Pre-Exams Adapt to Student Effort

Pre-Exams, though not popular among students, have increasingly become a requirement in education to show academic progress. The challenge has been to make Pre-Exams effective for educators yet not demoralizing for students.  We feel the new Pre-Exam feature in Acellus has taken a big step in meeting this challenge.

To accomplish our goal, we made the Pre-Exams responsive to student actions, continuing to present material when students are active, and shortening the exam when students indicate they are lost. To achieve this solution, we first had to determine why Pre-Exams were so frustrating to students. We found the answer in the nature of the exam itself. The point of a Pre-Exam is to find out what students know, but more importantly, what they don’t know. This means we must present students with questions on material they have probably never heard before. To a student it can seem unfair, and it certainly can be discouraging.

To compensate, we studied the students taking these exams and determined that they fell into two categories: excelling students, and struggling students. We found that the excelling students had no issue with the Pre-Exam. They approached it as a challenge: “How high can I score?”  However, the struggling students became concerned: “I don’t know any of this stuff.”

In order to give both the excelling and the struggling students the best possible outcome, we determined that the Pre-Exam must adapt. We developed an algorithm to assess the students’ experience based on the criteria that if they become discouraged, they will stop trying. They will stop trying to answer the questions and just click the ‘Skip’ button. With this determination, we could keep the exams thorough for the students who were still making an effort and cut them short for the students who clicked ‘Skip’ five times consecutively.

We have found that this Pre-Exam solution gives all students the best experience – allowing them to have success as long as they are making the effort, and cutting the exam short when they struggle and stop trying.

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