Biology 12 Midterm Test Elapsed Time Histogram, October 2015
Biology 12 Midterm Test Elapsed Time Histogram, October 2015

I have almost always recorded two pieces of data on students’ quizzes and tests as they are handed in: finish order and finish time. I have frequently contemplated using this data, but there are a lot of demands on a teacher’s time and this was always put on a back burner. This year we decided to try a midterm test instead of unit tests in Biology 12, and so, with a test of such significance I thought it would be interesting to finally act upon the data that I always collect.

I now have evidence that rejects the claim that the test was “almost two hours long,” as one student shockingly proclaimed just before the test was about to start. The data itself can be a useful instructional tool as it relates to the human tendency towards exaggeration and the resulting paranoia that can set in when such statements are announced to any other student within earshot during recess. I also now know that the length of the test was more than fair for placement within a 1:50 double block.

Biology 12 Midterm Test, question choices of students, October 2015
Biology 12 Midterm Test, question choices of students, October 2015

Students were instructed to choose four of six short answer questions, and the prompts were very simple and repetitive: describe, explain, and connect. As I flipped through the tests to record the finish order and finish time data I also recorded which questions were chosen by each student. This now provides evidence as to which topics most likely require revisiting and reteaching: cellular respiration and biomolecules. Although, in order to have tested this properly I should have randomized the arrangement of the questions in different version of the test. It’s possible that some students just decided to answer questions 1, 2, 3, and 4 because those were the order in which the questions were presented.

My last step is to read through all of the answers to obtain grades and to determine if any relationship at all exists between finish time and grade outcome or between question topic and grade outcome. This, of course, will take a lot longer to do!

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