What is it?

A two-stage exam is an instructional strategy in which students are asked to complete an assessment (i.e., exam, test, quiz) in two separate stages. First, they complete and submit an assessment individually. Next, students work in groups to answer a set of questions. The group portion can consist of (a) the most difficult or challenging questions from the individual portion and/or (b) new questions that are more conceptual or open-ended than the individual assessment was.

Purpose: Completing the group portion of the strategy enables students to (a) receive immediate peer feedback on their proposed solutions and (...

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A two-stage exam is an instructional strategy in which students are asked to complete an assessment (i.e., exam, test, quiz) in two separate stages. First, they complete and submit an assessment individually. Next, students work in groups to answer a set of questions. The group portion can consist of (a) the most difficult or challenging questions from the individual portion and/or (b) new questions that are more conceptual or open-ended than the individual assessment was.

Purpose: Completing the group portion of the strategy enables students to (a) receive immediate peer feedback on their proposed solutions and (b) develop their collaborative skills. In working together, students may also be exposed to alternative methods for solving the assigned problems. Overall, using the two-stage exam strategy results in assessments that are themselves collaborative learning experiences.

Note: It is at the discretion of the instructor to determine the weighing of each exam for the students overall grade. Commonly instructors assign 90% of the grade based on the individual assessment and the additional 10% stems from the group grade.

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When to use it?

Context & Requirements

Level
All Levels
Discipline
All disciplines
Class size
Any class size
Classroom settings
No specific classroom setting required
Technological requirements
Though not required, a tool for providing immediate feedback to the groups of students (e.g., IF-AT cards) my be useful.

Skills Promoted

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Communication
  • Decision making
  • Knowledge integration
  • Problem solving
  • Time management

Who’s using it?

SALTISE community members who use this strategy and are willing to share advice and/or resources.

Level University
Institution University of Guelph
Discipline Environmental Science
Instructor Jamie Miller
Class size All sizes
Classroom setting Active or traditional
Resources used View More
Level College
Institution John Abbott College
Discipline Physics
Instructor Michael Dugdale
Class size 30-40
Classroom setting Active Learning Classroom
Resources used View More
Level College
Institution Dawson College
Discipline Chemistry
Instructor Carmen Leung
Class size 30-40
Classroom setting Active or traditional
Resources used View More
Level College
Institution Dawson College
Discipline Physics
Instructor Jonathon Sumner
Class size 30-40
Classroom setting Active Learning Classroom
Resources used View More

Why use it?

Aside from enabling the students to end off their assessment on a good note, group exams have enabled me to assign more conceptual questions. While such questions would perhaps be too difficult for an individual assessment, they are more manageable for groups. As a result, students are tackling more challenging questions and still performing well. Don’t try to be tricky with the group exams- this is not the point. Rather, take advantage of the situation to try out some conceptual or layered questions.

(Tamara Kelly, York University).

Dependent upon class size (I have a class of 400 students), it can be difficult to manage. Having an appropriate room/setting has also been an issue in the past. For example, I include the group test portion as a part of their actual final exam. As a result, my class has to write the assessment in a special room and cannot do the exam in the usual location (i.e., with all other individual exams going on simultaneously). There is a cost associated with this, particularly in terms of administrative overhead.

Furthermore, some students have expressed that it can be ...

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Dependent upon class size (I have a class of 400 students), it can be difficult to manage. Having an appropriate room/setting has also been an issue in the past. For example, I include the group test portion as a part of their actual final exam. As a result, my class has to write the assessment in a special room and cannot do the exam in the usual location (i.e., with all other individual exams going on simultaneously). There is a cost associated with this, particularly in terms of administrative overhead.

Furthermore, some students have expressed that it can be stressful to them because they see exactly where they have gone wrong. At the same time, they acknowledged that they appreciated the opportunity to improve their overall score in completing the group portion

(Lawrence Chen, McGill University).

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Ready to try it out?

STEP 1: Instructor prepares two levels of assessment – individual and group.

STEP 2: Instructor (or TAs) distribute the individual assessment.

STEP 3: Individually, students complete the assessment.

STEP 4: Students form small groups (ideally of 3-4 students) immediately following the individual assessment.

STEP 5: Instructor (or TAs) collect the individual assessments and distribute the group assessment.

STEP 6: As groups, students work together to answer the new questions a prepare a group solution.

STEP 7: Instructor (or TAs) collect the group assessments.

Download Flowchart

Helpful resources

Tech Tools

Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IFAT)

References

Rieger, G. W. and Heiner, C. E. (2014). Examinations that support collaborative learning: The students’ perspective. Journal of College Science Teaching, National Science Teachers Association..

Gilley, B. and Clarkston, B. (2014). Collaborative testing: Evidence of learning in a controlled in-class study of undergraduate students. Journal of College Science Teaching, National Science Teachers Association..

Kelly, T. (2016). Two-stage tests: Turning testing into learning opportunities across course assessments.. Ontario Consortium of Undergraduate Biology Educators,York University..

Gilley, B. H. and Clarkston, B. (2012). Does collaborative testing increase students’ retention of concepts?. Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, University of British Columbia.

Yu, B., Tsiknis, G. and Allen, M. (2010). Turning exams into a learning experience. Conference Paper, Proceedings of the 41st ACM..

Maxwell, E. J., McDonnell, L. and Wieman, C. E. (2015). An improved design for in-class review. Journal of College Science Teaching, National Science Teachers Association..

Video

Two-stage exams – University of British Columbia, UBC Media Relations

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