Diagnostic tests in a first year mathematics subject

Georgina Carmody, Stephen Godfrey, Leigh Wood

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

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    Is student performance in a basic skills test a good indication of whether the students have the level of mathematical knowledge required for their degree? Mathematics students in the first year of university come from a variety of backgrounds and knowledge levels. The assumed knowledge requirements for each course are a useful guide and students are offered bridging programs to assist them reach the assumed knowledge. The ability of a student to be able to complete a certain course is usually only able to be measured at the final exam stage where around 25% of first year students fail. This paper describes a diagnostic test used for a first year mathematics subject, its purpose, its content and the logistics required to carry out this test. This paper discusses the ways in which students can be re-allocated to classes more suited to their skills, following the initial assessment of their knowledge base. Also considered are the students' perceptions of the test. The relationship between the diagnostic test performances with final examination results is analysed. We discuss the appropriateness of this test and the benefits gained for the students. This paper also assesses whether this test is an effective and a worthwhile operation for gauging a student's mathematical background knowledge in preparation for their degree. A surprise tests given out in the first lecture of a first year mathematics subject can be viewed as a cruel initiation to a degree but it may make the difference between passing and failing!
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAssessment in science teaching and learning
    Subtitle of host publication2006 National UniServe conference : symposium proceedings
    Place of PublicationSydney
    PublisherUniServe Science
    Number of pages7
    ISBN (Print)1864878657
    Publication statusPublished - 2006
    EventAssessment in Science, Teaching and Learning - Sydney
    Duration: 28 Sep 200628 Sep 2006


    ConferenceAssessment in Science, Teaching and Learning


    • mathematics assessment
    • diagnostic testing

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    Carmody, G., Godfrey, S., & Wood, L. (2006). Diagnostic tests in a first year mathematics subject. In Assessment in science teaching and learning: 2006 National UniServe conference : symposium proceedings (pp. 24-30). Sydney: UniServe Science.