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Top 5 Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams

Best Practices for Designing and Grading Exams

If you’re a teacher, you must be designing and grading exams for your students every few days. But are you doing it right? Maybe, maybe not. And if you aren’t, this blog can help.

Exams help determine how the students are doing or how well they’re grasping the lessons. However, you can only trust the exams if you keep a few important things in mind while creating and grading them. What are the things you need to keep in mind? Well, read along to find out.

This blog talks about 5 Best practices for designing and grading exams. Following these practices will help you create better exam papers and grade them in a way that’s beneficial and rewarding for your students’ future. What’s more, you’ll get a chance to evolve as a teacher. So, let’s get started.

5 Best Practices for Designing an Exam 

1. Always Have a Clear Objective in Your Mind

What’s the objective of the test that you are creating? Do you want to test your students’ memory, logical thinking, or anything else? If you have answers to these questions, you’ll instantly be able to create better exam papers. How? 

When you have a clear objective in mind, you can include a particular type of question that serves the purpose. 

For instance, if you want to determine how well your students explain a topic, descriptive questions will help and not MCQs. And in case you want to test memory or logical thinking etc., MCQs or Fill-ups can help. 

2. Include Smart Questions

Do you always frame questions in a particular manner like: “What is X Or What is Y?” If so, you need to stop. It’s because sooner or later your students will be able to predict the exam paper. And you won’t be able to monitor their performance appropriately. 

Instead, start including smart questions that make them think. But how can you do that? Well, PrepAI has got your back. PrepAI is a smart, AI and ML-based test paper generator that helps you create quiz assignments or exam papers within minutes using 5 easy steps.

You can create exam papers that include smart, intuitive, and thought-provoking questions that’ll motivate your students to think. This way students will get to use their brains more and you won’t ever become predictable. Cool, right?

3. Provide Clear and Easy Instructions Regarding the Exam

Make sure that you provide clear instructions to your students regarding the exam. Otherwise, they might misinterpret the instructions which can lead them to trouble. Here are some common instructions or things you need to make clear on the question paper:

  • How many questions do you want the students to attempt?
  • Do you want answers in bullet points or paragraphs?
  • What’s the total time allotted for the exam? 

Please Note. The questions given above are just an example. You may add or remove instructions/questions as you like. 

4. Phrase the Questions Correctly

Some teachers intentionally use idiomatic phrases, or double negatives in questions to make things complex. However, this does no good to the students, especially if they’re international. 

Here are some examples of unnecessarily complex questions:

  • Use of Double Negatives: Markus didn’t have no money. True/False 
  • After Correct Phrasing: Markus didn’t have money. True/False


  • Use of Idiomatic Language: Why did Mark spill the beans?
  • After Phrasing: Why did Mark reveal the secret? Spilling the beans means revealing a secret. 

Did you notice how, after phrasing, the questions became so easy to understand? Well, that’s what you need to do.

5. Try to Keep The Test Short Unless Completely Necessary

Try your best to keep the exam papers short and brief. However, that never means, you shouldn’t include any descriptive question at all. The point here is to improve the assessment process and not to bore the students with lengthy exam papers.

With these practices, you can significantly improve the way you design exams. However, the story doesn’t end here. You need to pay equal attention or probably more attention to grading the exams. After all, grading is what tells how well the students performed, right? Let’s learn more about that below: 

Why Do You Need Principles for Grading?

Assigning grades has always been difficult, isn’t it? Well, this happens because grades serve multiple purposes such as:

  • Grades help the teacher determine which student is understanding the concept and which isn’t.
  • The parents use grades to understand how well their kids perform in the class.
  • Also, grades sometimes decide whether or not the student will get a scholarship, if eligible. 

Therefore, some set principles are necessary around which your grading process should be based. Otherwise, it could really have a negative impact on the lives of your students and their parents.

