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Test tool saves time and increases student attainment

As well as providing teachers with a wide variety of question types, the test tool in itslearning offers great possibilities for reusing tests and questions. Frøydis Hamre, teacher and newly appointed itslearning Product Manager, puts the test tool through its paces in her chemistry classes. She saves time by reusing questions – and at the same time her students' results improve. But how does she do it?


230 questions in the bank

Creating tests from scratch in itslearning is time-consuming, but Frøydis has built a large collection of questions in the test tool that she uses over and over. itslearning can generate tests by randomly drawing a set number of questions from this question bank.

"My question bank currently contains 230 questions from which I set up the test to draw 30 random questions," Frøydis explains. "I spent four years creating the questions, but with the amount I have now, I rarely have to add any more. Actually I haven't added new questions in the past two years."

Practice tests increase student attainment

Frøydis has two versions of the same test for use in two different settings; one is for practice and the other is a final test that is used for assessment at the end of the term. While the final test has a time limit and is taken in a classroom setting at a specific time, the practice test allows for an unlimited number of attempts. This lets students train as much as they want in preparation for the final test.

The reports generated by the test tool reveal interesting statistics about student usage. While some students take the test up to sixteen times, the average is below ten – but most take it at least twice. Statistics show that the students benefit from these practice tests.

"It is interesting to see how their results usually improve with each attempt," Frøydis says. Below is a screenshot showing results for one student who took the practice test nine times. On her first attempt she achieved a total of 8.5 points. On her ninth attempt she got 22 points.


Categories are the key

The category function is important in Frøydis' tests. She uses categories to organise questions by topic. Frøydis sets up her tests to select a given number of questions from each category to make sure all topics are covered for each attempt. The large number of questions in the bank means that all students will get a different test each time.

Frøydis also uses different scores to weight the questions in different categories. "A student will be rewarded fewer points for knowing the name of an element than for knowing the name of a complicated compound," she explains.

Below is a screenshot of her test set-up, showing the different categories of questions in the column marked "Title" and the number of points per question in the column next to it. (Click on the screenshot to enlarge it.)


Automatic assessment saves time

But what about the work involved in marking and assessing these tests? That is not a problem at all, because all tests are assessed automatically by itslearning. As well as saving time for Frøydis, her students are provided with immediate feedback after completing the test.

She admits that the test tool has its flaws – especially regarding the formula editor. The students can only use plain text in their answers, so Frøydis has created a guide explaining how to write formulas.

Test questions can be exported and imported as files, but categories are not included in this process. This however, will be solved in a scheduled upgrade of the test tool that can be expected in 2015. For now, you can share tests by copying them to a shared course and inviting fellow teachers to join the course.

Getting started with tests in itslearning

Want to try Frøydis’ technique? You can learn more about the test tool in our help manual.

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