Frequent Exams: Better Results
It’s not a new finding: in general, more exams means
better scores for students. But it’s nice to keep having the finding
confirmed and to have yet another specific example of those better
In the study referenced below, the students were enrolled in two
sections of an introductory statistics course for sociology majors. Both
sections had the same instructor, same text, and same material presented
in class. Students enrolled in each were similar in terms of gender and
year in school. In the control section, students took two midterm exams
(one at the end of the sixth week, the other at the end of the 12th
week) and a two-hour cumulative final. In the experimental section
students took an exam every other week starting at the end of the second
week, for a total of six exams, plus the same cumulative final. Students
were given one-third the amount of time for each of the biweekly exams.
As for the better results, students given the biweekly exams scored, on
average, about 10 percentage points, or one letter grade, higher on the
exams taken during the semester. They scored about 15 percentage points
higher on the final than those students who only took the two midterm
There were some other persuasive results. More than 11 percent of the
students in the control section withdrew from the course. Not one
student in the experimental section did. Moreover, students in the
experimental section evaluated both the course and the instructor more
highly. Seventy-one percent rated the instructor as “one of the best”
compared with instructors of other courses they had taken. In the
control section only 36 percent gave that rating to the instructor. In
this case the same instructor taught both sections. Forty-nine percent
in the section with the biweekly exam said that they would definitely
recommend the course to friends, compared with 14 percent in the section
with midterm exams.
The faculty researchers who completed this analysis suggest several
reasons for these dramatic results. First, students had less material to
learn for the biweekly exam, which made them less likely to cram for the
exams. Second, they got feedback earlier and more often, which helped
them adjust their study behaviors. Third, repeated experience taking the
exams increased their feelings of competence and confidence, and that in
turn increased their motivation to study and do well. The results could
be explained by any one of these reasons, or these explanations may well
have had a cumulative effect. Whatever the cause, the fact that students
do better when they are tested more often has been confirmed yet again.
Reference: Myers, C. B., and Myers, S. M. (2007). Assessing assessments:
The effects of two exam formats on course achievement and evaluation.
Innovative Higher Education, 31, 227–236.
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