3 General Principles to Keep in Mind While Grading Your Students

1. Always Stay Fair 

You should never hold your students accountable for things not in their control. For instance, not every student has equal access to resources such as Wi-Fi, the latest mobile devices, educated parents, etc. So, always assign and grade assignments while keeping this in mind.

2. Be Honest No Matter What

Don’t give everyone in your class A unless they deserve it. Otherwise, it can shatter the healthy competition among the students that keeps them going. Also, assigning the same grade to everyone will make it hard for parents to understand how their kid is actually doing.

Therefore, always paint a clear picture of the student’s progress, skills, and learning.

3. Individualized Grading  

Most institutes follow the one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to grading. However, this approach isn’t fair as no two students are alike. Therefore, it’s imperative that you follow individualized grading wherein each student gets treated individually.

And you can do that by analyzing other factors such as participation in class, homework effort, demonstration of skills along with correct and wrong answers in the exam paper. This will help you offer grades that are more fair and individualized.

Now that you know what your grading policy should be about, let’s help you make the grading process better.

5 Best Practices for Grading an Exam 

1. Create a Grading Guide or Rubric 

Assigning grades can be hard. However, a rubric can make your job easier.

The rubric is a grading guide that divides the assigned tasks into smaller components with clear descriptions for teachers. You can add custom requirements in your grading guide and grade the students accordingly.

While there are different types of rubrics such as analytic rubrics, developmental rubrics, holistic rubrics, and checklists, we’ll consider holistic rubrics for this example.

Here’s what a Holistic rubric looks like:

S. No.Components of an AnswerPoints
AThe student mentioned the date, place, and the reason behind
the war along with the casualties.
BThe student mentioned everything but missed one aspect.3
CThe student mentioned everything but missed two aspects.2
DThe student mentioned just one aspect and missed the remaining.1
EThe student did not attempt.0

According to this rubric, the student who mentions everything gets 4 points. And the inability to mention any one aspect costs them points. This is just an example. You can tweak the rubrics in whatever way you want. Refer to this link to learn more about other types of rubrics.

2. Provide Feedback That’s Actionable

Merely leaving remarks such as “needs improvement” aren’t good enough for the students. You need to let the students know exactly where they lagged behind. 

For instance, if a student was unable to define a term properly, instead of saying “inappropriate definition”, you can say important aspects were missing or something more detailed. Doing this will help the students understand their mistakes better. 

3. Let your Students Know About the Grading Procedure

While most students will agree with whatever grades you assign them, some might raise questions. And this can be quite frustrating. So, try to inform your students about your grading procedure beforehand. Also, don’t make abrupt changes to the grading procedure without intimating the students. 

4. Grade One Question at a Time and Not One Student

Most teachers grade all the questions of a particular student at a time before moving to the other one. While this is a standard procedure, it’s not impactful enough. Because using this procedure, you cannot follow a consistent grading criterion.

Solution? Grade questions of a particular type for every student. For instance, grade all the descriptive questions for each student in your class and then go for MCQs for each student and so on. This will help you consistently follow the grading principles or criteria.

5. Grade Papers in a Peaceful Environment and Take Frequent Breaks

If you’re angry, under stress, or are unable to find a peaceful environment, stop grading right away. A peaceful and stress-free environment is essential for grading fairly. Otherwise, your stress could reflect in the grades because of which students might have to suffer.

Also, try to take frequent short breaks if you have a huge list of papers to grade. This will help you keep your mind fresh and will protect you from burnout.

These were some best practices for designing and grading exams that you can start implementing right away. However, you aren’t bound to exactly mimic the above best practices for designing and grading exams. You can always tweak them according to your convenience for the best results.

Wrapping Up

Grading and designing exams can be really complex and at times stressful. However, you need not go through that stress, if you follow the best practices for designing and grading exams as stated above. 

These tips or best practices are easy to implement and can be customized as per convenience. So, whether you teach in a college, primary school, high school, or a university, you can use them to the fullest. All you need to do is make some tweaks and you’re good to go.