• Tahani Alsubait

Student thesis: Phd


Assessment is a well understood educational topic with a really long history and a wealth of literature. Given this level of understanding of the topic, educational practitioners are able to differentiate, for example, between valid and invalid assessments. Despite the fact that we can test for the validity of an assessment, knowing how to systematically generate a valid assessment is still challenging and needs to be understood. In this thesis we introduce a similarity-based method to generate a specific type of questions, namely multiple choice questions, and control their difficulty. This form of questions is widely used especially in contexts where automatic grading is a necessity. The generation of MCQs is more challenging than generating open-ended questions due to the fact that their construction includes the generation of a set of answers. These answers need to be all plausible, otherwise the validity of the question can be questionable. Our proposed generation method is applicable to both manual and automatic gener- ation. We show how to implement it by utilising ontologies for which we also develop similarity measures. Those measures are simply functions which compute the similarity, i.e., degree of resemblance, between two concepts based on how they are described in a given ontology. We show that it is possible to control the difficulty of an MCQ by varying the degree of similarity between its answers. The thesis and its contributions can be summarised in a few points. Firstly, we provide literature reviews for the two main pillars of the thesis, namely question generation and similarity measures. Secondly, we propose a method to automatically generate MCQs from ontologies and control their difficulty. Thirdly, we introduce a new family of similarity measures. Fourthly, we provide a protocol to evaluate a set of automatically generated assessment questions. The evaluation takes into account experts' reviews and students' performance. Finally, we introduce an automatic approach which makes it possible to evaluate a large number of assessment questions by simulating a student trying to answer the questions.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorUli Sattler (Supervisor)


  • Ontologies
  • MCQ
  • difficulty
  • similarity
  • Assessment

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