spotted and the points a student should cover in applying the law to the facts will help you write the exam because it will illuminate the depth and breadth of what the exam covers. You may want to revise by deleting duplicative points, adding others.  A score sheet will also help you during the process of grading by making it easier to maintain consistency when you read the exams in batches.  Include a section for comments on overall quality of answers, best answer to particular question, etc. This will help you use the score sheet for feedback or reference letters.

10 Preparing students for the exam  Make available an old exam with a model answer.  Tell them the general format: Issue-spotting question(s)? Short answer? Evaluation of a hypothetical new statute or rule? Hand out the instruction section of the exam?  Consider a review session. Timing: last class, reading period (usually 1 day), or just before exam is scheduled.  Set a cut-off time for student questions, such as after the review session or a specific date and time.  Either circulate exchanges to all students or decline to answer queries after the last class.

11 The process of grading  Block out time in advance for grading. The deadline for grades is real. Why? Late grades hurt students.  Read 8 to 10 exams using the score sheets. Note the issues that students have identified that you did not anticipate, and revise the score sheet. Using the revised score sheet, start “real” grading. At some point, re-read the first exams that you graded as a test.  Question by question? Or exam by exam? Either can work.  Note the best answers to each question so that you can construct a composite model answer. Reasonable feedback is part of the process.

12 Absolutes  Grades MUST be handed in on time. LATE GRADES HURT STUDENTS.  Once a final grade is submitted to the Registrar, it CANNOT be changed, unless you can demonstrate that you committed a clerical or computational error in grading.

13 Thank you for your time and for all that you do for our students.


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