How-To Implement Two Stage Exams

By Juno Kim

Two-stage exams differ from traditional exams in that students are able to, upon completion of the exam individually, complete the exam in groups with their peers. As a result, students receive immediate feedback in a collaborative environment with the goal of collectively receiving the highest mark. Research has also shown better long-term retention of content.  

Faculty will have to make the decision of how this will look for their individual classes. Some questions include:

  • What would you like to achieve with two stage exams? How will this help your students learn? 
  • How are you going to group students?  Some options include assigned groups, self-selected groups, or randomized groups. 
  • What tools will you use to facilitate the groups exam (Zoom breakout rooms, etc.)?
  • How much time will be allotted for the exam?  Things to consider are the individual portion of the exam, the organization of groups, and for the group portion of the exam?
  • What questions will be on the individual exams? Will they be the same for the team component? If not, what will go on the team component?
  • How much of the final grade will each portion be worth?
  • Will students be allowed to opt out of the group portion, or to do the group portion individually?
    • Contingency plan for students who can’t write the exam (ill, miss the bus, no wifi, etc)?
    • How about students with accessibility issues?

To accommodate two-stage exams while courses are online, we recommend that you use the breakout rooms feature in Zoom. If students select their own groups, this will require you or the TAs to assign students to breakout rooms if the Self-Select Breakout Rooms option is not enabled.

The Learning Centre will provide any support needed with the pedagogy or the implementation of two-stage exams.

More Information

For information on the successful implementation of a two-stage exam online, please watch Jaclyn J. Stewart (Chem, CTLT) and Jay Wickenden’s (Chem) presentation during UBC SKYLIGHT’s Online Teaching Series for September 2020:

A summary of their presentation can also be found here:

For more details on two-stage exams, and tips on how to plan in face-to-face classes, please refer to the following document by the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at UBC:

Canvas instructions

To allow for the use of two-stage exams on Canvas, there are several steps to follow, as outlined below:

Step 1:

Create a duplicate copy of your assessment.

Step 2:

Rename the newly created copy of the exam, and change other details as needed (points, selecting specific questions to be done in groups, unrandomize question order, etc).

Step 3:

Note that each final will still have to be marked individually for each student, as quizzes cannot be assigned to groups, as one may do for assignments.