Bloom’s Taxonomy

in College Exams


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

What is the instructor looking for on an exam (besides the right answer)? One way of organizing and developing our thinking skills so that we can devise better answers to exam questions is to be familiar with and use Blo om’s Taxonomy. Sound scary? Well, it isn’t.

Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues suggested that our thinking abilities can be organized into a step-by-step method of problem solving. These steps, like rungs on a ladder, will range from lower to higher levels of thinking.

Instructors will begin asking questions at the lowest (easiest) level and work to the highest (hardest) level on material that they have taught. The value placed on these questions will be based on how easy or hard the question is. These steps

or levels of difficulty tell the instructor how well the class understands the material.




Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams



One way to earn better grades on tests, quizzes, and in class participation is to understand the l evels

of questions that the instructor is asking:




At the bottom of the ladder is the knowledge level, reflected in the skill of memorizing. Retaining information is an important part of nearly every college course. Unfortunately, we can memorize information incorrectly.

We can memorize information without it’s making any sense to us. We don’t necessarily learn what we memorize. Sometimes we can’t use a memorized term because we don’t remember what it means or the context in which to use it.

Cramming for an exam is an example of just memorizing information. Your instructor will know


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

that meaningful learning depends on much more than memorized facts—you will be tested on how to use the information, not just what the information is.

When instructors ask questions at the knowledge level, they want the student to recall or recognize facts, terminology, problem-solving strategies, or rules.

Verbs used to write test questions at the knowledge level include the following:

define                                  match                                   select                                     describe                             name

state                                        identify                              outline                                 what                                      label










The next level is comprehension. It emphasizes understanding the material that you are trying to learn. This is the rung on the ladder where you say, “Oh, I get it!” or “I need that explained better.” Once you’ve found the material that you need to read, your challenge is to read, interpret, and paraphrase what the author says, so that you can use the information in


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

your work. We want to understand what the author is thinking and be able to discuss the material, as well as show our understanding of it.

Instructors make questions requiring some degree of understanding at this level. Test questions at this level will require a student to translate

(change the way the information is

communicated), interpret (see relationships and connections) and


(draw conclusions from the information).

Examples of verbs at this level are:

compare                             contrast                               convert                               defend                                  derive

(main idea)

describe                             differentiate                    discriminate                    distinguish                     estimate

explain                                 extend                                   illustrate                              infer                                       interpret

paraphrase                       predict                                  reorder                                 summarize



Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams



The third level is application, or applying what you have learned in your coursework to different situations. Here you will be more involved in learning as you link your new knowledge to your life (or your previous knowledge). You might be able to identify an experience from your own life with that of a main character in a short story assigned in your English class. Your ability to see a parallel between the character and yourself is an example of application. Learning a new form of note-taking, and then beginning to use it in your classes is another example of application.

An instructor hopes to have a student use previously learned information in order to solve a problem. Verbs that an instructor might use are the following:

apply                                    change                                choose                                classify                                compute

demonstrate                   employ                                 modify                                  operate                                 organize

prepare                                relate                                       select                                     solve (only 1 is correct)

transfer                                use                                          develop




Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams


The fourth step on the ladder, analysis, requires you to take an example or problem and break it apart in meaningful ways. Analysis is a basic requirement for critical thinking in any subject.

By breaking apart a case, you narrow it down to symptoms that can be linked to important concepts that you learned in a course. An example might be in history class in which you look at assumptions and inferences in a famous speech. Instructors want their students to identify logical errors to differentiate among facts, opinions, assumptions, hypotheses, or conclusions. Questions at this level often require the student to draw relationships among ideas.

Verbs that instructors use at this level are:

analyze                               break down                     conclude                           deduce                                detect

diagram                              determine                          differentiate                    distinguish                     identify

cause or

infer                                       illustrate                             outline                                 point out                                        reason

relate                                      separate out                   subdivide                         tell why



Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams



The fifth level, synthesis, involves the combination of different ideas or different information in order to create a new concept. Synthesizing requires you to survey your existing knowledge base (which is wider because of your experiences in class) and to now create new combinations of these ideas. You will make creative solutions.

Instructors aren’t always looking for “the answer” at the synthesis level, because there can be more than one correct answer. The key word here is often “original.” Verbs instructors writing synthesis questions might use are:

categorize                         compile                                construct                          design                                  devise

formulate                           plan                                         produce                             solve


combine                             compose                            create                                    develop                               draw

originate                            predict                                  propose                             summarize                         write





Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

The sixth step is evaluation, which involves deciding how important or how good your evidence or facts are. In many cases of evaluation, the instructor won’t give you information to make a decision. So part of critical thinking is to make you own standards for making a decision. In evaluation, you must reach a conclusion using appropriate material for judgment based on your own interpretation of evidence. An example might be to evaluate whether a painting is aesthetically pleasing. Another example might be to decide whether a social policy intended to provide adequate aid and assistance to poor people is accomplishing its mission.

