All Posts Tagged With: "exam"
Prof. Pettigrew on the Collegiate Learning Assessment
When I was in high school, my favourite teacher was an old-fashioned English instructor I will call Mr. Hunter. One day, we wrote a test in class. I can’t recall the precise format for the test, but whatever it was it wasn’t the sort we were used to. When we were done, each our tests was graded by a fellow student. Then, to our surprise, Mr. Hunter had us say aloud what grade we got on the test so he could record it in his grade book.
I doubt teachers could get away with that today—privacy or self-esteem or whatever—but as the numbers were read, it became clear that the students we all knew to be good students had scored well, and lesser students, not so well. At the end, Mr. Hunter looked up and smiled and asked, “It doesn’t really matter what kind of test it is does it?”
I think about that class from time to time when I am pondering my own testing procedures, and I thought about it again recently when I was sent this little polemic about the new Collegiate Learning Assessment in the USA. If you haven’t heard, the CLA is a test that will be taken by graduating students to show just how much they have learned while at university.
Test was to take place in Goderich, Ont.
Zak Ashley, a 19-year-old University of Windsor student, missed his exam on natural disasters due, ironically, to the tornado that tore through Goderich, Ont. on Sunday, reports The Windsor Star.
The resident of nearby Wingham was supposed to take the distance education environmental science exam at a United Church in Goderich on Monday, but he didn’t show up because he believed that the church had been destroyed by the storm. In fact, it was another United Church in town that was damaged. The school will allow him to write the test in the fall instead.
Anglo students must not consider Bill 101 when writing test
Historians are calling on Quebec to offer better questions on the History and Citizenship exams that Anglophone students must pass in order to graduate from CEGEP.
Sam Allison, a recently-retired history teacher, and Jon Bradley, an associate professor in Education at McGill University suggested in an editorial in the Montreal Gazette earlier this week that the test is extremely flawed. Here’s their argument:
First, English students are asked to use French-language documents to answer essay questions. What if they don’t read French?
Second, they’re asked to respond to questions with words that don’t translate into English like agriculturalism and cooperatism. Those words mean nothing to anglophones.
Finally, in one essay question, they are asked to consider the demographic changes that occurred in the twentieth century “in terms of immigration, migration within Quebec and natural growth.”
That means students are not to consider inter-provincial migration, which means that they are not to consider the effects of Bill 101, also known as the Charter of the French Language.
That bill had, arguably, a much greater impact on the province than other forms of migration. Bill 101 made French the only official language and put many restrictions on English-language schools and employment. Roughly 244,000 English speakers left Quebec in the 25 years following the passage of Bill 101, according to Statistics Canada. Many businesses moved to Toronto.
It’s an part of the province’s history that should not be ignored, write Allison and Bradley. “While many Quebecers may believe that studies of the province’s history should promote a nationalist perspective, this is far outweighed by the right of all children to have a balanced view of our past.”
I’m getting an excellent mark. Or not.
On one hand, it means if I get a good mark on the final, I’ll end up with a good mark in the course.
On the other hand, it means if I do terribly on the final, I’ll . . . well, we know where this is going.
-Photo courtesy of ccarlstead
‘Long answer’ and ‘thought’ questions? I’m doomed.
When I woke up this morning, I realized to my horror that three weeks have somehow gone missing. Overnight.
Three of my midterms are scheduled for October 26, 27, and 28. At the end of September, before October had completely disappeared without any warning, they were all safely in the category of “meh, I’ll worry about these later.” I had almost a month to study and catch up with the readings. No problem.
Now it’s suddenly October 25 and my Molecular Biology midterm is tomorrow, and the next day I have a Developmental Biology midterm, and the day after that, a French midterm. And a Biochemistry lab report. And a quiz. And a French assignment.
This sense of impending doom kind of gives me a feeling of deja-vu. Except last semester it was an organic chemistry exam.
The semester before that, it was a microbiology exam.
And the semester before that, it was a physics exam.
In the end, all three of them weren’t nearly as bad as I expected. The problem is, there are two crucial differences between those exams and my upcoming midterms:
1) I’ve already used up all my brownie points with the Exam Gods.
Last semester, three days before my Organic Chemistry final, I prayed to the Exam Gods to forgive my procrastinating ways and let me pass. I swore that for the rest of my life I would diligently study every single night. I even offered my younger brother as a sacrifice, if they would just show me some mercy and let me pass.
2) All of those other exams were multiple choice.
