Numerical question

Numerical questions in digital assessment: what are they and how to use them?

A numerical question is a closed question type in (digital) assessment that you can use to test specific, numerical knowledge. What are the unique characteristics of this question type and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

What is a numerical question?

A numerical question is one that requires the candidate to give a specific number as the answer. In this closed question type, the candidate gives an answer in the form of a number. Some examples of application include: calculating mortgage interest, sales tax or net income.

Good digital assessment software offers an integrated calculator as an option within the assessment. That way, candidates do not have to bring their own calculator to the exam, which reduces the chances of exam fraud.

Example and score distribution of a numerical question

An example of a numerical question is as follows:

Q: What was Joe Biden’s age when he became president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2021?

Correct answer: 78 years

Point allocation – right-fail principle or tolerance?

It is important to think about the allocation of points in this form of assessment. You can choose a right-or-fail principle. In this process, the candidate only gets the points when answering the question correctly. Optionally, a tolerance can also be set. Several options can be used in this regard (e.g., +/-1 or +/- 5 years).

Advantages of a numerical question

A numerical question is very appropriate in some cases. We outline below some of the advantages of this assessment question.

  • Accurate measurement: A numerical question allows the exam candidate to give an exact answer. This allows you, as a testing organization, to recognize and value knowledge and skills very accurately.
  • Versatility: Numerical questions can be used to measure different types of knowledge. Consider not-too-complicated calculations, formulas and geometric principles.
  • Easy to assess: Answers to numerical questions are easy to assess and feedback for good assessment software. This saves a lot of time and effort.

Disadvantages of a numeric question

  • Not always relevant: Numerical questions are not always relevant to the subject matter being tested.
  • Time-intensive for the candidate: On somewhat difficult questions, numerical questions often involve multiple steps to arrive at an answer. This costs the candidate time during test-taking.
  • Only the final result counts: the disadvantage of this question type is that it is not so suitable for very complicated calculations. In that case, you also want to be able to understand and assess the calculation, rather than “just” the end result.

Tips for drafting

There are some tips you can keep in mind if you want to use numerical questions within your (digital) assessment.

  • Determine precision: It is important to clearly define and state how many decimal places are expected in the answer. This prevents exam candidates from entering too many or too few marks.
  • Allow for rounding: If the question calls for rounding, it is important to establish clear and consistent rules for this.
  • Use realistic figures: Make sure the figures used in the question are realistic and fit the situation being described.
  • Avoid confusing questions: Make sure the question is clear and understandable so that exam candidates are not confused.

Conclusion – Numerical question in digital assessment

The numerical question is an important question type within today’s (digital) assessment landscape. Convenient tools such as built-in calculators allow candidates to concentrate fully on the assessment. Developing a numerical question does require the necessary assessment expert knowledge. Would you like more information on this? Optimum Assessment is your partner in digital assessment.

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