A Teacher’s Guide to Setting Exam Papers: Types of Questions, Characteristics and Key Tips!  

August 8, 2023 | By: Extramarks

Exam Papers

It is common knowledge that an educator’s primary role is to prepare and deliver learning modules in the classroom to enhance the academic experience. However, a key aspect of a teacher’s responsibilities also involves the task of constructing exam papers. A great amount of skill, effort and clarity is required to design exam papers in a way that tests students’ learning outcomes effectively.  

But before you start exploring the different types of exam questions, it is important to identify your goal. Ask yourself questions like ‘what is the purpose of this exam?’, ‘what factors need to be assessed?’ or ‘what is the outcome required from this exam?’. Getting clarity on these questions will help you draw clear objectives for the exam. Moreover, it will serve as a blueprint to devise a format that works best for analyzing students’ learning outcomes. To learn more, read our blog on ‘Importance Of Exam And How They Can Be Simplified Using Technology’ to kickstart the process of curating exam papers the right way!  

In this blog, we take a detailed look at the different types of exam questions, their characteristics and suggestions on how teachers can incorporate them. 

Types of Exam Questions: Characteristics and Tips 

Question Papers Type

Ideally, an exam paper should include a mix of question formats that range across varying difficulty levels. Setting a fair and accurate yet challenging paper gives every student a chance to demonstrate their learnings irrespective of grasping power and aptitude. Broadly, the types of exam questions can be divided into two categories, namely objective and subjective questions. 

Objective items require students to choose the correct response out of several options. Some examples are multiple choice questions, true or false, match the column, etc. Whereas subjective questions involve questions that are more descriptive in nature and require students to present their understanding in a logical sequence. Short essays, problem-solving and extended response essays are a few examples of subjective exam questions. As a teacher, you can choose the nature of questions depending on the objective of the examination. Most teachers commonly use a combination of both objective and subjective questions to set a versatile exam paper. 

Let’s explore the 5 different types of exam questions that every teacher should know about. 

1. Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

MCQs are among the most popular types of questions that have been used for many years across varied levels of examinations. They are composed of one question or a statement, also known as stem, that has multiple possible answers, called choices. The stem can sometimes be a partial statement and will often have 3 to 5 choices, out of which one is correct and the rest are alternatives or distractions. 

Ideal for: These types of exam questions are best suited for clarifying key concepts and assess students’ abilities to apply their understanding of topics effectively. 

Bonus tip: Avoid using statements directly from the textbook. Instead, frame it in your own words to make the stem versatile.  For choices, use at least 3 options that are based on common student misconceptions. This will help clarify concepts better. 

2. True or False Questions 

True or false questions are those where a statement is presented, which in this case acts as the stem, and students are required to indicate whether it is true or false. A huge advantage for teachers here is that such questions are the easiest to review and score. Such questions can tend to be either too easy or too difficult in nature. But, this helps create a versatile question paper that effectively tests students of varying aptitudes.  

Ideal for: They are great for testing a large amount of content and evaluating a student’s understanding of topics with two logical responses. 

Bonus tip: Use simple and clear statements that reflect a single idea. This will keep confusion at bay and allow students to interpret the statement correctly. You may also ask students to correct false statements to enhance effectiveness of these types of exam questions. 

3. Matching Questions 

These are the most effective types of exam questions to test the relationship between objects. It is specifically useful in subjects that involve events, dates, names and places that are important. It generally has two columns – one column is the stem and the other has corresponding responses. Students need to go through the first column and find the correct response from the options in the second column. 

Ideal for: They are a great option for data-rich content areas and help test students’ knowledge and comprehension levels.    

Bonus tip: Include directions that clearly mention the basis for matching the stimuli with responses. Also, ensure to limit the number of matching items and keep it between 5 to 15 items to avoid confusion.  

4. Short-answer Questions

Short answers generally require students to answer any given prompts in brief, limiting the length to a few words or sentences. The length of the answer can be based on the weightage of marks it carries. Such questions are easy to construct, faster to score and allows teachers to cover a broader range of course content. 

Ideal for: These questions are great for testing foundational knowledge of key concepts, facts and terms. 

Bonus tip: It is best to use a mix of formats to test student knowledge. An example of this could be mentioning the definition and asking students to provide the term or asking students to fill-in-the-blanks with the missing term. 

5. Essay-type Questions 

Essay-type questions are those that demand long-form logical and integrated answers which can vary in length, ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages. Teachers may choose to include several sub-questions based on the curriculum and nature of assessment. There can be two forms of responses – extended response and restricted response. The former is where students explain their understanding and demonstrate creativity with examples. Teachers can use this to test their ability to evaluate and synthesize problems.  Restricted responses involve parameters of comparison and distinction. It demands students to build on their knowledge and understanding of topics. An example of this would be, ‘Plastic has become a huge hazard in today’s environment. List out the ways in which it can harm us and how we should address its impact?’

Ideal for: It is a great type of question to measure cognitive processes, gain student opinions on key concepts and test their ability to organize and apply their understanding of topics. 

Bonus tip: Formulate the question clearly and make them comprehensive rather than focused. Try to integrate problem-based questions to drive creativity and evaluate how well students can apply their understanding.   

How The Extramarks Teaching App Simplifies Test Paper Creation For Teachers 

The Extramarks Teaching App is a comprehensive digital platform that is designed to make teaching convenient, efficient and resourceful for educators. Using the app, teachers can curate and assign tests with quick automated evaluations. The unique assessment center provides access to Artificial Intelligence (AI)-backed reports and analysis on students’ performance. Moreover, teachers get the added advantage of using the Extramarks verified question bank for setting test papers and even have the option of creating their own question bank that they can utilize to design custom tests. This transforms the process of curating exam papers for teachers making it incredibly easy and time-efficient. 

To conclude, setting an exam paper is a key skill that demands teachers to be proactive, intentional and strategic in terms of the question formats they choose to work with. It is important to be aware of the different types of exam questions that can help maximize efficiency and align the exam paper to match students’ learning outcomes effectively. For creating exam papers seamlessly using simple yet powerful tech-powered tools, check out the Extramarks Teaching App today! 

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