I'm writing my midterm and am currently coming up with questions that relate to important course concepts that I want to test. This is being done in a somewhat ad-lib manner, and my questions are out of order in terms of how the concepts were presented in class. Is there a compelling argument to ensure that the order is the same as that in class?

  • 11
    I can't imagine a single reason. Apr 17, 2017 at 12:33
  • 1
    As long as the course concepts are independent, no. Apr 17, 2017 at 12:37
  • 16
    Mixing the order may be more effective in testing whether the students can decide for themselves which concepts to use in answering each question. Is that a bug or a feature? Apr 17, 2017 at 13:34

2 Answers 2


If the questions are not dependent on one another, then in many cases it is better to mix-up the order. Student responses will be less likely do to basic memorization of their notes/material and more likely to reflect higher-level learning.


The only consideration in ordering (beyond randomly) would be where some questions are intended to be harder than others. As students normally answer front-to-back, it may be appropriate to put the harder questions later such that students don't get "put off" by the hard questions early on.

  • 1
    I deliberately order my exam questions so that they do not increase in difficulty--and I tell students that--because I want students to read all the questions before deciding for themselves which they find easier. (But I do try to put the easiest question first.)
    – JeffE
    Jul 29, 2017 at 6:10
  • It depends on the style of exam as well. While choosing questions is customary in my university I feel that it is invalid if the exam is intended as a random sample. In a choose your question exam all questions should be equal in intended difficulty but sub questions can be of different levels. Jul 29, 2017 at 6:14
  • 2
    In a choose your question exam all questions should be equal in intended difficulty — I strongly disagree.
    – JeffE
    Jul 29, 2017 at 18:50

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