—Any lecturer would agree that marking exams is
the bane of her existence. A time-consuming and tiring process,
it often requires complex, subjective judgments. Higher
education exams typically take 3.0 hours. Do they really need to
last so long? Can we justifiably reduce the number of questions
on them? Shortening an exam by one hour, if justified, should
result in a one-third reduction in lecturer time and effort spent
marking. Surprisingly little empirical research has addressed
these problems. Classical methods may be partly to blame for
this dearth of studies. We propose an alternative methodology
based on three key components including two recent
developments in experimental design and statistics -- synthetic
experimental designs and equivalence hypothesis testing. The
third component consists in comparing, on six psychometric
criteria, student performance in a class on the standard 3.0-hr
final exam with that on shortened exams with proportionately
fewer questions. Two are the frequently misunderstood
standard psychometric criteria – reliability and validity. We
argue that adding four common-sense criteria – justifiability of
test use, number of exam questions, equivalence in mean
student performance, and correspondence (between shortened
and full-length exam scores) – confer significant additional
benefits. Our approach provides a simple methodology that
lecturers can, with minimal time and effort, use to examine the
effect of shortening exams for their own classes.
—Exam length, psychometric criteria, synthetic
experimental designs, test length.
E. S. Lee and N. Garg are with Finance, Information Systems, and
Management Science Department, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS,
B3H 3C3 Canada (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
C. E. Bygrave is with Masters in Administrative Sciences Department,
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver, BC V6B 2P6 Canada (e-mail:
J. Mahar is with Mathematics Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax,
NS, B3H 4R2 Canada.
Cite: Eric S. Lee, Connie Bygrave, Jordan Mahar, and Naina Garg, "Can Higher Education Exams Be Shortened? A Proposed Methodology," International Journal of Information and Education Technology vol. 4, no. 6, pp. 517-525, 2014.