I just finished administering and grading all of my midterms—I had one class on Thursday, and two classes on Friday. I attempt to write midterms that are short. I have written about this topic before
I have two things to add. The first is that I think this gives students a more accurate assessment of their ability. Short exams eliminate the “I knew the material, but I got a bad grade because I ran out of time”-factor. You eliminate an excuse for the students.
The second comment is one of goals: I am generally happy with the length of the exam if the exam has an LD-50 of “10 minutes.” By this, I mean that 50% of the students finish with at least ten minutes left in the class period. There is no scientific basis to this, only a sense that I am providing a thorough enough exam without creating much of a time pressure.
I was able to meet my goal in two of my three classes. Interestingly enough, I teach two sections of multivariable calculus and only one class met the LD-50 goal. I am not sure why this is.
Tags: exam formats