Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Manchester (2010) Proc Physiol Soc 19, PC77

Poster Communications

A comparison of results from ?ǣfill in the gaps?ǥ short answer and True/False exams in Common Foundation Program Nursing Students.

A. Al-Modhefer1, L. E. Montgomery1, E. A. Tansey1, S. M. Roe1

1. Biomedical Sciences Education, Queens University Belfast School of Medicine, Belfast, United Kingdom.


There have been many studies exploring the link between learning and assessment, with some literature suggesting that students use different forms of learning depending on the type of assessment with some assessment methods favouring the acquisition of knowledge over understanding;“surface learning” (Biggs & Tang, 2007). Within the nursing profession the emphasis on Reflective Practice (Price, 2004), makes it imperative for university teachers to train nurses to be active learners. Assessment should therefore be tailored to encourage deep learning. Poorly designed assessments may encourage rote or surface learning whatever the assessment method. Well designed 'problem' questions, on the other hand, allow examiners to distinguish between surface learners and those who have shown understanding through a higher level of application and analysis, and hence avoid rewarding (and by implication encouraging) surface learning. Similarly, appropriately designed True/False (TF) examinations can be effective provided either negative marking is used or there are sufficient questions to reduce the effect of guesswork on the result. Setting TF examinations which demand more than knowledge from students is more difficult than setting factual questions, but can be done (Carneson et al 2003). Giving students a sample of the type of questions they can expect is the best way of encouraging them to adopt appropriate learning methods. The aim of this study was to investigate the performance of students in a 40 question Nursing TF exam and to compare this with results from a 40 question short answer “fill in the gaps” format examination. Results are expressed as means ± S.E.M. and an unpaired t-test was used to test results for statistical significance. Average mark from the TF examination was 70.38 ± 0.936, significantly different from that in the “fill in the gaps exam 46.82 ± 1.14, n=231, p < 0.05. The result indicates that student performance in a “fill in the gaps” paper is significantly lower than in a TF exam. This may highlight the difficulty the first year nursing student has in retaining knowledge or may also highlight the difficulty of setting TF exams that eliminate the affect of chance on the result.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements