Making and Grading Exams

Overview

This page discusses our software package grtex for the making of computer-graded exams. Our standard software can deal with 4- or 5-choice multiple-choice questions or with questions requiring a numerical answer in a form like -1.60E-19.
What is the charge of an electron, in Coulombs?
[Alternatively, the software can deal with the 5-choice form as if each question had 31 choices, by binary coding of the five dots, but this has been used only by one person, and is not documented here.]

There have been changes in 2016-17 and there are now three modes in which grtex exams are prepared, printed and graded. The exams themselves haven't changed --- they are prepared using specific latex commands which define questions with up to five answers, and a program which extracts selected questions from a database and makes several versions of an exam with scrambled question order, scrambled answer order, or both. There is also software (grad) for grading the exams and preparing reports of the scores. Before 2016, most grtex exams were prepared in multiple (usually 4) versions and then many copies reproduced. Each had a rectangular place for a paste-on label with the student's name, picture, ID, exam code and other information. As of fall of 2016, stick-on labels have been abandoned, and the exams are now individually printed with the student label in place. In addition, it is now possible to print the answer sheet on the exam cover as well, doing away with the mark-sense-forms and mark-sense-form reader.

Each of these advances has two versions, so the current documentation may seem somewhat disjointed. These are described, along with the old procedure, in Producing and Administering the Exam (for instructors only) which also makes suggestions for room layouts, distributing the exams, preparing proctors, etc. The answer sheets, whether on a mark-sense-form or on the cover page, are then scanned, and the result graded and the results recorded and possibly made available to the students. The grading software supports having multiple versions of the exam, with scrambling the orders of the answers, the questions, or both. Exams could be made in any fashion, but the grading software requires an elaborate specification of how the different versions are related, as well as what the right answers are. This is done automatically if the exam is prepared in grtex.

More details than what is described below about aspects of handling an exam are described in these web pages:

All of the grading software is on the Department's compute servers in /physics/local/bin, and is also available for linux machines. You need to make sure this is in your PATH.

This is the currently used grading system, which is an outgrowth of a long development process. Some of the older stuff may be useful to access in Old Grading System.

Grtex:

Grtex actually consists of two parts. The first is a package of latex macros which formalizes the writing of exam questions. These macros permit making many forms of problems, including figures. The problems can be either multiple-choice (with four or five answers), or numerical with three significant figures, exponents, and signs. A full description of how to write questions for such exams, and how to put them together into an exam, is given in the example/documentation examexample. You should also look at the latex source code for that file, examexample.tex, as it shows explicitly how things are done.

examexample is the main documentation for grtex, but there are others. There is also information about converting figures to postscript (which is needed for grtex). See Grtex: a system for making up computer-graded exams in multiple versions

The second part of grtex is a program, also alled grtex, which reads the exam file you prepared according to the specifications above, and another file, called the want file, which specifies the parameters of the exam. The want file tells which questions to include, how many versions to make, what kind of scrambling is wanted, and other parameters. These are spelled out in The Want File. Once you have a want file and a source for the questions, follow the instructions in Running Grtex.

grtex exams are generally extracted from a large file containing header material, a large number of numbered questions, and possible trailing material. The header material itself is usually divided into technical setup material which is generally left unchanged, and cover page material, which is input from a separate file. This is described more fully in Grtex: a system for making up computer-graded exams in multiple versions. The new procedures for labelling the exams require specific commands in the cover file, which are described therein.

Producing the Exam Files:
If you have produced an exam from scratch in grtex format, say myexam.tex, you should first latex the exam to check out that there are no inconsistencies. If you are using a database of questions and have debugged any addition, you are already ready for the next step. In either case, you will need a want file to specify the parameters and the questions for the exam. Then you should run grtex, which will produce a key file and a .tex output file with a name you give it, say myexamVers.tex (not the same as the input file). If all goes well, run latex myexamVers and check it out with xdvi myexamVers). Again, if all works out, dvips myexamVers -o will produce one PostScript file containing all versions. Now you are ready to start producing the physical exams.

Producing the Physical Exams:

The old method of printing the students' exams started by printing the myexamVers.ps file output, physically dividing the multiple versions, and making multiple copies of each, as described in Preparing the actual exams. But for a large class this required pasting labels on the exams, and the Department decided this was not appropriate to ask secretaries to do. So a new method was devised which produces individual files to be printed for each student. Here is the new procedure for doing this.

There is lots of advice in Producing and Administering the Exam.

Reading the Answer Forms

After you give the exam, you will have answer sheets, either as mark sense forms or the cover sheet with answers filled in, and you need to scan those into a file myexam.ok suitable for input to the grading program grad.

Old method

If you are using the old method using mark-sense-forms, you need to use gread to input them. You (or your administrative assistant or TA) should have information about the students, including their Rutgers ID number and their exam codes when you do this, following the instructions in Using GREAD. This will give you a file called something like myfile.ms, which you need for the next step.

Students often make mistakes in entering their names, ID's, or exam codes, which are essential for the grading. Also section numbers can be used. The program grfix will help you fix these before you grade the exam, which will make life much easier. You will need the information mentioned for GREAD (the student's names, IDs, exam codes, and possibly section numbers). For details see Using Grfix. This will combine the key file from grtex and the mark-sense form file myexam.ms into myexam.ok, which will serve as the input for grading.

New method

Alternatively, there is now a procedure for producing exams with the answer form on the cover sheet, which does away with the mark sense forms and the mark sense form reader. The procedure for scanning these exams is here.

Either way, you should wind up with the file myexam.ok, which will serve as the input for grading.

Grading the Exams (GRAD):

The myexam.ok from either of these procedures is the input for the grading program grad. Grad will produce a lis file myexam.lis together with other files you specify. You should specify that you want a score file myexam.sco and a sheet file myexam.she. Other options are explained in Using GRAD.

After you Goofed - repairing problems

You were totally irresponsible and gave a question with no right answers, or two right answers, or ... What to do now? See Fixing Mistakes in the Exam.

Entering the Grades

Most of our instructors use the gradebook program written by Baki Brahmia. Your exam grades can be entered into the gradebook if you made the myexam.sco file when running grad. You can also show the students how they did if you made a myexam.she file. See the instructions for the gradebook.

Alternatively, if you wish to upload your grades into Sakai, you need to convert the myexam.sco file into a .scv file, which you can do with sco2csv, written by Jerry Sellwood.

Finishing up --- you are not quite done!

In order to accumulate questions that can be useful to others in the Department, you need to send your exam information to the maintainer of the Department database. That means Joel Shapiro, at least at present. Please send him
Criticisms or additions to this page should be sent to
Joel Shapiro
(shapirophysics) Last modified: Wed May 17 10:47:20 2017