All Posts Tagged With: "exams"
Sask. prof threatens to withhold grades in dispute over additional course fee
Students were informed by professor Gordon Sparks that the $30 fee was mandatory to pay to use materials made available on the course’s Blackboard homepage at the beginning of the class and in their syllabus. However, most students viewed the fee in the same way as paying for an assigned textbook, and that it was not necessarily required to complete the course.
Sparks’ view apparently differed on the fee, as he wrote to students in an email that if they didn’t cough up the $30, “you will be ‘cutoff’ access to Blackboard and therefore will not get a grade in the class!”
In the past, Sparks has simply denied access to the materials on Blackboard until students had paid the fee, which allows students to use course materials from former University of New Brunswick professor Barry Bisson.
Some students felt Sparks was not justified in threatening academic repercussions for students who don’t pay. U of S student Steve Bachiu told The Sheaf that he felt the threat “seems a lot like extortion” since he’s already paid his tuition fees for the course.
“My issue, essentially, is that it’s material that I don’t want. There are a lot of other classes that I’m taking where I haven’t bought the textbook” and have still been given a grade in the class, Bachiu said.
The materials the fee covers include review exercises, quizzes and weekly assignments. According to The Sheaf, Sparks has argued that students were obliged to pay the fee because they had made use of Bisson’s intellectual property by completing the quizzes and assignments.
However, Bachiu said that he felt that instructors shouldn’t be allowed to charge access fees for tests “and that is, essentially, what’s happening.”
Bachiu has brought his concerns to University of Saskatchewan Students Union (USSU) vice-president academic affairs Kelsey Topola, who said she is planning on bringing them before the university’s teaching and learning committee, academic support committee or copyright advisory committee.
Researchers say moving around while studying improves retention
Every semester I tell myself that I’ll study more. And every semester I don’t.
Somewhere between vowing to study every single day and the act of actually doing it, there’s an interruption. All the planning is in place. But study schedules, lists of course readings and practice problems, somehow aren’t leading to extra studying.
Part of the problem is how midterms always seem to come from nowhere. In that way they’re even worse than final exams, which might be worth more marks, but at least they’re always looming in the distance.
According to an article in the New York Times, cognitive scientists claim a few simple techniques can actually improve how much a student actually learns from studying. Of course, that only helps those students who actually, well, study.
One surprise from the research is the claim that in order to be the most effective, you should actually move around and study in different locations each time you hit the books. And no, the research wasn’t suggesting moving to Hawaii to study for your biochem final, and then moving back for your French final.
The other studying tips were obvious. Like making sure you space your studying apart so you aren’t forced to try and cram everything at the last second. And if all else fails, praying to the snow gods for the mother of all storms to force the school to shut down on the day of your finals.
The Times’ article pointed out that some of the theories about the best way to study are the result of “sketchy education research that doesn’t offer much clear guidance.”
Lots of studying advice has to do with emphasizing different learning styles- the whole “left brain versus right brain,” and “visual learner versus auditory learner” thing. Some people learn best by reading through their professor’s lecture slides, while others retain more information by listening to podcast lectures. But according to a review of the relevant research published in Psychological Science, that’s all pretty much bogus, stating that “there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.”
I think the biggest improvement to my studying habits would be constant reminders. Like changing the background of my computer to a message that says “ANATOMY MIDTERM FEBRUARY 14th.” Because midterms are stealth tests- one second I’m happily unaware of their presence, wasting precious study time with things like sleeping and eating.
And the next second a bunch of tests, lab reports, and essays have materialized.
Study shows students who write about their worries beforehand overcome exam anxiety
Students suffering from exam anxiety may now have a remedy. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that if students spend 10 minutes writing about their worries before the test, their scores rise by as much as 15 per cent. Psychology professor Sian Beilock and graduate student Gerardo Ramirez, divided 20 university students into three groups. One group wrote about their feelings, another wrote what happened to them the day before, and the third just waited for the exam to start. The students who wrote about their worries saw their grades jump from a B- to a B+. “We essentially got rid of this relationship between test anxiety and performance,” Beilock said. The study is to be published Friday in the journal Science.
