Prep for success 

 Professor Rhys C Jones – Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences 

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 educational institutes having to adapt to online delivery during the global pandemic, many of our controlled assessments that were usually administered on campus had to be modified as well. At the University of Auckland (my former 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 previous semesters in lock down, 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 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 especially challenging.   

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. They were also grateful that these videos helped them to understand some of the more difficult parts of the course they had asked for help with. 

For more information contact: Rhys Jones, Associate Dean (Education),