Writing Higher Cognitive Level Questions

Question: How do I test at higher cognitive levels?

Answer: I get this question a lot and my first response is: Are you sure you need to? The reason I ask is because writing test questions at higher cognitive levels is very difficult and, realistically, many jobs do not require competency beyond the application level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (here’s what you need to know and here’s how you apply it to your job).

If you are convinced that you need to test at higher cognitive levels there are many question types you can use: analytical reasoning questions, data analysis questions, data sufficiency questions, scenario-based questions, logical reasoning questions, premise/consequence questions, and (my personal favorite) assertion/reason questions.

Assertion/reason questions are a form of multiple choice question that usually require higher order thinking. In an assertion/ reason question there is an Assertion, there is a Reason and there are five choices:

A  The Assertion is true and the Reason is true and the Reason is the correct explanation for the Assertion.

B. The Assertion is true and the Reason is true but the Reason is NOT a correct explanation for the Assertion.

C. The Assertion is true but the Reason is false

D. The Assertion is false but the Reason is true

E.  Both the Assertion and the Reason are false.

Here’s an example:

Assertion: Most people have difficulty memorizing long strings of numbers.

Reason: Sensory memory lasts for a very short period of time.

In this case both the Assertion and the Reason are true but the Reason is not an explanation of the Assertion so the correct answer is B. (The actual reason is because Working Memory is limited.)

Assertion/reason questions are an example of a useful way to think about writing higher level questions: Does answering the question require the learner to make inferences or connections on his/her own?

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