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The Perfect Recipe

How many times have you overheard students claiming, "I can’t believe I studied so hard for that test, but he/she didn’t ask anything that I studied!" I really hate to hear that. Was there something misleading in the objectives, did I highlight less important material in class or did the student really think I was going to ask them the perfect recipe for a Cosmopolitan?

A valid evaluation correlates directly with your instruction. The best way to ensure this relationship is to first create a test matrix. The following is a test matrix that I created for a 50-question test on three concepts in Mechanics of Ventilation.

  Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Total
Elastic Resistance 4 4 4 5 34%
Non-elastic Resistance 4 6 6 5 42%
Work of Breathing 1 3 5 3 24%
  18% 26% 30% 26% 100%

As you can see, my plan is to write a greater number of questions that tap higher order cognitive skills. Also notice that I emphasize Non-Elastic in the same way by asking a greater number of questions. Typically a test will have more questions when the topic is more difficult, more important, or there is simply more material. Regardless of which reason compels me to emphasize Non-elastic resistance, I should be spending about 42% of my class time teaching it.

A test matrix is really handy when team teaching and creating tests from a question bank. Classify the questions according to their content and level of mastery. When it is time to generate an exam, the matrix can be used as the shopping list to select the appropriate questions from the pool.

A matrix is also very helpful in your evaluation of the course. If you have the test questions categorized, you can monitor the performance of the entire class in that content area. If the whole class is having difficultly with particular content, you can plan changes in your instructional strategy for the next year.

Creating a test matrix is one extra step, but it will save time in the long run. And the next time you hear, "I would have studied that...", you’ll know they spent too much time studying the bartender’s guide.