…but then was spared. Twice.
It wasn’t the usual post-exam anxiety, where you kick yourself for changing an answer at the last second, or doubt whether you gave quite enough information for the essay-based question. I was seriously worried that I had just bombed those two exams.
It didn’t matter that I had completed the bonus assignments. Midterm marks and quizzes didn’t matter, either. Both classes, like every other class I’ve taken at Waterloo, have a policy along the lines of “If you get less than a 45 on the final exam, you will fail the course.”
In the weeks that followed, I tried to remember the questions and mentally rewrote both exams. Question three was hopeless. Question six was pretty terrible. I drew a complete blank on question nine and pity marks were the most I could hope for.
I decided to stop reliving the past and managed to block out exam week. I erased all memory of Embryology and Molecular Biology. I destroyed the photos of us together. I shredded the Christmas cards they had sent me. They ceased to exist. All that remained was a nervous tic.
In the end I passed both courses. Maybe my exams were marked by an empathetic TA.
Or maybe another Scott Dobson-Mitchell wrote the same two exams and now he’s wondering how the hell he ended up with a 3 per cent and an 11 per cent.
The first step is acknowledging the problem.
When I finished Organic Chemistry in my second year, I thought I would never have to see chemistry again. I knew I would be taking Biochemistry the following semester, but I deluded myself into thinking that Biochemistry isn’t REALLY chemistry.
I even managed to convince myself that I enjoyed the course. That lipid bilayers are a fascinating cellular structure and that there’s a simple yet elegant beauty to the assembly of proteins.
Throughout last semester I thought I liked Biochemistry. Now I realize it was just Stockholm syndrome.
-Photo courtesy of digitalprimate
Regrets from last semester
Right now is the time of year when I look back and think about all the stupid mistakes I made during first semester. Like not keeping up with the textbook readings in Developmental Biology and falling behind by a whole chapter. And then another. And another. And then one more, to make it a nice even number.
While some people look forward and plan ahead for the next semester, I can’t help but look back. So instead of a “New Year’s Resolution” list of the stuff I plan to do next semester, this is a list of the stuff I plan to never do again.
5) Falling behind on the readings, even by a single page. It’s a slippery slope. One reading quickly becomes two, and then three. You know those harmless domesticated bunny rabbits that a couple of pet owners released into the wild? It’s kind of like that.
4) Underestimating the class with a 100 per cent final is a deadly error. There aren’t any assignments, quizzes or midterms to worry about. But even if I’m completely caught up with my other four courses, procrastination is like an infectious disease: it starts with that one class but spreads quickly, devastating my carefully-planned study schedule for all my other classes and labs.
3) Telling my older sister that she needs to relax and close the textbook every once in a while. And then watching her make the Dean’s list every single semester since she started at Waterloo, from my relaxed-but-non-Dean’s-list chair.
2) Although I still haven’t had the opportunity to test my theory that nobody ever shows up, including the professor, I won’t register for any more early morning classes. The temptation to skip them is much too strong, and oddly enough, professors don’t give any sort of “You actually showed up at 7:00 in the morning” bonus marks.
1) Make a curfew for myself and this time, really stick to it. Operating on less than five hours of sleep actually really is counterproductive. Considering the fact that sleep deprivation is an interrogation strategy, right alongside bright lights and sharp objects, it shouldn’t be part of my study repertoire.
My vacation is going AWOL
The problem is, I haven’t been doing any of the stuff I fantasized about doing when I was studying for exams. Instead, I’ve developed a new hobby over the past couple days.
I turn on my laptop and load up the webpage where final marks are being released. And when I see that my Molecular Biology mark still hasn’t been posted, I press “refresh.”
Then I press it again.
-Photo courtesy of amboo who?
Everything seems unfamiliar and un-memorizable
Normally, the more I study for an upcoming exam, the better I feel. As I read over my notes and review the textbook, the material seems familiar and my impending sense of doom diminishes a little.
But for my Embryology exam, the more I studied, the more I realized I didn’t know anything.
Christmas vacation isn’t a vacation yet.