Whenever I was confronted with a question that was beyond the scope of my last-minute cramming, I could use the process of elimination or the process of closing my eyes and choosing whichever option my pencil lands on.
Both of the upcoming biology midterms, on the other hand, are made up of “long answer” and “thought” questions.
Personally, I think the professors are being unfair with this whole “thought question” business. In order to do well on that kind of test, you actually have to understand the material. You can’t just ingest the textbook and then regurgitate it on the exam.
What the heck are these professors trying to do? Teach us something?
-photo courtesy of purplepick
Get your priorities straight.
I did something really stupid this weekend: I made a study schedule. My biochemistry midterm is tomorrow. The following week I have three more midterms, a lab report and a test. So I made a mini-calendar of the next two weeks, circling the days when I have a midterm.
I used a colour code to distinguish between each subject and listed the remaining chapters I had to read for each class, along with the suggested practice questions from the textbook and the relevant sections in the notes.
Then I created a detailed agenda, assigning a certain number of hours to each textbook chapter.
Now I’m ready. To study.
Claims the exam creates unequal access for Francophone applicants
McGill’s Faculty of Medicine has announced that the MCAT will no longer be a requirement for Canadian applicants.
Many med schools across Canada claim to treat every undergraduate degree equally. For these schools, the context of your GPA supposedly doesn’t matter: a 3.8 in Health Sciences, Philosophy or Social Work are all equivalent.
Some schools hedge their bets, encouraging students from a variety of backgrounds to apply, while noting that “the difficulty of the program” is taken into consideration.
The whole ‘every undergraduate degree is born equal’ policy is somewhat misleading. In addition to some schools having science prerequisites (including organic chemistry and biology courses), the MCAT has always been an Arts Degree Killer. The majority of Canadian med schools (11 out of 17) and almost every school in the U.S. require the MCAT, a multiple choice exam that assesses “problem-solving, critical thinking, writing skills and knowledge of science concepts.”
A degree in a traditional pre-med program, such as the Health Sciences or Biomedical Sciences, prepares students for the exam (and usually fulfills the prerequisite course requirement for most med schools).
Getting through the Verbal Reasoning and Writing Sample might not require any advanced scientific knowledge, but the physical sciences and biological sciences sections can pose a serious barrier to arts students with dreams of med school.
Fortunately for non-traditional pre-med students, the MCAT is becoming a thing of the past.
Applicants from Canadian universities are no longer required to write the exam.
“I feel what we’ve put in place is very acceptable and will allow us to properly evaluate candidates,” Dr. Saleem Razack, assistant dean of admissions for medicine at McGill, said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette. Dr. Razack says McGill would have kept the MCAT requirement if there was a French equivalent. “But we want to make sure there’s no barrier for a major segment of our population.” According to Razack, the regular med school class from undergraduate programs doesn’t have as many francophones as McGill would like.
The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the University of Ottawa, and Francophone medical schools in Quebec don’t require the MCAT. After meeting with MCAT representatives about translating the exam- but ultimately finding it was “too complicated”- McGill is joining their ranks (some schools that require the exam actually make certain qualifications- such as McMaster University, which only uses the Verbal Reasoning section to determine interview eligibility and admission rank).
Interestingly enough, if you check out McGill’s Faculty of Medicine website, you’ll note that candidates who are not required to write the MCAT can still submit their scores, and the overall score will be evaluated by the Admissions Committee.
-photo courtesy of comedy nose
Understanding academic probation, what it means and what to do about it
As exams wrap up across the country, most students are looking forward to patio nights and a stress-free summer. But some students are dreading their final grades after a not-so-perfect year.
A failed class, a flunked exam, or a mediocre grade-point average are outcomes no student wants to have come May. But what are the actual consequences of an ‘F’ on your transcript? Or missing required credits to move on to your next year or to graduate?
While most students may have heard of “academic probation,” not everyone knows what it entails. The first thing to remember is failing a class doesn’t mean you need to pack up your textbooks and join the circus, and getting put on academic probation won’t necessarily cripple you academically, if you seek help.
“The whole point of academic standings is to identify students who are at risk and then make them aware of the services that are available in obtaining better academic grades,” University of Calgary’s associate vice-provost (enrolment) and registrar David Johnston said. “When we admit a student, we want them to graduate.”
