Preparing and giving exams are important parts of the job for most teachers.
Giving exams in large classes — those with more than 50 students — present some special challenges. I know that from my experience in teaching a course with more than 150 students.
Here are some tips for promoting a good testing situation in a large auditorium course.
Tip #1 – Make more than one version of the exam, and have all versions copied on white paper.
If students will be sitting next to each other, having more than one version of the exam can help promote a more fair test-taking situation. I typically have three versions of the same exam, scrambling the order of the test questions. I know some professors who have the different test versions copied on different colored paper – Form A on blue, Form B on yellow, etc. But that color coding lets students know who else is taking the same version of the test and can encourage cheating.
Tip #2 – Arrive early to help establish a good testing environment.
When I arrive for an auditorium exam, I recruit students to distribute Scantron sheets to students as they arrive for the test. That means when class starts, everyone has a Scantron and has it filled out. I also put a slide on the screen to remind students to sit every other seat and then fill in seats. So even if students do wind up sitting next to each other as seats get filled, they typically are not sitting next to their friends. By being in class early, I can answer any last-minute questions and help set a “we’re ready” tone. If you are calm, then that helps the class be calmer, too.
#3 – Recruit proctors to assist with test supervision.
If you have a large class, you need help in supervising the exam.
- Proctors can help in distributing the exam, enabling the class to start taking the exam more quickly.
- The proctors can help patrol the auditorium, promoting a more supervised testing situation.
- When the time comes for students to turn in their exams, proctors can collect the exams, enabling you to keep watching the test takers.
#4 – Remind students that they have signed the university’s honor code.
Almost every college and university has a honor code and incoming students are required to sign a pledge to follow that honor code. Remind students of that as they prepare to take the exam. Our Scantron sheets have a signature line. I ask students to sign affirming their pledge to follow the university’s honor code and neither give nor receive aid during the exam.
#5 – Patrol the auditorium and be alert during the exam.
You and your proctors need to be scanning the classroom and walking through the aisles during the exam. On your first walk through the auditorium, you can be looking for any open books or notes or a student with a cell phone out.The students will note your vigilance and will be much less likely to try looking on a classmate’s exam or peeking at their notes. Never leave a classroom unsupervised during a test, as that just encourages some students to take advantage of the situation.
#6 – Have students show a picture ID when they turn in their exams.
If you teach a large auditorium course, you won’t be able to know every student. So you probably wouldn’t be able to pick out a student who is taking the test but isn’t a student in your class – a good test-taker sent in to take a friend’s exam. Checking the student’s name on the exam with the student’s picture ID helps ensure the students in the course are the ones taking the exam.
What tips do you have for promoting success in creating and giving exams?