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Easily creating different but similar exam questions with equations in online exams

This article will show an example of how to easily create different but similar exam questions with equations 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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As for any exam, you need to create different exams for the resits and for every time that a course is given. This could mean that you would have to change the exam every time, even though you want to keep the same learning outcomes and the same type of equations. With creating a written on-paper exam, you would have to create new questions, new answer models, etc.  

An online exam with software to build this exam in (ANS), new opportunities for the construction of exams with equations were created.  

The idea to make the creation of different but similar exams more easily with the help of a bit of automation, was the background of this showcase.  

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 automatically create different exercises for different occurrences of the exam. This example can also be used within the exam, to create a variable with a changing value per student, making sure that all students have a slightly different exam. The equations for this exam contained different variables and for these variables we indicated a range of possible values; in this way, all exercises differ from each other. In this video it is showed how this was done. 

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: Making partial scores for equations possible in online exams 

- You can create randomized variables with the help of the editor in a Numeric, Order, 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 how to easily create different but similar exam questions with equations in online exams : (video below)


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