Creative Final Exam Ideas

Before we get to the main attraction…If you have not yet submitted your conference proposal for the Association for Business Communication’s annual conference in New Orleans next October, you still have time. Proposals are due April 22. You can find more information at the ABC Web site. It’s always a great conference for networking, socializing, and learning about current research and practices in our field.


‘Tis the season for final exams. If your school requires final exams, you probably get to this point in the semester and wonder about creative options for what can otherwise seem like an exercise in futility.

In December 2011 I posted the final for my Advanced Business Writing class in which students report to me what they believe they learned in the course. As I searched the Internet this semester, I discovered several other creative options for final exams and have included the links below. Though none of these Web sites address business communication specifically, they do inspire some ideas for final exams in business communication that demonstrate student learning, provide for some fresh and fun (at least to me) options for assessment, and—perhaps best of all—remove some of the stress and monotony for both the instructors and students:

Research Symposium or Juried Poster Session

In classes such as my Advanced Business Writing course where students spend much of their time writing a formal report for a real client, this option presents some interesting possibilities. In a research symposium or poster session duried by their peers, students could demonstrate their understanding of the client’s problem; articulate their purpose for writing; talk about the primary and secondary research they uncovered; and reflect on what they learned about audience, purpose, tone, style, etc.

Service Learning or Other Community Connection

Students use what they learned in class to conduct interviews and report findings, present a communication workshop to a community organization, or otherwise share what they have learned with those outside the university/college community.

Student-Generated Exams

Students submit questions of any type for the final, along with the answers. (An aside:  I did this once for a regular exam. I thought the questions were great—thoughtful and challenging. However, I was not prepared for some of the incorrect answers that accompanied the questions, though these did give me some insight to how students were processing information.)


As a final assignment, students submit a final professional employment portfolio that contains assignments from the semester.

Super-Sized Multiple Choice Questions

Instead of having students simply choose an answer, instructors let students explain their answers. According to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning, this option does not penalize good students who choose the wrong answer just because they have a more sophisticated understanding of the course material. According to the University of Minnesota, only a few students will take this option, which means this practice does not require a lot of extra grading.

A Video Presentation, App, or Podcast

If you prefer not to grade a lot of written work, a final exam where students show what they’ve learned via some type of communication technology might make for a more interesting finals week. The idea is that students perform what they have learned rather than write answers to traditional exam questions.

Three-Tiered Exams

This idea comes from Becky Ances’s blog on her experiences teaching English in China. For their final, students choose a set of behaviors that result in a score in the 80s, another in which the resulting score is in the 90s, and a final behavior in which the student gets a 100. Business communication instructors might consider what such behaviors would look like in a bcomm final exam and let students choose accordingly.

Do you have a creative way to administer your final exams? If so, please share it with us.


5 thoughts on “Creative Final Exam Ideas

  1. Pingback: Rethink Finals | SPARK

  2. Pingback: Proposing a Talk session on Online exams | Unconference Spring 2014

  3. This is very interesting, You’re a very professional blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking extra of your wonderful post. Additionally, I have shared your web site in my social networks


  4. What a great idea, Fiona! My students are so focused on the final grade that I don’t think they ever stop to think about the progress they have made to get there. Thank you for sharing.


  5. For one of my questions in the final exam, I present students with their own work to evaluate (without telling them I will do so). Students receive their first assignment of the semester back, without my comments and grade, and they have to evaluate their own writing and indicate how they would rewrite the document. Students see how much they have improved and end the semester encouraged. This takes a little trouble–the exams will have to be individualized–so the task works best for small classes.


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