When I found out that all five of my exams were in a row, right at the beginning of exam period, I couldn’t decide if I was happy, or on the verge of developing a nervous tic.
On the one hand, writing exams sooner means less time to study. Not to mention, when your exams are literally back-to-back, one day after another, it’s harder to divide up your study time properly. How can you study for Biochemistry when Embryology is the day before? And how can you study for Embryology when Molecular biology is the day before that? And how can you study for Molecular biology when… well, you get the point.
On the other hand, all my exams were over in one shot. And my Christmas vacation started a bit earlier than usual.
Except it didn’t. Until my final marks are released tomorrow, I can’t sit back and enjoy my vacation.
I’m stuck in post-exam purgatory.
-Photo courtesy of alancleaver_2000
I forgot to bring my book. To the open book exam. To the only exam that actually counted.
There are all kinds of scenarios you see frequently where seemingly otherwise-normal people go completely insane: sporting riots, Black Friday, anytime free food is introduced into a newsroom. In the past, upon viewing these events, I would think to myself “Self, in such a situation, you would not succumb to the crazies. You would likely rise above the desire to go nuts about something that doesn’t matter.”
Then I went through first-year law school exams, upon which I learned that I am apparently completely the kind of person who goes batty when faced with things that mostly don’t matter and even more insane when faced with something that does.
At UVic, the 1Ls had six exams in a 12-day period: Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two weeks. Here’s the thing: Five of those exams didn’t count. Not technically, anyway. At UVic, the year-long courses all have midterms from which the grade will only count if it’s better than the grade you get on your final. These are dubbed “help, not hurt” exams, a moniker I take issue with having gone through the “help, not hurt” exam period.
I stopped exercising. I stopped eating. I didn’t consciously try to stop sleeping, but I did anyway. For two weeks, no matter what time I went to bed, I would wake up hourly, occasionally actually sitting bolt upright, with my brain a jumble of different law-related thoughts. Not even fully formed thoughts, either, so it’s not like these nocturnal interruptions were helpful. It was only ever just little, unconnected fragments of thoughts from all seven of my classes.
Offer, acceptance, consideration…Multiple Access v. McCutcheon…trespass torts…three doctrinal requirements to complete a gift…Oakes test…
Et cetera. On a loop. Every night for two weeks.
Of course, there was one exam that did count. Our Law, Legislation and Policy course was only half a year, so the December exam was the final, the one that one prof described as “just hurt.” And, of course, it was for that exam that I did the craziest thing I did in all of the two-week exam period, possibly ever.
I forgot to bring my book. To the open book exam. To the only exam that actually counted.
Considering my panic level at any given point in those two weeks was generally situated at around a 7, the discovery that I would have to write a three-hour final that actually counted without my coursebook (which, by the way, is where I made all my notes) almost caused a stroke. Which is a really great physical and mental place to be in, by the way, just before you write an exam.
The only good thing to say about this is that once my blood started flowing again and I emitted a sound not unlike a cat being strangled, literally everyone around me who figured out what had happened to me simultaneously reached with their one hand to their own book and with their other hand to their wallet to get out their copy card so that I could run to the library and copy as much of their book as I could before the exam. Seriously, there were like 8 different people performing the exact same motion, some of whom I don’t even really know. It was a balletic example of the kindness and generosity of UVic law students. It was actually really heartwarming.
Of course, it also didn’t change how screwed I was. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say it did not go well. Try and at least learn from me, anyone who is reading this, to check your backpack twice before leaving for an exam so that some good might come of this. And if you have any tips on how to better survive the next exam period — the one in April that actually all counts — please, for the love of Christmas, pass them on.
A university student’s wish list
It just seems wrong to pay hundreds of dollars for a bunch of books that you’ll want to throw into a bonfire by the end of the semester. And why is my Organic Chemistry textbook almost a hundred bucks more than my biology textbooks? At the very least, a textbook’s price should be proportional to how much you enjoy the course.
So the Organic Chemistry textbook should not only be free, but also come with a $30 gift certificate for EB Games.
4) A hands-on course that explores the advantages and disadvantages of several tactical approaches to team slayer in Halo Reach.
