Constructing an Essay Type Test

What is Essay type test?
The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, "to try" or "to attempt". In English essay first meant "a trial" or "an attempt"
         “Essay type test refers to any written test that requires an examinee to write several paragraphs, passages or comprehensive answer.
Why Essay tests?
         Abilities like logical thinking, critical reasoning and systematic presentation; etc. can be best evaluated by the essay type tests.
         They provide an opportunity to the student to show their originality of thoughts, as they are permitted freedom of responses.
         They help to develop good study habits such as preparing outlines and summaries, organization arguments for and against.
         They provide opportunities to students to develop abilities such as to interpret, etc.
         They can be successfully employed for evaluating the performance of students in all subjects.
         It is relatively easier to prepare and administer the essay type test than to prepare an objective type test.
         Guessing is eliminated to some extent.
         They give freedom to respond within broad limits.
         They stress integration and application of thinking and problem solving
         They provide less scope for unfair means.
Types of Essay Test
Essay Test
1 Extended type                 2 Restricted type
Example of Extended type
     i)        Discuss the importance of testing in education
    ii)        What are the advantages and disadvantages of a democratic form of government.
Examples of Restricted type
     i)        Give five reasons why testing is important in education?
    ii)        State three advantages and three disadvantages of a democratic form of government.
Limitations of Essay test
1)    Subjective/Un-reliable marking
2)    Limited/inadequate sampling ---- selective study is encouraged.
3)    Rote memorization is encouraged.
4)    Time consuming.
5)    Influence of irrelevant factors e.g. Hand writing, style of writing etc.
6)    Bluffing
Bluffing –A Special Scoring Problem
It is possible for pupils to obtain higher scores on essay questions than they deserve by means of clever bluffing. This is usually a combination of writing skill, general knowledge, and the use of common “tricks of the trade.” Following are some ways that pupils might attempt to influence the reader and, thus, inflate their grades.
  1. Writing something for every question –even if it is only a restatement of the question. (Pupils figure they might get some credit. Blank spaces get none).
  2. Stressing the importance of the topic covered by the question, especially when short on facts (e.g., “This battle played a significant role in the Civil War.”).
  3. Agreeing with the teacher’s views whenever it seems appropriate (e.g, “The future of mankind depends on how well we conserve our natural resources.”).
  4. Being a name dropper (e.g., “This is supported by the well known experiment by Smith.”. The reader assumes that the pupil knows Smith’s “well-known” experiment.).
Although bluffing cannot be completely eradicated, carefully phrasing the questions and following clearly defined scoring procedures can reduce it.
How to improve Essay Test?
Two Principal Ways
1) Writing good Essay Questions. 2) Using Efficient Method of scoring.
1) How to write Good Essay Questions?
a)    The Essay questions should measure well defined learning outcomes (Taxonomy of objectives)
Some Types Of Thought Questions And Sample Item Stems\
Ø  Describe the similarities and differences between …..
Ø  Compare the following two methods for …..
2.         Relating Cause and Effect
Ø  What are major causes of …..?
Ø  What would be the most likely effects of ……?
3.         Justifying 
Ø  Which of the following alternatives would you favor, and why?
Ø  Explain why you agree or disagree with the following statement.
4.         Summarizing
Ø  State the main points included in …..
Ø  Briefly summarize the contents of …..
5.         Generalizing
        Formulate several valid generalizations from the following data.
        State a set of principles that can explain the following events.
6.         Inferring
Ø  In light of the facts presented, what is most likely to happen when …..?
Ø  How would (Senator X) be likely to react to the following issue…..?
7.         Classifying
Ø  Group the following items according to …..
Ø  What do the following items have in common?
8.         Creating
Ø  List as many ways as you can think of for …..
Ø  Make up a story describing what would happen if…..
9.         Applying
Ø  Using the principle of … as a guide, describe how you would solve the following problem situation.
Ø  Describe a situation that illustrates the principle of…….
10.       Analyzing
Ø  Describe the reasoning errors in the following paragraph.
Ø  List and describe the main characteristics of …..
11.       Synthesizing
Ø  Describe a plan for proving that …..
Ø  Write a well-organized report that shows …..
12.       Evaluating
Ø  Describe the strengths and weaknesses of …..
Ø  Using the given criteria, write an evaluation of …..
a)    Easy and clear language should be used.
b)    Ample time should be given to students
            Time According to:
                        i) Number of Questions
                        ii) Nature of Questions
d)    Avoid questions like, “What do you think” or “In your opinion”
e)    Define the examinee’s task completely and specifically as possible.
f)     Avoid to give choice.
Checklist for Reviewing Essay Questions
  1. Is this the most appropriate type of item to use?
  2. Are the questioned designed to measure higher-level learning outcomes
  3. Are the questions relevant to the intended learning outcomes?
  4. Does each question clearly indicate the task to be performed?
  5. Are pupils told the bases on which their answers will be evaluated?
  6. Are generous time limits provided for answering the questions?
  1. Are pupils told the time limits and/or point values for each question?
  1. Are all pupils required to respond to the same questions?
  1. If revised, are the questions still relevant to the intended learning outcomes?
  1. Have the questions been set aside for a time before reviewing them?
How to score essay questions?
1)    Prepare a scoring key in advance. It includes the major points/features of the answer and the weight assigned to each.
2)    Score question No. 1 of all the students before going on to the next question (Question wise marking)
3)    Ignore the identity of students during scoring.
4)    Adopt a definite policy regarding irrelevant factors e.g. Hand writing, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, style and neatness etc.
5)    Use an appropriate scoring method.
            Two Methods:
                        i) Point Method (for restricted type)
                        ii) Rating Method (for extended type)