​Designing effective assessment tasks

An assessment task is a tool, device or constructed situation that creates the opportunity for learners to demonstrate or display the nature and depth of their learning.

There are two key factors that determine whether learners can successfully demonstrate what they have learned and achieved. These are:

  1.  alignment with principles of effective task design
  2.  the quality of the questions set for tests and exams
  3.  the clarity of the expectations set for extended activities, eg assignments and SACs 

1. Principles of effective task design

Consideration of these principles when designing an assessment task will improve the effectiveness of the task in assessing where a student is on the learning continuum. Roll the mouse over each principle in the graphic for an explanation or download a text version.​

Another way of considering the design principles is through the lens of: authenticity, credibility, accessibility and cognitive and affective expectations. Read more about this approach

2.  Question quality

Effective questions enable  learners to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding and they provide opportunities for learners to use the higher order thinking skills. The questions are directly related to the learning intentions and they measure what they are intended to measure.

Here are some tips and guidelines for writing effective questions:

Exam questions: types, characteristics, and suggestions, University of Waterloo (website)
This one pager provides tips for writing effective multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer, essay, oral, and computational test questions.

Writing effective questions, The Learning Management Corporation (pdf)
This paper discusses questions types and factors to consider when choosing the types of questions for a test. It provides tips for creating multiple choice, short answer and true/false questions. Finally, it provides advice about how to give useful feedback to students on their responses.

Writing exam questions, Center for instructional development and research (website)
This site addresses: aligning test questions with learning outcomes (learning intentions),  constructing a test or exam, creating different types of questions, designing challenging multiple choice questions. It provides tips for marking essay and short answer questions and guidelines for determining the validity of multiple-choice questions.

Quick reference guidefor writing effective test questions, Arizona state university (website)
This web page provides a simple, quick reference guide to a  set of guidelines for writing essay, multiple choice and true/false questions and advice about setting effective questions to promote learning.



Acknowledgement of sources: 
Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

Assessment and New Basics Branch-The State of Queensland (Department of Education)​


page updated 16/01/2015