ExamView has been around for a long time. The oldest manual I could find online was for version 6 it was copyright 1999-2008, which I’m pretty sure means that the first version of ExamView was released before most of our current students were born.
And it is showing it’s age. The interface definitely looks like it’s been around for a while. They’ve updated the software, but haven’t gotten around to keeping up with all of the latest trends in interface design. Consistency is usually good, so maybe it’s a good thing that a tool so many of us use doesn’t go changing every few weeks.
I do think though that the overall look turns new users away from ExamView. And it’s a shame. For it’s faults, ExamView is really well suited for what it does.
The question is, with all of the other tools available, why would I prefer to store my question banks in ExamView. Why not just type questions directly in to Canvas, Moodle or Blackboard?
Got to start with this one. Pretty much everyone has access to an ExamView license. Many textbooks include a license so that you can use their question banks. If you don’t know you have a license, ask around. There’s a good chance your school or district has it available. For us, it takes about 3 clicks to get it installed on our computer.
And since it’s universal, there are ExamView banks out there for almost any subject. In addition to ready made banks from textbook publishers you can find hundreds of banks on websites like Teachers Pay Teachers or available freely on the internet. Purchased curriculum often comes with question banks in ExamView format as well.
Another bonus is that if we ever switch away from Canvas, my banks are still safe in ExamView. If I went directly into Canvas, I wouldn’t have a good way to get the questions back in a digital form.
You Can Still Print
I do all of my multiple choice testing in Canvas, so this one seems a bit odd. But the ability to print has kept me from ever loading questions directly into Canvas.
For this, it’s story time…
My district runs several automated scripts overnight against our Canvas server. One of them automatically adds or removes students from Canvas courses based on their schedule. That way if a counselor adds a student to your class they’ll show up automatically in Canvas. If not the same day, they’ll be there the next day.
The problem is that the first semester we used Canvas they put the date for unenrolling at the end of the semester at midnight on the last day of the semester, seven and a half hours before my first final on that last day. Around 7:15a I realized that my class didn’t have students anymore. A panicked phone call to our Canvas contact got the ball rolling. But I also loaded up ExamView and starting printing out physical copies of the final for all the students.
To their credit, our techs were able to get the students put back in by the time the final exam was scheduled to start. And I ended up with about 1,000 sheets of scratch paper. But knowing that’s an option if something like that happens again, or if it’s something else like a network failure, keeps me storing questions in ExamView.
Easy to Export
Once it’s in ExamView, I do need to get the banks into Canvas. ExamView exports in enough different formats that it’s easy to get them moved over.
Easy to Import
I’m not a fan of the form where you enter questions. I’m the type that prefers not to take my hands off the keyboard to reach for a mouse and would rather use keystrokes for everything.
One of the import formats that ExamView supports is a specific RTF format. And since pretty much every word processor supports RTF, it’s easy to type in questions in something else and then import into ExamView.
I like markdown and a program called Typora. Using markdown I can type and format questions without ever moving my hands off of my keyboard. Typora exports to RTF. ExamView can take that RTF and import it into a question bank. I’ve got a pretty good workflow for doing this, but that’s a post for a future date. This post is already getting longer than I was expecting.
Sure, there are a few things that I wish ExamView would do better. Overall though, nothing here is a deal breaker.
There’s a limit of 250 questions in an ExamView bank. I’ve run up on that limit a few times when I’ve had really big banks. Not common, but it has happened.
On the flip side, it’s not easy to search through large banks looking for something specific.
Categories, Searching & Tagging
It’s possible to tag questions with difficulty, standards or just arbitrary tags. But it’s a little cludgy. You’ve got to bring up a separate dialog and then manually enter into those fields. There doesn’t appear to be a good way to use previous entries.
And then, even when entered it’s just a text field. You can type “arraylist, array, loop” into the keywords field. But that’s not really 3 keywords. It’s a string that you’d then have to create a search to use.
I really like how newer versions of Moodle allow for tagging questions where it’s an autocomplete field. It’d be pretty slick if ExamView added something like that.
Do you know of something better than ExamView? Let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for new tools to play around with.