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Published: May 29, 2011

Essay test

Any subjective examination requiring the production of thoughtful prose to demonstrate command of a particular topic or subject. A difficult type of test both to take and to evaluate, the essay question requires students to demonstrate critical thinking as well as a wide breadth of knowledge and accurate recall of facts and figures. Unlike objective tests, it permits little or no guesswork. For teachers, however, the essay test can present scoring problems because of the subjective nature of answers and the possibility of teacher prejudice toward individual students. Accurate scoring of essay questions requires four basic procedures: Submission of papers without student names (there are various coding devices to accomplish this); the listing, in advance, of specific facts or answers the teacher expects to elicit and the assignment of point values to each; dual grading, with a fixed percentage of the final grade awarded for content and a fixed percentage for spelling, grammar, syntax, penmanship, compositional skills, etc., with grading for content done separately and unaffected by grading for writing skills; and the independent evaluation of each test by two or more readers.