Click below to hear about practical implementation for part 5:


YOU DID IT!! It is the last episode of our Curriculum Design mini-series, and we are wrapping it up with a little extra support with what I think is the most challenging assessment to write, the end-of-unit tests. Now, let’s be clear, no assessment is easy to write, and writing tests is NOT for the faint of heart. Of course, I want to give you as many helpful tips as I can, so in today’s episode, I am giving you a glimpse into how I write my end-of-unit tests. 

As I mentioned, writing tests is challenging, and I don’t want you diving into this thinking it will be easy peasy because, quite honestly, it won’t be. However, I hope that hearing how I create my end-of-unit tests makes it a bit more manageable. In this episode, I am sharing what I recommend you use as a starting point, how I typically break down the types of questions on tests, how I like to divide up my end-of-unit tests, and why it is CRUCIAL you review your tests for bias. 

I hope you found this mini-series to be incredibly helpful and packed full of useful information! I am so grateful that you are spending your summer with me and preparing for the school year! Next up, we are jumping into classroom management so if you know a teacher friend who you think would love this topic, be sure to spread the love and share the Summer Podcast PD with them!

Topics Discussed:

  • What I HIGHLY recommend you use as a starting point for your end-of-unit assessments
  • A breakdown of what types of questions I have on end-of-unit tests for different classes
  • How I like to divide up my end-of-unit tests
  • Why it is so important to review your tests for bias and how you can do that

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

You are listening to episode number 88 of the secondary science simplified podcast. It is our last episode. In our giant not so many series of curriculum design that we’ve covered the month of July, we’ve had nine episodes on curriculum design. I hope all these extra episodes over the course of this month have been helpful for you and you aren’t too sick of hearing my voice. I know Monday is the last Monday in July. But we’re gonna go ahead and transition into classroom management because I know a lot of you are so ready for that. So stay tuned. But for today, I’m going to try to keep it short and sweet. But you know how I can get excited and I just can’t stop. But I’m going to do my best to keep it short and sweet. And just share how I go about writing my end of unit tests. Because it’s honestly it’s probably the most challenging assessment you can write is a test. And so if you need help writing tests, this episode is for you. Let’s dive in. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time spent in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

A little preface before we get into it today, writing tests is not for the faint of heart. Y’all I took several courses on equitable test writing in my master’s program. And so I don’t want you to dive in expecting this to be like an easy peasy thing. This is not like writing a practice handout that can literally be anything. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of thought and intention to write a test question that is fair. And that really, really assesses what students know and has no bias in it. So my first recommendation for you in terms of writing a test is, I highly recommend taking an existing test that you have access to and starting with that. I mentioned this at the end of episode 87. Please, please, please don’t start from scratch. Even if you’re just using a textbook like end of chapter tests that came with like the textbooks in your classroom, anything is better than nothing, there’s no reason you need to be writing a test from scratch. Unless you’re trying to sell curriculum online like I do. Like I have to write mine from scratch because I’m selling it you do not. So start with something, it will make it so much easier for you. Now, a little bit of a general stats in terms of how I approach writing my tests and kind of the patterns I follow. So for older students like my 10th 11th 12th grade students, I tend to format my tests with the test and then a separate answer sheet that they will write on. I do this because it kind of follows the pattern more of what they will experience on a standardized test. I do this also because then I can keep the tests. And we use them in multiple class periods and only copy the answer sheets. And also with grading it’s a little bit easier to use, you’re only taking answer sheets home. So that’s personally how I like to format for those older students. Also, for my 10th 11th 12th graders, I format my tests about 40% Multiple choice 60% open response, and for a 50 minute class period. That’s about 20 multiple choice questions. So they’d be two points each. And then about 15 open response questions. And I say about very loosely, or I guess meant not loosely, very strongly, this is an about because open our spots, like I mean, you can’t have 15 essay questions at all. If you have, if 10 of them are matching, then you could probably have another 10 that are not matching. Okay, so the overall response hold that loosely, but that’s about what I’m shooting for when I’m writing a test for a 10th 11th or 12th grader. Now, for my eighth or ninth graders that I’ve taught before, I tend to lean towards doing all of it in one. So like they can write their answers on the sheet. This isn’t my favorite, but this is how my physical science curriculum tests are structured. I taught physical science originally to ninth and 10th grade, high school students and then at a different school I taught it to eighth grade students. So that’s kind of where the structure for the physical science came from. It is different from my others. biology, anatomy and chemistry all have this separate answer sheet from the test. The physical science, I let them go ahead and write on it. This eighth and ninth graders. Also I do 60% Multiple Choice and 40% open response for the students. And so again, you can tweak this though like you do what’s best for you, but I found for that age level and a 50 minute class. That’s about 30 multiple choice and then only like five to 10 Oh In response, and again, hold that loosely because you have a bunch of matching, you can obviously have more open response than not. Now, lower level classes. So on grade level college prep, CPE, that kind of thing, I do have a lot of matching and fill in the blank in my open response. I especially love doing like charts or tables, like a Venn diagram, they have to fill in three similarities, three differences, that kind of thing. Whereas for my upper level courses, those are going to my open response questions are going to be much more open ended. Now another tip to practically is for quantitative problems, I like to make them worth lots of points. Okay, a quantitative problem is typically for me going to be four to five points. I have some physical science problems, though, in the physics section in particular, that are like six or seven points, because there’s a lot of steps that they have to walk through in order to get to that final answer. And I do this intentionally, because I really train my students and my quantitative science classes to show their work because they can get so much partial credit for working through and showing me their thought process. I have had students get six out of 7.4 out of five points for a question where they got the final answer wrong. But they did everything else, right. Because oftentimes, especially with those little lower level students, y’all, they do the whole thing, right, but they just put in their calculator wrong at the end. Okay, so I’m not going to take off seven points, because you punched in the calculator wrong. So I really encourage you doing that as well. Another thing to consider in terms of how to structure your test is dividing your tests up by concepts. So this is something I do fully in biology, partially in anatomy, and not at all in chemistry and physical science. And I’ll explain why. So I started doing this with biology, because this was something that the team of teachers I was on did, and I loved it so much. So essentially, what you do is we’ve already talked about in this series, part two is when you’re taking your unit, you’re dividing it into concepts, and then each concept has practical objectives and key vocabulary. So when I say you’re dividing the test up by concepts, a test should only cover like three, maybe four concepts in a unit. So what I would do in my biology is a concept one, and then it would be the multiple choice questions that were specific to concept one, and then it would be the open response specific to concept one, and then it would literally be labeled concept two, and it would have the next multiple choice number response, concept three, next multiple choice and open response. And then in biology, I always had a cumulative section at the end with things from previous tests. And that was a really important feature for me in preparing my students for the EOC at the end of my biology course, and I found that really helpful for them. But the reason why I absolutely love doing it this way, is you get such good data, it is so clear for you to see which concepts as a whole students are struggling with. Or you can sit down with the student who got a 60 and relate that’s really discouraged and be like, Look, you crushed concepts one and three, you knew everything from that. You just didn’t know anything from concept to oh, look, you are absent for four days, when we cover concept too, you can just do so much more problem solving and reflecting with students after the fact, if you have it strategically divided up by concept. I also did it by concept for my own learning to to know what are the concepts we need to hit harder at the end of the year. For our end, of course review. Also, the concepts that this class as a whole did the worst on typically became the cumulative section questions on the next test. It’s just a really informative way to write a test and get data that really makes a lot of sense to you. The other reason I absolutely loved it is I had a year where I just had some a really low level on grade level class. And I gave them two class periods. For every single test, they got 250 minute class periods. So every other class I had was doing the same test in 150 minute period, this one section was getting double time. And about 80% of my students in that class had an accommodation for double time anyway, so it was serving them. But the nice thing about having the test dividing concepts is it was super easy to do that, because that would just give them concept one and two, the first day and then concept three and cumulative the next day. Also speaking of accommodations, the