Instructors want their students to form judgments about the value and worth of methods, ideas, people, or products that have a specific purpose. They are looking for the student to state the basis for their judgments. The verbs that instructors use for evaluation or judgment are:

appraise                             defend                                  argue                                     interpret                              compare

judge                                    conclude                           justify                                   contrast                               support

criticize                                validate

Each step of the ladder is more challenging than the previous steps. Each step takes the student toward the more difficult types of questions. Being able to anticipate what an instructor is looking for in an answer to his or her question is an important step toward providing a satisfactory answer.


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

Bloomsburg University Student Support Services 1998


Following are four sample textbook passages followed by questions on each passage. The questions are written at various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy as described above.



The heart is a cone-shaped, muscular organ about the size of a fist. It is located between the lungs directly behind the breastbone and is tilted so that the pointed end (apex) is directed to the left. The major portion of the heart, called the myocardium, consists largely of cardiac muscle tissue. The heart lies within the


, a thick, membranous sac that contains a small quantity of lubricating liquid. The inner surface of the heart is lined with


, which consists of connective tissue and endothelial tissue.

Internally, a wall called the septum

separates the heart into a right side and a left side. The

heart has two chambers: two upper, thin walled atria, and two lower, thick walled


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams


. The atria are much smaller and weaker than the muscular ventricles, but they hold the same volume of blood.

The blood enters the heart through the superior and inferior vena cava. These veins, carrying deoxygenated blood (low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide), enter the right atrium of the heart. The right atrium sends blood through the



to the right ventricle. The valves in the heart function like doors that prevent the backward flow

of blood through the heart. The right ventricle pumps blood through the pulmonary



into the pulmonary arteries to the lungs. In the lungs, the blood exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen and then returns from the lungs to the left atrium. The left atrium sends this freshly oxygenated blood through an



to the left ventricle. The left ventricle then pumps blood through the




, into the aorta

(the largest artery) and out to the rest of the body.

From this description, you can see that deoxygenated blood never mixes with oxygenated blood and that blood must go through the lungs in order to pass from the right side to the left side of the heart. In fact, the heart is a double pump because the right ventricle sends blood to the lungs, as the left ventricle sends blood to the body. The left ventricle has the harder job of pumping blood to the entire body, therefore, its walls are thicker than those of the right ventricle.

From:  Human Biology, 1998. WCB/McGraw-Hill, Boston, 5th edition.

The Heart



Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

1. Which blood vessel has the highest concentration of carbon dioxide?

a. pulmonary artery

b. pulmonary vein

c. aorta

d. renal vein

2. In the human heart, semilunar valves are located

a. between chambers of the heart

b. at the entrance of veins into the heart

c. at the exit of arteries from the heart

d. in systemic veins

3. In humans, the superior vena cava

a.carries blood to the right atrium


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

b. carries blood away from the right atrium

c. joins with the aorta

d. has a high blood pressure

4. Oxygenated blood enters the heart at the

a. left atrium

b. left ventricle

c. right atrium

d. right ventricle

5. The pulmonary semilunar valve prevents blood from entering the

a. right atrium

b. left atrium

c. right ventricle


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

d. left ventricle

e. pulmonary trunk

6. The heart is enclosed in the

a. myocardium

b. endocardial sac

c. pericardial sac

d. pleural cavity

7. Which of these is NOT true of the heart?

a. It is a double pump

b. It helps maintain blood pressure

c. It helps make red blood cells

d. It is composed primarily of muscle

e. It has an inner lining of endothelium


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

8. In general, values in the circulatory system

a. permit blood to circulate rapidly

b. prevent blood from moving too rapidly

c. prevent blood from flowing in the wrong direction

d. stop the circulation whenever necessary.

9. Which of the following statements is false?

a. The myocardium is within the pericardium

b. The endocardium is outside the myocardium.

c. The pericardium is outside the endocardium.

d. The endothelial tissue is within the pericardium.

Chemical Equilibrium

In chemical equilibrium, a chemical reaction and its reverse are occurring at equal rates.

Theoretically, all chemical reactions are reversible–able to take place in either direction and therefore to come to equilibrium. If and how chemical equilibrium is actually established depends on a number of factors.


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

Heating limestone in masonry pits to produce lime for mortar was one of the first manufacturing processes carried out by settlers in the U.S. colonies. The CO 2 gas escapes from an open pit and all of the calcium carbonate in the limestone can be converted to lime.

CaCO3 (s)          V                     CaO(s)           +         CO2(g)

Calcium carbonate         Calcium oxide      Carbon dioxide

(limestone)                        (lime)

This reaction is reversible and establishes equilibrium if the gas cannot escape. When some dry limestone is sealed in a closed container and heated, the decomposition of calcium

carbonate begins. As soon as CO 2 accumulates in the container, the reverse reaction starts to occur. Once the concentration of



reaches a specific point, the system has reached equilibrium.

