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Develop exam questions

Tips and advice to develop appropriate exam questions

Since the students have text books and online resources available, they will easily be able to retrieve answers to simple memorization tasks. Therefore, you should ask questions that test whether students can use their skills to analyze, discuss and evaluate.

To explain increasing degrees of competence, many refer to Bloom's taxonomy (see figure).

The competency is distributed as follows:Image may contain: Text, Line, Font.

  • Top: Can students evaluate and create new knowledge in the field?
  • Middle: Can students apply and analyze concepts?
  • Bottom: Can students remember and understand terms and concepts?

The bottom level is rarely suitable for a home exam.

Questions appropriate for a home exam

Below you will find suggestions for questions based on the middle and upper levels of Bloom's taxonomy. The aim is to test the students' ability to use their knowledge.

In some subjects, the questions can be related to a research article or similar document. Some of the questions below require students to have access to such information.

Numbers and letters are used as a substitute for discipline-specific terms and concepts.

Bachelor courses will have a majority of questions testing the students' ability to use and analyze concepts, while master courses will include more questions that test an ability to evaluate and criticize new knowledge.

Can students apply and analyze concepts in the field?

  • how will a change in process A affect process B?

  • what advantages does method X have compared to method Y?

  • how can the industry use knowledge about field D?

  • use the syllabus to argue which of the elements X, Y, Z and W are not like the others ("odd one out")

  • describe the strengths and weaknesses of the method used to produce the results in Figure 2C.

Can students evaluate and create new knowledge in the field?

  • interpret the results presented in Figure 1

  • evaluate the researchers' interpretation of the results in Figure 2

  • how will factors X, Y and Z affect the experiment shown in Figure 3?

  • propose and describe two experiments to follow up the results in Figure 4

  • explain how the research article helps to move the field forward.

Other types of exam questions

The web sites about digital teaching at UiO presents a wide range of forms of assessment. Some of them may be relevant to courses at the MN faculty. Below are three other options that let you see the possibilities of a digital exam.

Reflection note

In a reflection note, the students describe their process to solve the task, and also share their responses to the solution. This text can provide useful insight into how students understand and use the syllabus when solving a problem.

Students can also be tasked with reflecting on using sources, experiences from collaboration and think carefully about their own learning.

For example, to ensure independent work, you can ask students to structure their answer as follows:

  1. How do you understand the task?
  2. The solution to the task 
  3. Reflections

Tell the students about the assessment criteria and the proportion of the assessment that you will base on the reflections related to the assignment.

To practice using reflection in the learning process, see the "Reflection note" activity under Feedback.

Pre-completed assignment

Students receive an already completed assignment. Their job is to evaluate the answer, and the task can help students demonstrate an ability to spot mistakes, see connections and use the syllabus to reason for their critiques.  

Blog, op-ed and encyclopedia entry

In some courses, it is appropriate to task students with writing a popular science blog or an opinion article based on the syllabus. In other courses, students can revise or evaluate an encyclopedia article. It is possible to give such assignments in collaboration with a newspaper or a magazine, or as part of a portfolio examination.

Examples from courses at MN

In many cases, the exam questions will be similar to assignments used in seminars.

Students are familiar with such assignments, but they may not be used to formulate their answers in writing. Therefore, it is important that you let students practice their writing skills prior to the exam. You can also support students to provide peer feedback to each other.

Read more about methods for active learning.

Theoretical astrophysics

The exam consists of 5 equal parts.

  1. how the student explains the assignment in their own words
  2. how the student explains the solution/method in their own words
  3. the quality of the results 
  4. the presentation in figures, tables etc.
  5. how the student discusses the results.


In how many ways can a rectangle be divided into four equal areas, using only straight lines? The answer should use the intersection theorem.

Explain how you understand the assignment and then give an argument for how you have chosen to answer the assignment.


How can you experimentally determine the moment of inertia of a body of irregular shape about a specific axis? Explain how to conduct such an experiment.


Students receive the following figure and information:

"When we eat, the fats, proteins and carbohydrates in our food are broken down into smaller components that are then absorbed by gut epithelial cells. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. The glucose uptake takes place in the small intestine. One side of an intestinal cell faces the cavity, and is called the apical side. The opposite side of the cell faces the tissue, and is called the basolateral side."


Three different questions covers both simple and more complex skills. 

Remember  Use and analyze Evaluate and create

The figure shows a Sodium / Potassium pump (1), a Na / glucose co-transporter (2) and a glucose uniport (3).

Explain how the three transport mechanisms work.


Describe the transport of glucose from the apical to the basolateral side of the intestine. 

Include the three transport mechanisms illustrated in the figure. 

Assume that a mis-sense mutation in the gene encoding transport protein 2 causes the protein to no longer function properly.

What consequences can this mutation have for the patient's health?

Explain how you understand the assignment and justify your solution / approach. 

Published Apr. 22, 2020 9:55 AM - Last modified Apr. 27, 2020 12:52 PM