A novel approach to mathematics examination design and marking

David Easdown, Ruth Corran and Brad Roberts


We introduce, motivate and describe a new approach to the design and marking of mathematics examinations. The method is suitable for successfully mapping student performance to a range of grade thresholds in the context of holistic or criterion-­based assessment. It uses just one examination to assess and distinguish the performance and achievement of students coming from a bimodal or multimodal distribution with regard to backgrounds, preparedness and aspirations. The method combines and reflects the two phases in the SOLO taxonomy that distinguish deep from superficial learning. This also highlights different learning behaviours and outcomes as students move through and beyond liminal space, in the theory of threshold concepts. The design has been implemented in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sydney, particularly with regard to assessment of mathematics units of study taken by large numbers of first year students.

Keywords: assessment in mathematics, examination design, examination marking, SOLO taxonomy, threshold concepts, liminality.

AMS Subject Classification: Primary 97D60; secondary 97C70.

This paper is available as a pdf (972kB) file.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017