CaCO3 (s) D CaO(s) + CO2(g)

If there aren’t any changes in the reaction conditions (the pressure and the temperature), the forward and reverse reactions continue to take place at the same rates and the concentration of CO2 in the container remains the same.

Note that chemical equilibrium is dynamic–the CO2 concentration doesn’t change, but CO2 is constantly being produced and reacting to form CaCO



If the container is opened briefly to let some of the CO2 out and then sealed again, the forward reaction will outpace the reverse reaction, and the CO



Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

concentration will increase until equilibrium is again established. This type of change illustrates a very important principle that applies to all systems at equilibrium:

If a stress is applied to a system at equilibrium, the system will adjust to relieve the stress. Known as

Le Chatelier’s principle

for the French scientist, Henri Le Chatelier, who first stated it in 1884, this principle means that whatever the disruption, the reaction will shift in the direction that re-establishes equilibrium. For a chemical reaction, the stresses might be adding or taking away a reactant or product, changing the temperature or, in some cases, changing the pressure.

From: World of Chemistry,2nd

Edition, By Joesten and Wood. Saunders College Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-03-004463-4. Pages 229-230.

Chemical Equilibrium


1. In the example given: CaCo3(s) D CaO(s) + CO2(g) what would you expect would happen if heat is removed ( i.e. the reaction is cooled)?

a. Reaction will move forward.

b. Reaction will move in reverse.

c. No change in the reaction.

c. Can not determine from given information

2-5  In the following questions determine what will happen in the following reaction:


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

N2(g) + 3H2(g) D 2NH3(g)

A. Move forward

B. Move in reverse

C. No change

D. Cannot determine

2. Decrease N2 concentration.  (B)

3. Increase H2 concentration.   (A)

4. Decrease NH3 concentration.  (A)

5. Increase pressure.  (A)

6. In chemical equilibrium a reaction and its reverse

a. occur if one of the products is a gas and is allowed to escape.

b. only occur under high pressure and temperature conditions

c. are occurring at equal ratio.


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

d. can only occur in the production of limestone.

7. The French scientist who first stated this principle of equilibrium was

a. LeCorBusies

b. Louis Pasteur

c. LeChatelier

d. Chevalier

8. Complete the following statement according to the principle of chemical equilibrium: If a stress is applied to a system at equilibrium, _____.

a. no change will occur under normal conditions.

b. the system will adjust to relieve the stress.

c. a change in the reverse direction will occur if one product is a gas.

d. the quality of the products will be affected.


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

Price Elasticity of Demand

The law of demand tells us that consumers will buy more of a product when its price declines and less when its price increases. But how much more or less will they buy? The amount varies from product to product and over different price ranges for the same product. . . .

The responsiveness (or sensitivity) of consumers to a price change is measured by the product ’s


elasticity of demand.

For some products—for example, restaurant meals—consumers are highly responsive to price changes. Modest price changes cause very large changes in the quantity purchased. Economists say that the demand for such products if

relatively elastic

or simply



For other products—for example, salt—consumers pay much less tattention to price changes. Substantial price changes cause only small changes in the amount purchased. The demand for such products is relatively inelastic or simply inelastic. (p. 356)

Determinants of Price Elasticity of Demand

A. Substitutability. Generally, the larger the number of substitute goods that are available, the greater the elasticity of demand. . . (p. 362).

B. Proportion of Income. Other things equal, the higher the price of a good relative to


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

consumers’ incomes, the greater the price elasticity of demand. . . . (p. 362)

C. Luxuries versus Necessities. . . . Bread and electricity are generally regarded as necessities; it is difficult to get along without them. A price increase will not significantly reduce the amount of bread consumed or the amount of lighting and power used in a household. . . .

On the other hand, travel vacations and jewelry are luxuries which, by definition, can be forgone. . (p. 362).

D. Time. Generally, product demand is more elastic the longer the time period under consideration. Consumers often need time to adjust to changes in prices. For example, when the price of a product rises, it takes time to find and experiment with other products to see if they are acceptable. . . . Another consideration is product durability. Studies show that “short-run” demand for gasoline is more inelastic. . . than is “long-run” demand. . . . In the short run, people are “stuck” with their present cars and trucks, but with rising gasoline prices, they eventually replace them with smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. (362-363)

From: Economics, 16th Edition, by McConnell and Brue. McGraw-Hill, 2005. Excerpts from pages 356 to 363.