Academic probation is just one of many possible academic standings a full-time student can be assigned at the end of the year. In many cases the bad outweighs the good. At most schools, the only desired outcome is “In Good Standing,” which means you’re in the clear. There are varying degrees of unsatisfactory standings that come with conditions for the following school year, ranging from meeting benchmark grade-point averages, to withdrawing for a year.
In addition to “In Good Standing,” most universities include “Academic Probation” and “Failed” as the three possible standings. And the conditions of these standings are typically outlined in the university’s academic rules and regulations. Students receive notice of their standing in the summer, after grades are calculated through a mailed letter or an online transcript.
At a school like Calgary’s, when a student’s grade-point average is less than 1.70, the equivalent of a C-, students are put on a probationary period. This is typical of most schools, though the grade-point average threshold varies.
“The purpose, of course, of the first warning is to get them on track academically,” Johnston said. He said it’s normal for first-year students to come into university unprepared for the heavy course-load and higher academic standards than they are accustomed. First-year students, he said, are the largest group his school sees placed on academic probation.
Since grades are dealt with at the faculty level, it’s not clear exactly how many students each year are put on academic probation at each school.
It’s often just a matter of showing students their current learning styles aren’t working, associate dean of the faculty of science at the University of British Columbia Paul Harrison said. “Universities are pretty selective of who they invite in,” he said. “Students deep down have the skills if they apply themselves. Unfortunately some of them don’t.”
He said students also usually come out of high school with limited exposure to their chosen program or knowledge of the university’s expectations for them.
Manager of the Student Academic Success Centre at Carleton University, Kathleen Semanyk said besides academics, there could be any number of circumstances that prevent students from meeting program requirements. “We hear everything from ‘We’ve had a serious illness in my family,’ ‘I’ve lost a loved one,’ ‘I had to find a second job,’” Semanyk said. “It’s really common for students to think they’ve hit the end of the academic road.”
Johnston said, what also tends to happen is students may find their chosen program is not as well suited for them as they had hoped. “It’s aptitude and interest,” Johnston said. “If you don’t have an interest it’s hard to apply yourself.” Just the same, students may find their skill set doesn’t match what their program asks of them.
What if it’s not A, B, or C?
The whole point of a multiple choice test is that the answer is somewhere in front of you. If you’ve done the readings and listened to the lectures, it’s just a matter of recognizing the right answer.
At the very least, you can narrow it down through process of elimination.
Unless some passive-aggressive TA decides to make all 120 questions include “none of the above.”
-photo courtesy of ccarlstead
That was easy.
…until next semester.
I still have two exams before Christmas vacation. I’ve got six chapters of my microbiology textbook to read before Friday, and I’m trying to not even think about history. But ever since last Thursday, life has been worth living again.
Organic chemistry is finished. Gone. Forever.
Until next semester. When I have Organic Chemistry Part 2.
Making the most of your study time so you get the best test mark you can
At most universities, classes are now over. Your assignments are handed in. You don’t have to get out of bed for that nasty 8:30 am class. And your first final exam isn’t for two weeks.
With all this free time on your hands, you:
a.) party like it’s 2010;
b.) sleep until noon then spend the rest of the day watching TV shows on your laptop in bed; or,
c.) hit the books.
(Hint: this isn’t one of those trick multiple-choice questions, where the obvious-sounding answer is the wrong one.)
As much as you feel that you deserve a break (and you probably do), stay focused for just a couple more weeks before shifting into the somnolence of turkey time. Organizing your time effectively now will ensure you get the mark you deserve after working your butt off all semester.
For some students, exam period can be incredibly stressful. (Breathe deeply and read our column on stress). Studying thoroughly and efficiently, not wasting time on unimportant material and developing a test-taking strategy are the three keys to doing well on your exam. And knowing you did everything you could to prepare, you should be able to sleep soundly the night before the big test day.
Many students think that the more time they spend studying, the better the mark they’ll get, but that isn’t necessarily true; you’ll better retain material if you study in a larger number of smaller chunks of time, rather than cramming studying into a couple of 12-hour sessions in the two days before the exam. So, before you throw yourself into studying, pause to make a study plan. There are a finite number of hours between now and your exam, so you need to budget your time accordingly.
Setting foot on campus… before September
When I left my chemistry lab exam last April, I thought the next time I’d be on Waterloo’s campus would be this September. Starting my second year. But last week, when I set foot on campus for the first time in over two months, I thought I was doing something blasphemous.
Going to school? During the summer? Even though I’d only be there for 10 minutes to hand in some forms, it felt like I was performing some obscene act. School and summer just don’t mesh.
