Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How's your memory?

Memory I had an interesting conversation with a colleague last week who told me that they tell students in advance what questions will be on the exam paper, based on the idea that they are more interested in what students can do with knowledge rather than a simple memory test.
I subsequently came across this paper:

Communication and practice with examination criteria. Does this influence performance in examinations? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(6): 619-626
Previous research has demonstrated that the development and communication of explicit marking criteria have resulted in improved grades for students. This improvement in performance has only been reported for coursework assignments. Therefore, it was the purpose of this study to investigate the impact of providing explicit marking criteria, alongside practice with the criteria, on student examination grades. Two cohorts attending their second year on a sport science degree were used. The first cohort served as a control group and the second cohort as an experimental group. The control group sat the examination without any prior knowledge of the marking criteria, and the experimental group was given a marksheet before the examination that contained the marking criteria. There was a significant difference (p<0.001) between the examination grades of the experimental and control group. The mean examination grades achieved were 55.4% and 36.9% for the experimental and control group, respectively. Subsequent focus groups revealed that the experimental group considered that they were much better prepared and equipped to revise for the examination, and the marksheet encouraged self-reflection on their progress. The experimental group reported that they felt they had more control over preparation for the examination and higher levels of confidence in taking the examination.

This is an interesting idea, and quite tempting. Do you do anything similar to this, and if so, what is your rationale and what are the outcomes?


  1. I've heard of a med school that gives students the same (very tough) exam every year. In the 1st year they get about 20%, but by the time they graduate they really know this stuff, and for a doctor I guess that's what you want.

  2. The Peninsula Medical School does this, recycling the same question bank across all years of the course. There are problems, such as generating a large number of high quality questions - not easy.

  3. Yes, and the peninsula guy is now at Cardiff, which is how I know of it.