Prep for success

Tests and exams are terrifying! How can we help to alleviate some of the stress students feel towards these forms of heavily used assessments? This post gives some tips on how you can do just that!

Statistics courses, whether they’re introductory or more advanced, often have heavily weighted test and exam components that require students to attain a certain mark to pass the paper. Students are often told to look at past papers to see the style of questions that have been presented in previous years, to help give them an insight into what they can expect for their test/exam questions. 

Introductory statistics courses tend to have multiple choice questions (MCQ) presented in tests and exams, with past papers presenting the students with solutions that often involve just the correct response. There also tends to be little or no explanation behind why the options presented in this form of assessment are incorrect. In addition, since there is the possibility of student’s randomly selecting an answer and getting it correct, they still might be unsure as to why the answer they selected is the right response to a particular question. 

This can leave students very anxious, and present barriers to their ongoing learning, potentially leaving gaps in their mind.

With many of our educational institutes being closed during the pandemic, many of our controlled assessments that are usually administered on campus have had to be adapted. In our institute, we transferred many of our course’s tests and exams online, with extended assessment durations, as well as allowances being made for issues such as WI-FI connection issues and tech problems. 

During semester one this year (March – June), I began to think a lot more about how students learn from certain assessments in the course that have a high contribution to the student’s overall mark, especially the test and exam assessments. So, I decided to create a series of videos going through past tests and exams, providing detailed explanations for each option in the MCQ questions. I also wanted to present them with feedback from my experiences of looking at previous student performance, sharing information about which concepts and areas of the course students find particularly challenging. 

I also wanted to provide a feedback mechanism (using Google Sheets) for the students to tell me how they found the test, asking them to comment on areas related to the amount of time they had to complete it, and also whether they found it easy or challenging. I also provided them with another opportunity to tell me about parts of the course that they were finding difficult and then grouped their responses into common themes (for example, some students wanted help with understanding the difference between practical and statistical significance). Then I produced a video going over their responses, offering a series of explanations in greater detail, addressing the areas of the course they were finding difficult or were unsure if.  

Students responded very well to these additions and sent me thank you emails for helping them to learn from the questions they had gotten wrong in the test, and helping them to understand some of the more difficult parts of the course they had asked for help with.

Creating videos that explain past tests and exams in greater detail and developing short videos in response to student feedback can help to create a dialogue with your students, something that works on several levels. It shows that you care about their learning and want them to succeed. It also shows that you are listening to their questions and concerns, and that you can address them specifically. It also helps to form a mutual trust with your students, which can aid to build their confidence with getting to grips with the course content.