Considerations for Constructing an Exam

Here are a few things to keep in mind when constructing an exam.

Exam Duration

Test how much time it takes to complete an exam by reading the questions purposefully (aloud, pronouncing every syllable and taking pauses around appropriate punctuation). Write a properly formulated response and reread it, editing for content, grammar, flow, etc. This will help judge the minimum amount of time students will need to complete a question. Consider noting the estimated time allotted for the exam and its various sections.

Balance of Question Types

The course learning outcomes will influence how much of an exam is dedicated to lower order (closed) questions, such as multiple choice, matching and true and false and higher order (open) questions that require students to apply, analyze, evaluate or create something.


Use sections and subsections based on difficulty — 30 seconds for simple, straightforward questions; 45 seconds for moderate questions, and 120 seconds for complex questions that require analysis or evaluation to identify the correct solution.

Multiple Choice Options

Ensure the correct response occurs in a different location in each question, i.e. not always in position B. Distractors (non-correct options) should be plausable but not the correct response to the question asked.

Show Workings

For questions that require students to show the workings of their answer, say for an equation or problem, request students take a picture of or scan their workings and upload to Brightspace or email to you; they should include a copy of their student ID in the photos for verification purposes.

Resource created by Jane C.