I had the same expectations of visiting Waterloo’s campus during summer vacation as I would visiting my old high school. That it would be depressing. A reminder of past anxieties and worries. I was sure the whole visit would just be something to endure.
But as I walked around campus, seven weeks early, I realized something that surprised me.
I’ve missed being on campus.
What happened to the last two months?
I used to think university was the ultimate time eater. Attending lectures, taking notes, preparing for labs, tests, and quizzes. In the haze of grade anxiety and endless tutorials, you lose track of time. The eight months of a university year just vanish.
But those eight months are sneaky.
They fade away, exponentially dissipating, while you fret over this test or that mark. You don’t see the time flitting away. Instead, you think you’re perpetually stuck in a blech moment. Like trying to start a brain cell-syphoning paper for psychology. Or waiting in the lobby before a physics midterm.
It seems like the longest, saggiest moment of your entire academic career. Until the next one plods into your day.
And then it’s April. Exams are finished. The haze dissipates. Worry is obsolete. You’ve got a four-month holiday laying ahead of you.
But I was wrong about university. I’ve found the true gorger of time.
It’s the second week of July and summer vacation is more than half over. But what really makes summer vacation the true Glutton of the Clock is that you know what’s happening. You’re aware of every passing second of precious summer vacation.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
A month of summer vacation is gone. But that’s okay
It’s been more than a month since I wrote my chemistry lab exam, and finished my first year of university.
Initially, it was hard to believe. After eight months of labs, tests, assignments and physics class, it was over. My first year of university. Done. An endless supply of summer vacation ahead of me.
And now a month of that endless supply is gone.
Back in high school, this would have been cause for alarm. Summer vacation had to be carefully rationed. Spent efficiently. If I decided to watch Star Wars, I’d fast forward to the lightsaber battles and skip any scenes where Anakin opened his mouth.
There couldn’t be any wastage.
But this summer, for the first time ever, I’m not dreading going back to school in September. It’s one of those things about university that I would never be able to explain to my grade 12 self.
It’s a hard habit to break. Every summer vacation for my entire public school life, I went through the same pattern of enjoyment: three weeks of fun, five weeks of September Dread.
Okay, so maybe I’m not exactly looking forward to September. But it’s not ruining the rest of my summer vacation, either.
Online services provide textbook answers, notes, and exams. But is it cheating?
Instead of turning to classmates for help during all-night cram sessions before final exams, the New York Times is reporting that students are now just as likely to be turning towards commercial websites that provide step-by-step solutions to textbook questions, copies of previous exams, lecture notes and even real-time help with physics, math and computer programs.
Although many students now use these online services, with fun names like Cramster, Course Hero, Koofers and Sparknotes, some faculty are questioning whether or not these sites encourage cheating, and if students are falling prey to the intellectual equivalent of a get-rich-quick scheme.
One example is Course Hero, says the Times, a program into which students can type in a college name and course number to find the previous semester’s exam. The site hosts hundreds of thousands of textbook solutions, along with an offer to “leverage study materials” within study groups who are taking, or have already taken, a class.
Some (including professors) are jumping to defend the websites, saying that instructors should not be reusing exams, and that copied homework will eventually lead to a lower exam grade. Additionally, many of the documents have long been available through other means (either through the library, through frats or sororities, or from friends and acquaintances who already took the course.)
David A. Sachs, associate dean in the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University, who is part of an advisory panel for the popular Cramster service, says universities need to rethink their practices in light of the Internet.
“As faculty, we need to be better educated about what the possibilities are, and the truth is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” Dr. Sachs said. “If Cramster and all these companies disappeared tomorrow, you could still do a Google search and find what you’re looking for in five minutes.”
Cramster, which has been online since 2003, has about 500,000 registered users, many of whom visit the site specifically for solutions to math and science textbook problems. Solutions to odd-numbered problems are free, but students must pay $9.95 a month to see the even-numbered answers.
According to the Times, students can post queries to the site’s 3,000 “experts,” who are rated for quality (like eBay sellers) and earn “karma” points for rewards like laptops and iPods. An expert, according to Cramster’s CEO, could be a brilliant high school senior bound for M.I.T., a professor or a retired engineer. The company also has staff members who moderate the question-and-answer board.
“There’s no doubt our site can be abused,” says Hawkey. “Let’s say I have a take-home test. We had one incident where someone posted a question on our site that was the same one [as] on an exam.”
