The results on my balanced forces exam were, to say the least, baffling.
I decided to try something very simple to see how my students were really thinking about the problems, or even if they WERE thinking
I had them number each sentence in so-called word problems. They then had to label each force in the free body diagram with the number of the sentence it corresponds to. I was amazed at how many students knew what they were doing after this. It also let me see which students had trouble simply reading and which were actually confused about how to properly do the physics.
A small victory, but something I will use next year when I teach forces.