resource teachers I partnered with, for my students with IPS and fiber fours absolutely loved this about my biology tests, they would print them for their students one concept at a time into that that helped decrease overwhelm. It helped with students who have spatial things when they’re looking at tests. Like it just was so much easier for them, and especially to some of these resource teachers. They’re seeing the students in small spurts, it was a lot easier for them to be like let’s review one concept at a time from the test over the next three days. It really worked. So so well. Honestly, it’s my favorite way to write tests. Now. You might be thinking, Rebecca, why don’t you do that for all your curriculum then? Well, here’s the deal. I’ve done polls and I’ve done surveys of y’all and the majority people don’t write test this way. So most of y’all felt like this felt really foreign to you and you’re like No, I just want an all mixed together. And so to serve you I just kind of did it that way because I want again serve the most people I left by ology as is just because it’s so effective. And biology is an end, of course exam in the majority of states. So I was like, I really want to push that you’re doing it this way. But for the others, I tried to make it more what you guys requested at D, which is where they’re all mixed in together. Now for anatomy, I kind of did it partially. So for anatomy, I did the multiple choice together, the 20, multiple choice are all kind of mixed in. But then for the open response, I did do those separately, just again, to kind of help with seeing, you know, what is going on with each of these different concepts? Like, did you struggle with the entire unit on transport? Or did you just struggle with the cardiovascular system, it was a little bit easier to identify with anatomy, physical science and chemistry. There isn’t any division by concept, but I also felt like too, with physical science and chemistry there quantitative sciences, there’s a lot of practice problems. There’s not as much like content and memorization, it’s there’s a lot of skills. And so dividing it up, it didn’t happen as naturally didn’t feel like as much of a necessity. So I left that as is. Oh, another thing I love though, if you do divide your tests by concept is I love it. If you have are in a school, especially that requires retests, in some sort of remediation or like doing test questions for partial credit, it’s great because like, if you don’t have time, to retest kids on an entire test, you can just see which concept they did the poorest on and be like, you get a retest on this concept. And then it’s almost just like they’re doing a quiz. Like you’re just making a little quiz for them on this one concert and they can redo that after school one day. So I really like doing that for retests, too. The other practical note about writing tests, if you are writing them from scratch. Personally, I always write the on grade level assessment first, and then I do the honors. And as I’m writing the on grade level assessment, if I’m thinking of questions that are more challenging, I just jot them down on a separate sheet of paper. Or if I’m like writing a question, and I’m trying to make it the language really, really simple and clear, I might rewrite the question on that separate sheet of paper in more challenging language, or even change out one or two answer choices in the multiple choice to make it more challenging. And I keep track of that on the side. But I personally find it easier to write the on grade level first and then go on to my honors. Now, the last thing I want to encourage you with practically in terms of writing tests, is reviewing your tests for bias. You have to do this you guys, it’s so important. I learned absolutely nothing in my undergraduate program about creating assessments. Not one thing. But luckily like right after I graduated at night, my first two years teaching I did got my master’s of education in curriculum and instruction. And I had specific classes about assessment writing, and I learned so much about this, you want to make sure your questions are fair. And they’re only testing the information, and not students backgrounds and experiences or not just like their ability to understand the English language. Okay. So the best way I recommend doing this is collaborating with coworkers who have diverse backgrounds to review your questions. When if you’re not comfortable with that your students can help you, okay, I want you to give yourself a lot of grace, and kind of humble yourself and be willing to after you give an assessment, be willing to throw out questions, be willing to talk to your students and be like, what did you feel like was not fair about this question now that we’ve gone over it and make corrections for future years, if you can collaborate with other teachers in your school who teach this subject or in your district, or even ones you meet online, I think that’s even better. I think the more brains you can have on an assessment that you’re writing, the better. And again, if you don’t have connections with any other science teachers, please, please, please at least start out using pre written test questions, whether that’s from a curriculum writer, a textbook company, whatever, because those are people that have had training in writing equitable assessments, and you’re just gonna be starting off on a much better foot for that. Okay. An additional little tip, if you have English language learners in your classes, is really think through the words you’re using, and make sure you’re using the simplest English word for that, like, obviously, if it’s a vocabulary term on the content that’s very specific to the content. Like if it’s acceleration in physical science, they need to know what that means in physical science. That’s one of our vocabulary terms. But they may not know increase, decrease, and we don’t want to throw them off and then get the wrong answer. Just because in the multiple choice questions, the words were increased and decreased when you could have just as easily easily said get bigger, get smaller. Okay, so give it that kind of lens as well. And again, hold your test with open hands and approach them humbly and be willing to be wrong, and to throw out questions as needed. Over time. Tests get easier and easier. They are 100% a work in progress. And you can make them better over and over again, and you won’t have to be necessarily like rewriting tests forever and ever, I promise. Okay, so here’s my action step for you, your very last one in this series. I recommend finding a co worker and swapping the tests that you have for a course with each other and just having each other review them for bias. And you’ll it doesn’t have to be a science person to do it. Honestly, that could be even better because they’re not coming in with any background knowledge whatsoever. But they can just look at it with a clear lens and say, Okay, does this feels like a fairly written question? And then you can do the same for them as well. And if you don’t want to do every question, at the very least do your multiple choice, because that’s where I find the most bias tends to creep in. All right, you guys, you

did it. If you need anything, remember, you can head to the show notes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 88. You can review all these episodes we’ve already covered, you can go back and you can look at the transcripts. If you don’t want to re listen to episodes. There are transcripts for all of these and just kind of go back and review what you’ve heard, and apply it and I hope this series serves you for years and years to come. And if not, if you’re ready for something new, get excited because something new is coming next week as we transition to talking about classroom management. So I’ll see you then. All right, teacher friends, that wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be rooting for you teacher friend.

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