Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sixty questions from Paul Hewitt

As final exam season rolls around, you may have multiple choice questions on your mind. Some people think such questions are inherently ineffective or downright evil. I disagree. Similar to my assessment of PowerPoint presentations, it's really a matter of quality.

When PowerPoint was an emerging educational technology, I thought such presentations were ineffective and evil. Ineffective because I had never seen one that I thought was effective. Evil because it was a Microsoft product. Then Apple came out with Keynote and people starting thinking about how presentations should be made, and I've since found a place for presentations in my curriculum.

We see so many lousy multiple choice questions over our careers that we can be forgiven if we deem them useless by nature. But effective multiple choice exam questions do exist.

Despite some listserv discussions devoted to the contrary opinion, I think some of the questions used on the STAR Test in Physics (CST) are pretty good.

I think Paul Hewitt's Basic Physics Content questions are pretty good, too. The author of Conceptual Physics offers his favorite multiple choice questions at Read his preface and download the folder. The folder contains the questions in Word format, questions and answers in Word format, and questions with answers in ExamView format.


Bob Bessin said...

Do you know whether Hewitt wrote or influenced the multiple choice questions offered by the Conceptual Physics publisher's (Addison Wesley) test generation software (TestGen)? I have used this program in the past and have found its questions to be quite solid. Once you register as a teacher on the site, you can download the Testgen software, which make it very easy to drag and drop questions into a test, and a set of questions referenced by chapter (called a Testbank) specifically for Conceptual Physics

Dean Baird said...

I think the publisher's test question bank has grown over the years. Many of those questions are Hewitt's, but I think an ancillary author was also brought in at some point.

And as far as the publisher and test-generating software go, that's a carousel of seemingly perpetual motion.

Conceptual Physics (10/e College) is published by Addison Wesley and I don't know what they're offering for test generation. I presume it's ExamView at this point.

Conceptual Physics (2009 High School) is published by Prentice Hall and does use ExamView for it's electronically published test bank. I know TestGen was the test generating software that Addison Wesley distributed when they published the HS CP back in the 1980s.

When I looked around for test generating software recently, it seemed like ExamView was becoming a widely-adopted standard. During this year's physics adoption, most publishers we came across offered their banks in ExamView format.