Making partial scores for equations possible in online exams

This article will show an example of how to make partial scores for equations possible in online exams.

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Course: PCC23303 Introductory thermodynamics B

Period: Period 5 & 6

Short Introduction and background

Introduction and story behind the emergence of this learning activity. What was the need, what issue/problem was the teacher facing and wanted to resolve? 

For this course, due to corona, the exam had to be transformed from a written exam to a digital exam. This is the same as for many other courses. However, for this course, the written exam consisted mainly of equations; exercises and physics problems.

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The students are not only graded based on the correct final outcome but also can score points if they made a small or larger mistake along their way to the final outcome. There is thus one ultimate correct answer, but there are also answers that are partially correct. The calculation of partial scores can be based on common mistakes of students. In an on-paper exam, teachers can easily see what went wrong and ascribe the number of points that should be given for this answer. In a digital exam, however, this is difficult since most digital tools allow for only one correct answer per question.

In order to turn this to a digital environment, the lecturers created a Python code, to be able to estimate the partially right answers. Based on this, a set of 50 MC responses was created. The distractors (red. Incorrect answers) were also chosen based on a second Python script. All 50 answers should then be entered in Ans. As an exam consist of 20 questions, that requires a lot of work.

Relevant tools / apps (software) or hardware used

  • Python
  • ANS (code editor in ANS)

Learning outcome(s)

What has been learned after this lesson/activity has been executed ?

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

- Describe simplifications that make thermodynamics quantitative;

- Identify thermodynamic concepts in real life applications;

- Perform calculations of thermodynamic properties (e.g. heat, work, energy, entropy, molar Gibbs energy) for ideal gases, pure substances, (non-) ideal mixtures and electrochemical systems;

- Understand and work with functions of several variables (regarding total derivatives and partial derivatives).

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The learning outcomes of this course are tested summative, at the end of the course via an exam. As the exam is the only type of assessment in this course, all learning outcomes are mentioned here as part of the learning activity (i.e. exam) that is illustrated in this showcase.

Lesson idea / Learning activity

Specific description and demonstration of the lesson idea/learning activity.

When we had to change the written exam to an online exam, we were limited in terms of time available. After a while, we had some more time to think it through. Also, we realised that ANS offered a lot of possibilities. In all, we decided to figure out ways in which the tool could help us. In this case we were looking for a way to automate the scoring of the outcome of equations, as partial correct answers should also result in obtaining a part of the points per question.

Lessons learned / Tips

Mentions tips lecturer has for colleagues based on their experience.

- You can do lots of other things with the help of the editor of ANS. Please also take a look at this showcase: Easily creating different but similar exam questions with equations in online exams

- You can create partial scoring with the help of the editor in a Fill-in, Order, Statement, Multiple-choice and Open question

- You cannot use the code editor for ANS Written Assignment (print&scan).

- You can make use of python libraries in the ANS editor

- For more information on Digital examination, you can visit this link:  

- For more tips about the editor, you can visit this link:

- Share your findings with your colleagues


Teacher(s): Foteini Balafa
Author (interviewer): Karly van Gorp 


  • Demo of making partial scores for equations possible in online exams: (video below)


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