Price Elasticity of Demand


1 Response of consumers to price changes is measured by

a) percent of price decline in the product


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

b) percent of price increase in the product

c) price elasticity of demand

d) price elasticity of supply

2 If the demand for a product is inelastic,

a) Small increases in price will cause considerable increase in the demand for the product.

b) Large increases in price will cause little increase in the demand for the product.

c) Small increases in price will cause considerable decrease in the demand for the product.

d) Large increases in price will cause little decrease in the demand for the product.

3 The demand for insulin would be

a) Relatively elastic

b) Very elastic

c) Relatively inelastic

d) Very inelastic


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

4 In which case would the demand for a product likely be most elastic (Price increase would affect purchase decision).

a)           A Harley Davidson before 1960    OR

b) A Harley Davidson today.

c)           The price of motor oil increases because of cutoff of MidEast oil     OR

d) An increase in the price of Quaker State motor oil

e)           A 10% increase in the price of chewing gum      OR

f) A 5% increase in the price of yachts to cover a new luxury tax.

5 In considering elasticity of demand of various products, on which product would the government most likely levy a tax.

a) Canned soda

b) Gasoline

c) Bathing suits

d) NFL tickets


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

6 The price of butter goes up, so more people switch to margarine. Which of the following

is true?

a) The price of butter is elastic because of substitutability

b) The price of margarine is inelastic because of substitutability.

c) The price of margarine will likely go up.

d) The price of margarine will likely go down.

e) Both a and c

f) Both a and d

Know Your Blood Type

Although there are at least twelve well known blood type identification systems, the ABO system and the Rh system are most often used to determine blood type.

ABO System is Common

Before the twentieth century, blood transfusions sometimes resulted in adverse reactions or even death. A concerned Viennese physician, Karl Lansteiner, began to study the matter by mixing different samples of blood and examining the effect under the microscope. In the end, he and his associates determined that there are four major blood groups among humans. They


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

designated the types of blood as A, B, AB, and O (table 36.1). The types of blood are dependent on whether A antigen and/or B antigen is present on red blood cells. Type O blood has neither the A antigen nor the B antigen on red blood cells; the other types of blood have one or both of the antigen(s) present. A (or B) is not an antigen to an individual with blood type A, but it can be an antigen to a recipient with a different blood type.

Within the plasma of the individual, there are antibodies to the antigens that are not present on the red blood cells. Therefore, for example, type A has an antibody called anti-B in the plasma. Type AB blood has neither anti-A nor anti-B antibodies because both antigens are on the red blood cells. This is reasonable because if these antibodies were present, agglutination (L. agglutinin, glued together), or clumping of red blood cells, would occur.

For a recipient to receive blood from a donor, the recipient’s plasma must not have an antibody that causes the donor’s cells to agglutinate. For this reason it is important to determine each person’s blood type. Figure 36.15 demonstrates a way to use the antibodies derived from plasma to determine blood type. If clumping occurs after a sample of blood is exposed to anti-A or anti-B antibody, the person has that antigen on the red blood cells. In the first example given, the individual’s blood sample does not react to either anti-A or anti-B antibody; therefore, the blood type is O. The + and – are discussed in the next section.

From: Biology, Fifth Edition (customized for Bloomsburg University), by Sylvia S. Mader, Wm. C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque, Iowa, 1996, ISBN 0-697-36676-6, p. 644.

Know Your Blood Type


1. What is agglutination?

a) a protein produced by the body in response to the presence of an antigen.

b) a component of blood that is necessary in blood clotting.


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

c) clumping of red blood cells due to a reaction between antigens

d) a process where white blood cells engulf foreign substances.

2. A person’s blood type is determined by the type of ______ present on red blood cells.

a) antibody

b) erythrocyte

c) anticoolon

d) antigen

3. If a person has blood type A, the type/s of blood that person can receive during surgery


a) type A only

b) type O only

c) type A or type O

d) type AB or type A

4. One of the blood types is considered the universal donor because


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

a) the donor blood has both A and B antigens on its red blood cells

b) the donor blood has neither A antigen nor B antigen present on its red blood cells

c) the recipient of the blood always has red blood cells that have both A and B antigens on his/her blood

d) the universal donor blood is Rh+

5. One of the blood types is considered the universal recipient because

a) the donor blood has both A and B antigens on its red blood cells

b) the donor blood has neither A antigen nor B antigen present on its red blood cells

c) the recipient of the blood has red blood cells that have both A and B antigens on his/her


d) the universal donor blood is Rh+

6. The universal donor blood type is:


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams

a) type A

b) type B

c) type AB

d) type O

7. The universal recipient blood type is:

e) type A

f) type B

g) type AB

h) type O

8. If you needed elective surgery that would necessitate receiving blood, it would be best to

a) go to the blood bank at least two months before surgery and donate your own blood to receive during surgery

b) send a family relative to the blood bank to donate blood you can receive during


Bloom’s Taxonomy in College Exams


c) use blood bank blood that has been tested after collection.

d) delay the surgery and investigate other treatments.