Tips: Vary the context of the question. An example.

How do one design exam questions that can be varied to make plagiarism more difficult, but still test students in an equivalent way? An example.


How do one construct exam questions that can be varied to make plagiarism more difficult, but still test students in an equivalent way?


An example of an exam question that requires the student to demonstrate that their knowledge can be applied into context:

“You work as a political secretary for one of the municipal councilors, Conny, in the city where you live. Conny is new to politics and represents one of the newer political parties. Conny has never really cared about anything other than the party’s heart issue, and really the only issue that unites the party’s members and voters, but has realized that he as a municipal councilor is expected to deal with and have an opinion on many different issues. Before Conny was thrown into the turbulence as a municipal councilor, he worked in a nail factory, and hand on heart, he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Stressed, Conny comes to you as soon as you arrive at the office at 8.15.

Damn, I had forgotten that I was going to a meeting about the city’s public transport after lunch, he says. You have studied a little economics. I do not understand any of this, you have to help me.

Before you are able to answer, he continues.

-The other municipal councilors are talking about us lowering the prices of bus tickets. I really don’t care about it, but it is important that they do not notice that I do not understand what they are talking about. I’m going to lunch at 12.15, you have to write a short report about this, so I can read it at lunch. What are the real arguments for lowering prices? What are the arguments for subsidizing public transport? And should I be for or against a reduction in ticket prices? Then people will take more buses, right? Isn’t it better that they take the car? And is it not bad to have to raise taxes? Who wins and who loses on reduced ticket prices? I want you to twist and turn this and give me arguments for and against. They talked about a lot of things that I did not understand now at the morning coffee, I wrote down some of what they mentioned and it is important that you explain to me what it has to do with public transport.

Conny hands you a sticky napkin scribbled full with words and sentences (demand, price elasticity, predictions from consumption theory, behavioral economics, marginal costs, externalities, deadweight loss). He puts some chewing tobacco under his lip and wipes his hands clean on his jeans before disappearing from your office.

So your task is to write a well-structured and clear report that helps Conny not appear as stupid during the meeting. Help him answer the questions and make sure to discuss the concepts on the sticky napkin.”


The background (that it is about public transport) can be changeed without the task itself (That is described in the last paragraph) is changed. In this way, the exam assignment can be given in several versions, e. g. to different student groups or at reexams and pick-up exams.


Niklas Jakobsson, Economics