Teaching Tips: What to Do With a Bad Exam


  • Theodore D Peters University of Baltimore
  • Lisa T Stickney




Making, taking, grading, and returning examinations is often a grueling process on instructors and students alike.  What if students do poorly?  Is it the instructor’s fault, e.g., poorly constructed and/or worded, too difficult, etc. or is it the student’s fault, e.g., lack of understanding the content, lack of effort, etc.  In seeking higher order thinking and learning outcomes (Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002), the authors have added a written and an oral learning exercise to the testing process.  Students are encouraged to take “voice” in reviewing the exam results to demonstrate how their content knowledge and prior experiences led them to interpret a test item differently than the instructor intended.  Successful student rationales can be rewarded with additional points.  The authors propose additional research into the applicability of this exercise to other courses.



KEY WORDS: Testing, Exams, Written Communication, Oral Communication, Teamwork