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Open Access Open Badges Research

Use of key feature questions in summative assessment of veterinary medicine students

Elisabeth Schaper1*, Andrea Tipold2 and Jan P Ehlers1

Author Affiliations

1 E-Learning Department, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Buenteweg 2, Hannover D-30559, Germany

2 Clinic for Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Buenteweg 9, Hannover 30559, Germany

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Irish Veterinary Journal 2013, 66:3  doi:10.1186/2046-0481-66-3

Published: 7 March 2013



To prove the hypothesis that procedural knowledge might be tested using Key Feature (KF) questions in written exams, the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation (TiHo) pioneered this format in summative assessment of veterinary medicine students. Exams in veterinary medicine are either tested orally, practically, in written form or digitally in written form. The only question formats which were previously used in the written e-exams were Type A Single-choice Questions, Image Analysis and Short Answer Questions. E-exams are held at the TiHo using the electronic exam system Q [kju:] by CODIPLAN GmbH.


In order to examine less factual knowledge and more procedural knowledge and thus the decision-making skills of the students, a new question format was integrated into the exam regulations by the TiHo and some examiner used this for the first time in the computer based assessment. Following a successful pilot phase in formative e-exams for students, KF questions were also introduced in summative exams. A number of multiple choice questions were replaced by KF questions in four computer based assessment in veterinary medicine. The subjects were internal medicine, surgery, reproductive medicine and dairy science.


The integration and linking of KF questions into the computer based assessment system Q [kju:] went without any complications. The new question format was well received both by the students and the teaching staff who formulated the questions.


The hypothesis could be proven that Key Feature questions represent a practicable addition to the existing e-exam question formats for testing procedural knowledge. The number of KF questions will be therefore further increased in examinations in veterinary medicine at the TiHo.

Key feature questions; Written examination; Reliability; Electronic exam