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For any exam, it is essential that your questions test the right content as determined by your learning objectives and have the appropriate degree of difficulty. But how can you tell if your exam questions are performing as well as can be? The most basic and obvious answer is that a good question will easily distinguish between students who have learnt and understood the course material and those who haven’t. While a weak question will be too easy, too difficult or be poorly worded causing confusion or ambiguity.

In general, good exam questions should typically:

  • Test your students’ knowledge of the core concepts of the curriculum. Specifically, the best questions should require not just a simple recall of facts but test for a real understanding of the material.
  • Discriminate amongst your students to ensure your top students get the majority of your questions right, as well as discriminate between your A students and B students for example.
  • Meet your learning objectives. The exam questions should test the knowledge, skills, attitudes you wish your students to exhibit and demonstrate as a result of learning and understanding the course material.
  • Be reliable. For example, if a student were to sit the same exam on two separate occasions, in an exam with high reliability, you would expect to see a similar performance in both.
  • Be fair and free from any form of bias other than a student’s lack of the relevant knowledge or skills being tested.

However, one aspect of exam questions that is often overlooked is a practical one! The best exam questions are quick and simple to administer and easy to mark.

For more information on how to raise your exam standards please contact our team via email at or by telephone on +44 (0)1223 851703.

Published 12th February, 2015