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Writing Exams with Microsoft Word

This is one strategy for formatting exams using Microsoft Word. This works on an IBM or for a Macintosh.

  1. Each question is a single paragraph. Shift returns separate each line and there is only one hard return after each answer. This allows the questions to be numbered automatically, resorted, and renumbered painlessly.
  2. Select the entire document (command+option+m) and change the paragraph format. Choose KEEP LINES TOGETHER. This prevents page breaks from occurring in the middle of a paragraph. So now no question will ever have a page break in the middle of it no matter how much you edit, paste, cut, or sort.
  3. If your exam has more than fifty questions, then you’ll have to run each scantron form twice (front and back). This is one reason to make the exam have only forty-one questions.
  4. Note that the indent triangles are slightly offset. DO NOT DO THIS UNTIL LAST. If your question numbers and your answer letters are all in the same column, then it is easy to format them as bold characters. To do this you click in front of the number one, then hold down the option key and drag the mouse downwards. This allows you to select text in columns instead of in rows. After you reach the end of the document, just choose bold. Next, select the entire document again (command+option+m) and offset the indentation triangles on the ruler. None of this is necessary but it looks nice and it saves having to type lots of tabs.
  5. Finally, note that each correct answer is indicated by a $ at the end of the answer. This dollar sign is formatted as a hidden character so that a version with hidden characters printed can be used during proofreading and a version with hidden characters hidden can be given to the student. To avoid having to use the format character command repeatedly, just make one hidden dollar sign and then copy it each time and paste it in at the end of each correct answer.

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