Testing with Power: How to Develop Great Test Items Part II

Today we will continue our discussing on developing excellent test items by looking at how to write matching items. Matching test items involved two columns. The side to the left has the descriptions (or they should) and the side to the right has terms. Below is an example

Directions: Column A contains descriptions of various famous basketball players. Column B contains the names of several famous basketball players. After examining both columns select the basketball who matches each description. Each answer can be used only once.

Column A                                                                     Column B

  1. Played for the Cleveland Cavaliers                A.        Michael Jordan
  2. Is Jewish                                                         B.         Tim Duncan
  3. Won six NBA championships                         C.        Lebron James
  4. Studied at Syracuse                                       D.        Carmelo Anthony
  5. Grew up in Italy                                              E.         Kobe Bryant                                                                                                                                                                F.         Amar’e Stoudamir
    G.        Dwayne Wade

I know the answers are scattered. Formatting is difficult in wordpress sometimes

This example has several strong points.

  • Homogeneity– All of the items have something in common in that they all are basketball players. The name of this is homogeneity. This makes it harder for the students to guess but makes it easier for them to remember what the correct item is because they are accessing information on one subject instead of several. A common mistake in developing matching items is to put disparate terms together which is confusing for learners.
  • Order of Columns– The descriptions should go on the left and the terms on the right. This is because the descriptions are longer and take more time to read. Read the long stuff first and then find the short answer in the right column second. Many people put the terms on the left and the descriptions on the right, which is detrimental to student performance. They read one short answer and have to shuffle through several long descriptions
  • More Terms than Descriptions– There should be more terms than descriptions in order to prevent guessing. This also helps to prevent students from losing two points instead of one. If the number of descriptions and terms are the same if a student gets one wrong they get two wrong because two answers will be in the wrong place. If there are extra terms this could be avoided.
  • One Description for One Term– There should be one correct item for each description. Anything else is confusing for many students.
  • Miscellaneous- Number descriptions and give letters to terms. Descriptions should be longer than the information in the terms column.

Developing matching items with these concepts in mind will help students to have success in the examinations you give them. Are there other strategies for matching? If so, please share in the comments section

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