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Art History: A Preliminary Handbook

by Dr. Robert J. Belton

Evaluation in Tests and Exams

This varies from instructor to instructor, so they will prepare you for it orally in class and on your initial course outlines. Most instructors will want to develop your ability to handle all three of the general categories, but they will probably put different levels of emphasis on them. Being a good student means being able to ask yourself why they would do this and what it means in terms of the intellectual talents you are supposed to be developing. In this regard, it might be useful to familiarize yourself with the basic goals of any education. From the least to the most difficult, according to a set of categories called "Bloom's Taxonomy," they are:

Knowledge: Retaining and recalling raw information, as in knowing names and dates.

Comprehension: Digesting and understanding information, as in paraphrasing or simple explaining.

Application: Using information, as in extrapolating a principle from a number of observed, known instances so that preliminary conclusions can be made about an unknown instance.

Analysis: Differentiating or testing hypotheses.

Synthesis: Reassembling or reordering information.

Evaluation: Appraising or critiquing something to ascertain its relevance, sufficiency, and validity (see Three Important Acronyms).

You might care to consider what your tests are asking you to do in the abstract, so to speak. For example, a slide test that only asks for artist, title, and date is clearly testing only your knowledge. A test which asks you to speculate about a work you have never seen before is clearly about application. An examination which asks you to assess a short paragraph from a critic's theory of art clearly asks you for evaluation. The same principles can be usefully applied when taking lecture notes. Ask yourself, why is the instructor telling us this? (There is more useful advice on Bloom's Taxonomy at

© Copyright 1996 Robert J. Belton

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:10:08 PM