For the rest of the story, click here.
Repeat plagiarists and cheaters would get an “FD” grade, could lose their degree
The senate and board of governors of Simon Fraser University say they have approved “significant and extensive” changes to the school’s policies concerning dishonesty and student misconduct.
Included in the changes is a new mark – FD – which will indicate that a student was failed for reasons of academic dishonesty. This means that a plagiarized essay or serious case of cheating could follow students around throughout the rest of their academic careers.
“The FD grade will be available to department chairs who feel that a student’s behavior warrants a severe penalty, usually because they are repeat violators,” says Rob Gordon, director of the school’s criminology department. “A chair may also request the imposition of more severe penalties through the University Board on Student Discipline such as suspension and the rescinding of a degree.”
The changes were the result of a university-wide, three-year investigation by Simon Fraser’s senate committee on academic integrity in student learning and evaluation, otherwise known as SCAISLE. The committee was struck in fall 2005 after a series of incidents concerning academic dishonesty were identified, and the school commissioned a report.
That report found that 63 per cent of faculty and 41 per cent of teaching assistants and tutor markers surveyed at Simon Fraser had ignored suspected cases of cheating. This included cases of falsifying lab data, “recycling” of labs, fabrication of bibliographies, extensive plagiarism in papers, homework copying, illegal group work, and copying on exams.
Calling the policy “a zero-tolerance approach both in theory and in practice,” Gordon says the school aimed to create a fair, consistent and effective new policy on matter concerning academic integrity. “We believe the combination of policies, procedures and strategies we’ve come up with will do that.”
As of May 1, the new policy includes a “Code of Academic Integrity and Good Conduct,” which includes a summary of expectations for students around issues of academic honesty and personal behaviour. This includes prohibitions against hazing, bullying, disclosing confidential information and possessing guns on campus.
“We now have a single student code of conduct that covers both academic integrity and good-conduct issues,” says Gordon. “And we’ve created a reporting system with a central record keeping mechanism so we can better detect multiple offenders across campuses and departments.”
On my chem lab exam, did I say fumaric and maleic acid are alkenes?
All my exams are finished. My summer vacation should have officially started April 24.
But it didn’t.
Because right now, I can’t enjoy playing Halo 3 with my friends. I can’t relax and read a book. When I watched Righteous Kill last weekend, I suddenly remembered question 14 of my chemistry lab exam, and then spent the next hour and a half wondering, “Did I say fumaric and maleic acid are alkenes?”
My summer vacation can’t begin.
At least, not until I know what my chemistry lab mark is.
This Saturday is my physics midterm. There are going to be 12 questions. It’s kind of scary when two marks make the difference between an 83 % and a 67 %. The difference between an excellent mark and a crappy mark. And with only 12 multiple choice questions, all it takes is one stupid mistake.
This Saturday is my physics midterm. There are going to be 12 questions.
It’s kind of scary when two marks make the difference between an 83 % and a 67 %. The difference between an excellent mark and a crappy mark.
And with only 12 multiple choice questions, all it takes is one stupid mistake.
It doesn’t feel like it’s been two weeks. It feels like its been 10 years
It’s been almost two weeks since Christmas vacation ended. Two weeks since I last played Halo 3. Two weeks since I watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (also known as Indiana Jones and the Plot that Initially Held Promise But Stopped Making Sense When Aliens were Introduced). But it doesn’t feel like it’s been two weeks. It feels like its been 10 years.
Last September, when my parents told me that my first semester of university would be “over in the blink of an eye,” I figured it was one of those things that parents collectively agree to tell their children just to annoy them. Sort of like, “You’ll thank me when your older.”
Then I blinked, and I was sitting in the middle of my chemistry lab exam, unable to remember what the heck a triprotic acid is.
But for whatever reason, second semester is going in slow motion. It’s the same kind of feeling I get when my family is crammed into our mini-van for a long road trip, and the only thing I can do for five hours is play the Dilemma Game with my brothers. Would you rather be stuck in a pit of spiders, or a pit of earwigs? Would you cut off all your toes or all your fingers? Your eyelids or your tongue? Would you rather poke a sharp stick into your ear or your eye? What would be worse: eating someone else’s baby toe nail, or being trapped in a sleeping bag with one of my younger brother’s nacho farts?
I wonder what would be worse: being stuck in my physics class for the rest of eternity, or having to listen to an endless stream of hypothetical questions?