Video 2: Two-stage midterm exam

What are two stage exams? Can I use them in large classes?

In two-stage exams, students start by taking a normal, individual midterm exam. Then they hand this part in before forming ad-hoc groups of 4 and re-doing the identical exam. The whole process takes 50 minutes.

This 7.5 minute video demonstrates how both parts of this midterm exam are set up for a 50-minute class with over 300 students. It shows how the transition between solo and group portions can be orchestrated for maximum efficiency, and what the class looks like while the group portion of the exam is running.

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WHEN WATCHING THIS 07:32 min. VIDEO, look for…

Students: how they behave during the exam:

  1. All 300 students know what is happening and how to conduct the solo and group parts efficiently. This happens when group work is “normal” during all aspects of the course.
  2. Ad hoc groups work fine in this high stakes setting. Even students who go to the front to find (or be placed in) groups are active in groups quickly and efficiently.
  3. Only a few “quiet” students are less engaged during group discussions.

Aspects of logistics to notice include:

  1. Setting up without students present is more efficient than handing out test papers as they drift into class.
  2. Alternate versions in adjacent seats helps prevent cheating.
  3. Clear concise instructions to teaching assistants prior to letting students in will help all staff remember what to expect.
  4. Students start solo exam as soon as they are seated. Only extremely brief instructions with the microphone are needed.
  5. Notice the use of projectors to show timing and illustrate key aspects of filling in forms.
  6. “Helping” is restricted to clarifying wording of questions. This is not tutoring – this is an exam.
  7. Transitioning between solo and group exam: pass finished solo papers along rows for rapid collection. Some students invariably try to continue working. Be firm and just pick those papers up.
  8. Hand out group exam papers ONLY when students raise hands saying they have formed a group of four. This is (a) quicker, and (b) leaves you, the instructor, in control of group size.
  9. Instructions for the group part are outlined BEFORE telling everyone to start getting into groups. The noise will make it difficult to provide instructions after groups are formed.
  10. Worry less about “cheating” during group work. The whole point is to engage discussion and corresponding feedback about learning.
  11. Provide “5-minute” warnings before requiring collection of final group exam papers.
  12. Awarding about 85% to solo score and 15% to group score seems to be the right balance between evaluative assessment and incentive to improve group scores.