How to Write a Great Test
1. Use the same format as the AP Exam.
The AP Statistics Exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions and 6 free response questions. Students need to become familiar with both styles of questions and will learn specific strategies throughout the year that will help them be successful on the AP exam. Figure about 2 minutes per multiple-choice question and 13 minutes per free response question. So for a 60-minute test, I would suggest 10 multiple choice and 3 free response. I try to write my tests so that students have enough time to finish, but that they have to be careful and manage their time. They will need to have good time management skills when they take the AP Exam at the end of the year.
2. Use actual AP questions.
The more practice students have with actual AP questions, the more successful they will be at the end of the year. This does not mean that every question has to come from an old AP Exam. I find that I often have to provide more scaffolding in my free response questions at the beginning of the year, as I am training my students how to write solutions for AP questions.
All of the free response questions (and grading rubrics) since 2003 can be found here. I suggest using only questions from 2003 or newer. Use this page to figure out which old AP questions will align with the chapters in your textbook.
Multiple choice questions are harder to come by, but we do have access to quite a few sets of old multiple choice questions now on our College Board AP course audit account (click on secure documents). These questions are for in-class use only (please maintain the security of these question for the sake of all of us). These documents are pdfs and I usually just screenshot questions and paste them into Microsoft Word. Most textbooks also have a test bank with multiple-choice questions that can be used.
3. Create a rubric before giving the test.
Figure out how many points each free response question will be worth and write out what is needed for each point. Try to anticipate student responses and make rules for how you will grade each response. Of course you will have to make some adjustments to this rubric after you see several student responses. This rubric will help you to be fair and consistent in your grading.
4. Take the test before students do and assess alignment to learning objectives.
Taking the test before students will allow you to catch any errors (if you miss one I am sure your students will find it). It also allows you to get an idea of how long to expect students will need on the test. My rule of thumb is that students will need three times as many minutes as I do. 20 minutes for me = 60 minutes for students. After I take the test, I go back to my curriculum (textbook, notes) and make sure that all of the important concepts are being assessed, and also that certain concepts are not being overtested. If needed, I might switch out questions for different ones to better align with my curriculum.
5. Create the test before you teach the unit.
OK, so you might be in your first year and this is not humanly possible. But next year you will have this test written before teaching the unit. You must be familiar with your own test and the rubric used to grade it. This will inform your instruction. You will know better which information to stress and you will choose your activities to help support your students’ learning and ability to be successful on the test. If you have a well-written test, then everything that happens in class should be moving your students towards success on that test. (yes I just said teach to the test).