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Factors to consider when creating exam papers

Factors to consider when creating exam papers

Most people often think of exams as only a way of testing an individual's comprehension of materials. However, exams serve more than one purpose.

As an instructor, you need to be aware of why you are testing your students and what you want the test to help make the individual's experience. Therefore, design a challenging yet fair exam that accurately gauges your students’ experiences.

What is an examination (exam)?

Is the act, process, or exercise designed to gauge the progress and test qualifications or knowledge of candidates.

As an instructor, before you create an exam paper, you would want to consider several factors;

  • Why you are giving exams to your candidate
  •  What you want to assess
  • How you decide on what to test

What are your reasons for creating exam papers?

In most cases, instructors create exam papers to;

  • Evaluate and grade student       
  • Motivate their students to study 
  •  Add variety to their students learning
  • Accredit qualified students/candidates
  • Help identify weakness and correct them  
  • Provide statistics for the institution or the course, among other reasons

Therefore, you need toidentify your reasons for creating exam papers for your candidates.

What do the exams aim to assess?

  • You can design your exams to assess;
  • Your students’ knowledge and how it is used
  • Relative and absolute standards
  • Thinking level of the students -divergent or convergent thinking
  • Your students’ communication of ideas

How do you decide on what to test?

You should ensure that the exam you test is consistent with your learningoutcomes.

How can you do that?

You need to review and prioritize the skills and concepts provided by the course. You can use the topic list in the system and skim through your notes for methods and concepts.

What qualities should a good exam paper have?

Effective exam paper should be:


Ensure your text exam provides key information about the concept you desire to test.

In other words, the test must measure what it has been designed to achieveor measure. Let the exam reflect the expected learning outcomes of the course. This could be in terms of content, skills, or concepts.


You have to have in mind the test you are to issue will allow consistent measurement between different levels. Of course, different testers will sit the exam. However, the results should give similar or relating results.

Set enough questions in which any single understanding or misunderstanding will not bring a big difference between the highest and lowest score and grade.


Create an exam paper that has a practical value from time to the economy and administration perception. An exam that matches your average students’ abilities.

Besides, ensure the time and effort needed to complete the test is appropriate. For instance, you have to be sure whether it will be possible for the student to respond to all questions within the time allowed.

Moreover, create a recognizable test exam. Ensures the instructions you provide prepares the testers for the assessment.


Create an exam that allows all students to demonstrate their learning. Therefore, you need to reflect on nature and the parameters of your exams.Moderate the difficulty level.

Apart from the above qualities, you can also consider the following principles;

Principles for fair and effective examinations


Ensure you set an exam that is a learning as well asan evaluativeexperience. Let the exam you set serve a thorough review of the content. It should enable students to deepen their content and mastery of concepts.

In other words, your exams should evaluate critical concepts but no blatantly trivial information.

Examinations should not be a battle of wits

Set exams that can be a win-win situation for you and your students. You don’t need to create exams to prove “tough” to your students.

In other words, set exams that your students do not have to re-read questions for them to get what the question seeks to elicit.

Test to build meaning rather than surface knowledge

When creating exam papers, ensure you can differentiate your students' mastery levels. Then include a mix of basic, intermediate, or difficult questions. When you incorporate the appropriate level of questions, you strive to build meaningful knowledge rather than surface knowledge.

Factors to consider when creating exam papers

In the process of creating exam papers for your students/candidates, you need to have the following factors in mind;

Consider choosing an appropriate item types for your objectives

Depending on your learning objectives, you should identify what item type or question style to deploy. For instance, you can assign essay questions, problem sets, or multiple-choice questions, among other styles.

Suppose you plan to allow your students to articulate, explain, or justify an argument. In that case, you'll choose an essay answering style where the student can be allowed to demonstrate their understanding. In such situations, the multiple-choice answer technique will be a poor choice.

Therefore, design your examination with the goal you want to achieve. There is no best type of exam question. However, the exam questions must reflect your learning objectives.

Consider writing details on how the exam aligns with your course objectives.

You must ensure you can identify the course objectives the exam is to address. For instance, the students should be aware of what the exam addresses. Whether they can use terminologies appropriately or apply the skills they have learned in different areas.

When your students understand the exam's objectives, it reassures them about their abilities, especially when they assume they have done the expected.

Besides, highlighting how the exam aligns with the course objectives activates earlier learned relevant experience and knowledge.

Consider clear and simple question wordings

For better students' understanding of your exams, you must avoid using complex, unambiguous, and idiomatic language and any use of double negatives in your exams.

Besides, avoid using absolutes sentences such as "never" or "always," especially in multiple-choice questions.Just keep the questions short and simple.

Strive to write clear and explicit instructions.

You don't need to keep your students gazing at what you expect them to do. Therefore, be more explicit of your expectations and avoid assuming your students' understanding.

Besides, your students should not struggle to make sense of any long series of directions. But rather have well-explained instructions that make higher-order thinking and inquiry-based learning easier, among other benefits.

For practical students’ experiences, ensure you articulate all the instructions to your student before and during the examination process. Explain how fully you want them to answer the questions. For instance, whether you wish paragraph written or bullets/points written answers.

Consider the examination duration.

While creating exam papers, you have to consider how long it will take the students to complete the paper. Therefore, allocate adequate time for the student to handle the questions promptly.

Bear in mind that when the students are under pressure, they are bound to making mistakes that might have nothing to do with their learning extent but the pressure to summarize the paper. Thus, unless you have a goal to assess how your students can perform under pressure, it is critical to creating an exam that is reasonable with the time allocated.

Consider the point value of different question types.

In a simple definition, the point value is a point per question. Every question in an examination has some marks attached to it. Therefore, please make sure the point value attached to each question is in line with its difficulty level and the length of time allocated.

Besides, point value should also align with a specific skill or knowledge you intend to assess.

It would be better to consider whether your students have answered questions like that before or whether it will be new to them in assigning point value. Check if there are common traps your students may fall into while responding to questions.

Better still, you can consider allocating difficult and complicated questions together with questions that assess pivotal knowledge and skills with higher point values than simpler ones.

Think ahead on how you will score your students’ marks

When you assign the point values, you have to consider thinking about how you will award marks to students' answers. Are you going to give partial credit for students that get elements of a question, right?

Suppose that's the case. You may have to break your desired answers into segments and decide what marks to award those students who correctly answer them. If you think through this, it will make it easier for you to assign credits during grading.


As educators' or instructors', your roles in creating exam papers for your candidates should be based on factors that boost your students' experiences. You must ensure you provide a valid, reliable, realistic, and more recognized exam to their students.

You can only achieve this if you choose the most appropriate item type for the learning objectives, clear and straightforward question wordings, and different questions' point values. Besides, check on the exam's duration is to take providing while providing precise and explicit instructions before and during the exam period.

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