Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Exam Wrappers

All too often, when students receive back a graded exam, they focus on a single feature – the score they earned. While this focus on “the grade” is understandable, it can lead students to miss out on several learning opportunities that such assessment can provide:

  • identifying their own individual areas of strength and weakness to guide further study;
  • reflecting on the adequacy of their preparation time and the appropriateness of their study strategies; and
  • characterizing the nature of their errors to find any recurring patterns that could be addressed.

So, to encourage students to process their graded exams more deeply, several faculty members across the university have devised exam wrappers, short handouts that students complete when an exam is turned back to them. These exam wrappers direct students to review their performance (and the instructor’s feedback) with an eye toward adapting their future learning.

Examples from Mellon College of Science courses:

  • The Physics exam wrapper was completed by students during recitation when the first exam was turned back to students. Papers were collected at the end of class, reviewed by the instructor, and then returned to students just before the next exam, as a reminder of their self-discoveries from a few weeks prior.
  • The Biology exam wrapper was given to students during lecture on the day when the first exam was turned back.

For more information on using exam wrappers in your course or for help in designing an exam wrapper handout, please contact the Eberly Center.