Writing good exam questions

Assessment training: Writing good exam questions


Annabel Charles (Cambridge Asessment Network Consultant)
Nancy Sneddon (Cambridge Assessment Network Consultant)

Date: 05 Mar 2020 Venue: Cambridge Assessment The Triangle Building, Shaftesbury Road Cambridge CB2 8EA
Time: 09:30 - 16:30
Type: Training workshop Fee: £225.00

This course provides theoretical background to the principles of writing good exam questions, practical information and guidance, and opportunities to evaluate and construct a range of questions and mark schemes.

Workshop outline

  • Key concepts in assessment – purpose, validity, reliability, manageability and impact.
  • Developing assessments - specifications, assessment objectives, the test production process, assessment grids and creating a question paper.
  • The principles of setting questions – readability, use of language, command words, contexts, layout and graphics.
  • Different question types and formats – the advantages and disadvantages of various formats, including multiple choice, structured questions and essays.
  • Different models of mark scheme – prescriptive, indicative and descriptive, and the concept of outcome space.
  • Evaluating questions and mark schemes – using a reviewer’s checklist, giving and receiving feedback.

Learning outcomes

The two presenters were absolutely excellent. I would highly recommend this course to any of my colleagues."

  • Understanding of the key principles underlying writing good exam questions.
  • Knowledge of useful guidance in selecting and writing different types of question and mark scheme.
  • Opportunity to practice and reflect on the process of drafting and reviewing exam questions and mark schemes.

Intended audience

Anyone with responsibility for writing questions, developing assessments or managing the production of tests, examinations and other assessments. The session is suitable both for those new to question writing, or with limited experience, and more experienced setters who want to increase their understanding of the underpinning principles and boost their skills, or are involved in training others in question writing.

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Course trainers

Nancy Sneddon

Nancy Sneddon has worked in the field of English language teaching and assessment since 1990. For ten years she worked as an EFL teacher, director of studies, and teacher trainer in various language schools in this country and abroad. She then worked for Cambridge Assessment English, part of Cambridge Assessment, for eight years, managing the production of a variety of ESOL examinations. Since 2008, she has been working in a freelance capacity as a consultant, materials writer, principal examiner, teacher and trainer. She has an MA in Applied Linguistics.

Annabel Charles

Annabel Charles has a first degree in English and Latin and an MA in Educational Assessment. She began her career as an English teacher in mainstream secondary schools, and then worked on a national test development programme and related projects in the research department at Cambridge Assessment. For the last thirteen years she has worked as a freelance consultant on a variety of projects linked to curriculum development, training and assessment.

Annabel has worked for national bodies such as QCDA, Ofqual and STA, awarding organisations and other assessment agencies and local authorities and schools. She is a Principal Examiner for an English specification and has developed items for a range of tests and examinations, including key stage 2 tests, GCSE and Functional Skills. She is a Chartered Educational Assessor and is a tutor on the Postgraduate Certificate in Educational Assessment run by The Faculty of Education, Cambridge and Cambridge Assessment.

The Triangle Building, Shaftesbury Road Cambridge CB2 8EA

Contact the Network

Please contact us for further information about the Network events and bespoke training.
Email us or call on +44 (0)1223 553846.