Exam Preparation and Grades:
A System for Addressing Questions, Challenges and Problems
resented at HAPS Calgary meeting - June 2004

This is an outline
Go to a complete discussion

My situation at Salisbury University, Maryland
     Four-year liberal arts undergraduate institution ~ 6,800
            (A few master's degree programs - not in sciences)

    Courses I teach
            ** BIOL215 = A&P I   (BIOL216 = A&P II)
                Lecture and Laboratory
                Enrollments (96/lecture section, 24/lab section)
                Student types
                        ** Nursing
                        ** Physical Education
                        ** Athletic training
                        ** Biology (pre-professional)
                        Respiratory Therapy
                        Medical Technology
                        UMES students  
            Biology of Human Aging (General Education)
            Pathophysiology  (Nursing)
            Vertebrate Embryology (Biology)
            Others - sporadically

Familiar faculty self-questions ?
   "How long should I make this exam?"
   "How do I make different but equivalent exams for all my sections?"
   "What level of achievement earns a grade of A, of B, etc.?"
   "What can I do about poor questions I asked?"
   "What about make-up exams?"

Familiar student questions ?  
    "Do you give partial credit?"
    "Do you grade on a curve?"
    "What is my average?"
    "Can I still get a B?"
    "What must I get to pass?"
    "What do I need on the final to get an A?"

My system
for questions, challenges and problems with exams. 
        Clarity of results
          Works for anything graded
                 (e.g., exams, reports, presentations) 

        Go to a complete discussion

Creating and grading exams -

First exam
      Go to a complete discussion
    1.  Make up the first exam
        a.  Write all possible questions or use a test bank.
        b.  Assign appropriate point values for each question.
                        (use whole numbers and multiple points)
        c.  Decide whether to reveal point values on exam.
        d.  Establish time limit for test (e.g., 50 minutes).
        e.  Estimate time students would actually need.
        f.  Add or delete questions or points to adjust exam value and length.

    2.  Give the exam, noting any peculiarities

    3.  Grade the first exam.
        a.  Give points earned.
        b.  Adjust possible points or expected answers.
        c.  Regrade questions where the possible points or the expected answers have been adjusted.

    4.  Add points earned; record in grade book.

    5.  Determine total possible points on exam.

    6.  Make bar graph showing grades in ranges.
    7.  Determine minimum points for letter grades.
    8.  Create grade conversion table. 
    9.  Show students bar graph and conversion table.
             Explain meaning before returning papers.

Second exam     
      Go to a complete discussion
    1.  Make up the second exam.
    2.  Give the exam, noting any peculiarities
    3.  Grade the second exam
    4.  Use the same steps as for the first exam.
    5.  Create a grade conversion table.     6.  Show students the bar graph  and conversion table.
                  Explain meaning before returning papers.

   Third exam, etc.    

   1.  Make up and give the third and subsequent exams.
   2.  Grade the third and subsequent exams. Update grade conversion  table.

Creating and grading make-up exams

    1. Create and give a make-up exam
       » Use the same steps as for the second exam.
       » Determine the maximum possible points on the make-up exam
    2. Grade a make-up exam
       » If make-up exam is considered equivalent to the original exam
         » » Determine percent of the total points possible the student earned
         » » Use percent to calculate equivalent points on original exam
      » If make-up exam is not equivalent to the original exam
          » » Use your judgment to determine the student’s equivalent points for the original exam.
    3. Record equivalent points.

Changing effect or weight of an exam
         » Example: Decrease effect of class-wide poor performance first exam
         » Example: Increase effect of exam because subsequent exams covered less material

Go to a complete discussion                         
    1. Decide how much adjustment should be made = "value (4)".
    2. Multiply point values grade cut-offs and grade 100 by value (4).
    3. Create revised grade conversion table
    4. Multiply students’ points value (4). Record and use new point values.
    5. Calculate student exam averages using the revised conversion table and revised student points.

Calculating exam average grade –
      Go to a complete discussion
    1. Add points earned on exams.
    2. Use conversion table. 

Predicting what is needed on future exams to achieve  certain average exams –
     Go to a complete discussion
   1. Calculate student’s point total.
   2. Estimate final maximum possible points.
   3. Estimate number of points needed to achieve desired exam average
   4. Estimate upcoming exam points student must earn to get total  points needed.  

Calculating final grades -
     1. For each student, add up points earned.
     2. Use grade conversion table to determine numerical grades and letter grades on standard grade scale.
     3. Use average for exams with other graded component to determine final grade.

Additional strategies using spreadsheets
"Using Spreadsheets to Keep Track of Students' Grades"

by Richard Zach

Augustine G. DiGiovanna                                                                  Salisbury University, Maryland 

© Copyright 2017, 2004 A.G. DiGiovanna, Salisbury University, Maryland. All rights reserved.