The Science (Students) of Course Change #3 – Two-Stage Exams in Organic Chemistry

Published: 23 February 2023

Two-stage exams are a form of assessment that bring student collaborative learning into the testing process. While a typical two-stage exam gathers students to re-do the exam as a group after completing it individually, this project investigates the use of “group first” two-stage exams. In this format, piloted in Organic Chemistry I midterm exams, students complete the group component before the individual component, and each part has related, but discrete questions. After each midterm, students completed a detailed survey containing both opinion-ranking and open-response questions regarding their perceptions of the midterm exam format. Analysis of the data revealed that most students enjoyed the “group first” two-stage exam, reporting reduced exam anxiety, increased content comprehension and improved performance depending on the difficulty and the content of the exam. Overall, although it sometimes caused confusion, the advantages of “group first” two-stage exams outweighed the disadvantages.


About the author:

Chuxuan Nie is an undergraduate student majoring in Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the Faculty of Science. She is interested in how collaboration affects student learning and is eager to see the results reflected in the data.

Chuxuan completed an FSCI 396 – Research Project in Science Teaching and Learning project in Fall 2022 in collaboration with Dr. Laura Pavelka of the Department of Chemistry. To learn more about FSCI 396, check out the FSCI 396 page on the Office of Science Education website or contact the FSCI 396 course coordinator, Tamara Western (tamara.western [at]

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