Authoring Questions and Answers for the Economics Syllabus
This page provides guidance to contributors in the Wikiversity School of Economics who are seeking advice on how to author original questions and answers as a contribution to the Syllabus of Economics learning project.
It is important when authoring questions and answers for the Wikiversity School of Economics syllabus that you avoid violating someone else's copyright. It is not always obvious how to put together pertinent questions and answers to match important parts of the economics syllabus, and other authors' published questions and answers in textbooks or study guides are their intellectual property and will often be protected by copyright law. That said, it is fairly straightforward to author original questions and answers if you focus on a clearly defined part of the syllabus (however, please avoid being original by putting the wrong answer down for a question).
Anyone who has prepared an exam for a course knows that the task is not always easy and it can be time-consuming. This is one of the reasons this project has been started. The ability for people to share questions and answers online has the potential to reduce the burden of preparing exams and provides an opportunity to put together a comprehensive test questions for the economics curriculum once and for all.
- 1 Methods for writing an economics exam question and answer:
- 2 If I'm teaching a subject and I put questions and answers online, doesn't that mean I won't be able to use the same questions to test my students?
- 3 What part of the syllabus should I contribute questions and answers to?
- 4 How easy or difficult should I make the question?
- 5 What makes a good economics multiple choice question?
- 6 Examples of economics questions and answers
- 7 Links to resources on writing exam questions
Methods for writing an economics exam question and answer:
- Watch a recorded video lesson or read about a particular topic and write a question and answer on that specific topic.
- Find examples of common types of question and answer and use the structure of these questions as a guide for writing your own.
- Write a question and hope that someone else can provide the answer.
- Write a multiple choice question and answer, and hope that someone else will write the distractors (the distractors are the incorrect answers in a multiple choice question)
If I'm teaching a subject and I put questions and answers online, doesn't that mean I won't be able to use the same questions to test my students?
Not necessarily. One of the aims of this learning project is actually to establish a set of questions and answers that a teacher would feel comfortable using for the purposes of assessment, even though students will have had access to the answers to these same questions before answering them under exam conditions.
- If you think about it, you usually include a question on a test precisely because you do want students to have previously learned the answer to that same question. Asking a student to define an important concept, such as the law of demand, is an example of this kind of question, but so too are types of question where you would like students to be able to answer all questions of that type, even though you might change the exact details of assessment task that serves as the basis of accreditation. Many questions in the mathematics curriculum take this form, e.g. students learn arithmetic but the exact numbers in the question doesn't always matter (except at a primary school level where there is a big difference between adding single digit numbers and numbers with two or more digits!). This is also true for other kinds of question and it is usually more important for assessing the curriculum that a student is able to answer a particular kind of question in a particular way.
- Another reason why teachers are sometimes concerned about the secrecy of exam questions and answers is that they usually only ask a sub-set of the possible questions on assessment items, e.g. they might ask students to give a definition of the law of supply but not of the law of demand. The concern is that if students know which questions will actually be asked on a test then they won't study all the material. The solution to this problem is to ensure that the set of questions and answers that is openly available to students is as comprehensive a test of the syllabus topics and curriculum as possible and that questions about similar content are asked in multiple ways. Also, process questions often assume a knowledge and understanding of part of the factual content of a course, so it is not always necessarily to ask all of the easy questions when asking the difficult questions will suffice.
What part of the syllabus should I contribute questions and answers to?
Start writing a question by thinking about the courses you are currently lecturing, tutoring, or participating in as a student, and the kinds of questions that you find useful are good tests of your knowledge of content and good tests of your ability to solve economics problems.
One way to work out what part of the syllabus to contribute questions and answers to, is to first provide some links to relevant Wikipedia pages or other learning materials, and then formulate questions and answers that test knowledge directly related to that online material. There are links to a page for "Links to Wikipedia entries and learning materials" associated with each topic module in the Introductory Microeconomics syllabus table.
How easy or difficult should I make the question?
Think about what students are expected to know and what they are expected to be able to do to meet course requirements. Some questions will be simple tests of content whereas other questions will be process questions or even extension questions that are more difficult tests of aspects of the syllabus.
What makes a good economics multiple choice question?
Buckles and Siegfried (2006) published a paper that offers some advice on writing multiple choice questions for introductory economics courses:
"Abstract: Multiple‐choice questions are the basis of a significant portion of assessment in introductory economics courses. However, these questions, as found in course assessments, test banks, and textbooks, often fail to evaluate students' abilities to use and apply economic analysis. The authors conclude that multiple‐choice questions can be used to measure some but not all elements of in-depth understanding of economics. The authors interpret in-depth understanding as ability to reason through logical steps when those steps and the relevant economic concepts are not explicitly stated. They present examples of multiple-choice questions that do and do not measure in-depth understanding."
Buckles, S., and Siegfried, J., (2006). Using multiplechoice questions to evaluate in depth learning of economics. Journal of Economic Education, 37, 4857.
Examples of economics questions and answers
Which description BEST describes economics?
A. Economics is the study of decision-making.
B. Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources.
C. Economics is the study of the economy.
D. Economics is the study of production and consumption.
This site contains some further examples: Sample questions
Anyone is welcome to add some examples of good questions for different question formats here. It would be good if someone could add an example of a good question and answer in the short-answer format, including an explanation for the answer that shows working.
Links to resources on writing exam questions
There are many resources available online on how to write exam questions in many of the popular formats, including the old favourites of mulitple choice, short answer, and true/false questions. Here are some links you might find useful: