My students are bright and motivated. Most work hard and prepare for class and tests. They perform extremely well on district-wide tests and my own classroom tests. However, I see real weaknesses on cumulative assessments requiring high levels of application. My students simply do not retain the content knowledge. I want to restructure my course to exclude "unit tests" and include only cumulative assessments. I'll share my early ideas here, and I would love to hear your experiences.
In the past, I have given a traditional unit test at the end of each topic of study. The tests are comprised of 12-16 multiple choice questions and 5-7 free response questions. Students are not allowed to use calculators on the multiple choice, but they are free to use them on the free response. I have used online resources, exam test prep books, textbooks, and workbooks to get ideas for the questions. I also use released AP exam questions on the topic if they are available. In the end, I have between 20 and 25 questions to assess their understanding of that particular unit of content, for example, atomic structure.
My revised idea is regularly scheduled comprehensive tests assessing the student's ability to apply all of the content learned so far in the semester. The test period is 90 minutes. I envision my new tests having 20 multiple choice and 5 free response questions. The trick will be to write or find good questions that apply multiple concepts without requiring knowledge of ALL of the semester's content. I hope to find many in the released AP exam questions, but there simply aren't enough released questions for the re-written exam.
I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the following questions.
- Are your tests cumulative?
- How long are they?
- How often do you give a test?
- Where do you find the best questions?
- Do you have other tips for helping students retain knowledge?