2-stage exams and 2-stage reviews

Tuesday 2:30pm-2:50pm Weeks Geo: AB20
Teaching Demonstration Part of Tuesday Teaching Demos

Session Chair

Sarah Bean Sherman, University of British Columbia


I will show the video of the 2-stage exam and the participants will do a 2-stage review. They will work through a few questions on their own, and then work in groups and use the IF AT cards for immediate feedback


Students take an exam individually. Once they complete the exam they turn it in and get into a group with 3 other students. The students then take the identical test but this time they work together on the questions. There is one answer sheet for the group so they all have to come to agreement on each answer. Listening to their peers and arguing for their case helps them to understand the answer better, even if they had gotten the question correct on their individual test.

This also works well for a review when students begin a new class and the instructor wants to review the prerequisite material. Students frequently don't pay close attention when material is being reviewed because they are over confident. Having them solve problems individually first forces them to really think through a problem and see how well they can solve it. Then when the students work together in the group, we give them a scratch card, (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF AT). The students pool their knowledge and get immediate feedback. The students continue scratching off answers until the correct answer is revealed. The correct answers show a star once scratched.


I use the 2-stage exams in all of my courses that have exams. The class size that I personally have implemented 2-stages exams in ranges from 24 to 350 students in a 50- minute class.

2-stage reviews are helpful for any course that has prerequisites. The first day of class, I have the students complete a 2-stage review. Often times the first day of class is a throw away, but this sets the tone. The students hit the ground, if not running, at least walking. And they see that group work will be implemented in the class.

Why It Works

The 2-stage exam is effective because the students have time to think through all of the questions on their own without distractions from a group first. This helps during the group portion, they are more likely to be able to contribute to the group discussion instead of just letting the most vocal person dominate. They immediately get to discuss the questions with which they were struggling with their peers. There is a lot of engagement because everyone wants to do well on the group exam as it counts for 15 - 25% of his or her exam grade (the individual portion counts for 75-85% usually). It is effective because the students work through the answers together with everyone invested in the outcome since there is only one answer sheet/group. This contrasts the standard test, where students have to wait days to weeks for the feedback. Often, by the time exams are returned the students are only interested in the grade, not the content. More time is spent on task, since the students take the test twice. If a student got a question wrong on the individual portion, but correct on the group exam the student sees why he or she got it wrong and still gets some credit for getting it right in the group portion. More challenging questions can be asked because the group shares the cognitive load and are able to solve more sophisticated questions. The process of arguing, defending, and presenting his or her point also helps the student retain the information.

The 2-stage review has similar benefits as the 2-stage exam. Having the students get immediate feedback reduces the amount of time needed to go over the material. There is less "grading" involved and the instructor can quickly see what are the main points that need reviewing. The students can see what their peers remember and may be motivated to review the material after the first day if they didn't recall as much of the material as the other students. Or if the student is a transfer student, he or she can see what material was covered in the prerequisite courses that they are responsible for knowing. It is also beneficial to the instructor to seek out the instructor of the prerequisite courses to see what material is actually being covered. In order to construct a 2-stage review, collect material such as assignments, quizzes, and exams from the prerequisite courses and select the questions that cover the material the students need to remember and build on for the current course.