What’s the Difference Between a Quiz, Test, and Exam?
You’re in school, it’s close to Christmas, and on the same day, one instructor tell you there’s a quiz coming, a second says there’s a test next week, while a third tells you to prepare for the upcoming exam. ARRRGH! A quiz, a test, and an exam, all coming soon. But what’s the difference? Are they all the same thing, are they different, and which is more important to your grade point average?
First, yes, they’re the same, and yes, they’re different. Confused? Let’s explore the subject a bit then. Your thesaurus is likely to say that all three of these words are interchangeable. And in fact, sometimes they are used interchangeably. “Test” and “exam” especially are often used in the same context. However, especially in high school and college, there are subtle differences.
QUIZZES. A quiz is usually a short test, and it usually does not have as much impact on your grade as a test has. In fact, some instructors don’t use the quiz grade at all in determining your course grade. Usually, those who use quizzes have several throughout a unit. The instructor uses them just to check up on how well you’re understanding the material. While a test might have 40 or 50 questions on it, a quiz might instead have just 8 or 10. Although they vary according to the instructor, quizzes are often heavy in multiple choice, true-false, and sometimes fill-in-the-blank questions. They don’t often have interpretive questions such as essay questions.
TESTS. These are the standard evaluation technique used to determine your grade in both high school and college classes. Unlike with quizzes, the test score is almost certain to be used in determining your grade in the class. In fact, some instructors use test grades exclusively to decide your grade. Whereas a quiz usually gauges your understanding of short sections of a unit, a test normally covers a longer chunk of the course: a whole unit or several chapters. For this reason, tests are commonly longer than quizzes. Again, the makeup of the test will vary according to the instructor, but it’s common for the test to consist of several different types of questions: multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank questions, matching, listing, and / or essay questions.
EXAMS. Many instructors use “test” and “exam” interchangeably, but for students, an exam refers to either a mid-term or final exam. It’s the granddaddy of tests in both high school and college. You can expect that an exam will be long (long enough that most college instructors allow hours rather than minutes for it to be taken). It has to be long: Most exams will cover all of the material that the course has covered so far. Although some instructors don’t use exams at all, those who do frequently make it a large part of your final grade for the term. For instance, some instructors consider the exam grade as one third of your total score for the class.
PRIORITIES: Obviously, of the three, the exam is usually more important than any single exam or quiz. However, if you do well enough on all of the tests, that detracts some from the importance of the midterm or final exam. Generally, there’s no reason to stress too much about quizzes. A brief hour or two of studying should be enough for them. However, for tests and exams, the best strategy is to keep up with the work and study a bit in your notes and textbook each evening.
Don’t Nickel and Dime yourself to death! Don’t ignore quizzes! While most quizzes may only account for 10 or 15% of your mark, they do add up and if you aren’t careful, at the end of the term a series of low marks on quizzes will push your average mark down so low that you will have to get a perfect score on the final just to pass.