3) A professor whose policy on classroom attendance is… they have no policy on classroom attendance.
2) 10,000 extra med school spots
It could happen.
1) A take home final exam. With multiple choice questions. And bonus points for spelling your name right.
-Photo courtesy of placid casual
Apparently, by mating with multiple partners in a short period of time, they increase the chances of pregnancy. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that’s been in the making for millions of years.
The word “promiscuous” just seems like a weird way to describe the behavior. It’s just such a loaded word. Like the textbook is calling these prairie dogs skanks, or something.
-Photo courtesy of cliff1066™
Tufts finds unique way to help students through finals
To help students decompress during hectic study sessions, Tufts University has been bringing in therapy dogs. On Tuesday, “students set down their books, laptops and e-readers for a chance to pet, feed and even chase the therapy animals as media camera bulbs flashed,” the Associated Press reported. Resident director, Michael Bliss, who brought the dogs in, says “taking a break out from that with something as easy and simple and loving as petting dogs is really helpful.”
Our student panel offers their advice
It’s that time of year again when across the country students are packing into gymnasiums and lecture halls to write their finals. Preparing for exams can be stressful, but if you plan it right, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. We asked our student panel to tell us either their number one study tip or their best exam story. As with previous weeks, all videos will be posted to our You Tube channel.
Student exams will have to be rescheduled
York University is without heat after a fire damaged steam boilers at the school’s Keele campus. The building was evacuated, and students and non-essential staff in the rest of the university were sent home by 3pm, although no injuries have been reported. While students were able to continue writing exams Monday afternoon, the university is rescheduling exams that were to take place Monday evening. “Right now, the major problem is that this fire has affected our ability to provide heat,” a York spokesman told the Toronto Star. The university is also exploring options to temporarily relocate students living in residence.
UPDATE: Heat back on at York
Students put way too much pressure on themselves during exam season
There is no time of year where students are more neurotic, frustrated, and just absolutely miserable to be around than exam season.
Along with energy drink sales, one thing that seems to skyrocket around this time of year is the number of times the fire alarm goes off on my campus. On average, I’d say the alarm goes off once, or maybe twice a month at the University of Manitoba. Yet during exam season that number probably doubles, or even triples. During one of my exams last year, the alarm went off three times in a row.
I may not be able to prove this, but I doubt that the number of fires suddenly begins to increase on campus when the end of the semester rolls around. It’s more likely that the increase is the work of students, who feel like they haven’t learned anything all semester and are pulling the alarm in a desperate attempt to get out of their exam. Or, they have the sense of humor of a sixth grade kid, and thought it would be a hilarious prank. Apparently wasting your classmates’ time, and the time of the fire department, is side-splitting for some people.
Pulling the fire alarm has got to be the worst exam escape plan ever. It doesn’t even get you “out” of the exam. Unless the building is actually on fire and students are forced to go home, everyone shuffles back inside the exam room after the fire department has finished inspecting the building. The professor tacks on more minutes to the time you’re required to stay, and everyone finishes the exam as planned. All that’s accomplished by pulling the alarm is being forced to stay longer in the exam room, and severely pissing off your fellow students.
I realize the majority of students don’t see pulling the fire alarm as a viable alternative to writing their exam, but the notion that some students do serves as a testament to the amount of pressure students put on the outcome of their exams.
When those exams are worth 30, 40, even 50 percent of your grade, it can put a whole lot of weight on one test, and make pulling that little red leaver seem like not such a bad idea. Especially if you’ve got law school applications, grad school applications, or medical school applications riding on your GPA.
That being said, how much time does anyone spend thinking about their exam after they’ve finished writing it? For the average student, probably not a whole lot. It may feel like your entire future is weighing on the outcome of one little test, but in reality, it’s just a test. There are so many more worthwhile things to stress out over, and to pull the fire alarm for.
University Study claims some students cheat to look ‘good’
A new study from Ohio State University at Newark reveals that narcissism is linked to cheating. According to the researchers, narcissistic students will not only cheat their way to the top, they’ll also do it guilt-free.
The study, which appears online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, claims that narcissistic students see high academic achievement as a way to “Show off to others.”
Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at the school, is quoted in the article as saying “Narcissists really want to be admired by others . . . They also tend to feel less guilt, so they don’t mind cheating their way to the top.”
Saying goodbye can be tricky at this time of year.
Cape Breton may be the last place in the country where people unabashedly wish you a Merry Christmas at this time of year. Not Happy Holidays, I mean, but actual, full-throated, unironic, “Merry Christmas.”
I hear it a lot at the university because December exams (Christmas exams as we say at CBU, though they do not feel like a gift to the students or the faculty) because the end of the examination period quite clearly marks the last time we will see each other, at least until January, depending on the course. After ten years, it still makes me a bit uncomfortable.
When I was a student in Ontario, I made a point of not saying “Merry Christmas” to my professors because I usually did not know them well enough to presume that they did celebrate Christmas, and I did not want to cause offense. So I usually said, “have a good holiday” which worked for people celebrating Hannukah or Christmas or whatever, but could also be taken to meant the time off between semesters.
My students seem to have no such compunctions, and every time I hear them say “Merry Christmas,” I wonder if they have considered whether I might be, for instance, Jewish. And if I were, wouldn’t “Merry Christmas” be a bit insensitive? I’m pretty sure that they don’t think about that, and if they did, I’m pretty sure they would reply that they wouldn’t be offended by “Happy Hanukkah.” But that’s only because most of us here in Cape Breton are Christians or (like me) descended from those who were. “Happy Hanukkah” doesn’t bother us, because we have never felt marginalized by the domination of Hanukkah in December, or by the domination (and oppression) of Christian culture in general. I wonder how my Jewish colleagues feel about this.
And this is to say nothing of other groups who do not celebrate Christmas such as Muslims, and, perhaps surprisingly, some Christians. As it happens, I do celebrate Christmas as a winter festival, but it makes me uncomfortable when students assume that I do, because I feel like they are making me part of that in-group where it is assumed that everyone has the same values and traditions.
What should you say to your prof as you leave the exam room? Something friendly. “Have a nice break,” or “see you next semester,” or steal my “good holiday” line.
Just not “Merry Christmas.”
When did that happen?
I’m not sure which is more unbelievable: that Christmas is around the corner and I’m almost finished my first semester of third year. Or that my first exam is in less than four days.
-Photo courtesy of LadyDragonflyCC – Turkey Time!!!!
Honour system at U of S puts more responsibility on students to suck it up
Everyone always seems to fall ill at exam time. After three years of university, I now expect that a runny nose or headache will probably accompany me into my English final. Weeks of chronic stress and fatigue have to catch up with us sometime.
I presumed that a sick note was only for times when I physically could not get myself out of bed. Apparently this was not the case for students who were flooding the health clinic during exam season at the University of Saskatchewan. The university’s Student Health Centre stopped writing sick notes in early September and is instead encouraging instructors to accept self-declaration forms from students who were absent for medical reasons. Students will now have to go off-campus to obtain sick notes for professors who continue to require them, and the clinic will still write notes for its regular patients.
The clinic changed its policy after line ups during exam periods overwhelmed medical staff and sometimes forced them to turn people away who needed more pressing medical care. The clinic was writing almost 2,000 such notes a each year.
By encouraging the use of self-declaration, it may seem as if the U of S is creating an opening for wide spread absenteeism. However, traditional sick notes don’t really verify whether or not a student has a legitimate medical reason for being absent. It was difficult for physicians at the clinic to determine how incapacitated a student was in the single visit they would make to the clinic demanding a note. In some cases, notes were handed out to students after they were no longer sick. The self-declaration forms actually puts more onus on students than sick notes do. Falsifying a form would be considered academic dishonesty.
Lynn Kuffner, U of S’s manager of student health and counselling pointed out to the Star Phoenix that in practice sick notes are not much different than a self-declaration form. “University is about academics, but it’s also about becoming a responsible adult,” she said. When the self-declaration forms were tested such as this past spring, the university found no difference in the number of absences compared to when sick notes were used.
Similarly, in January, the University of Alberta also replaced sick notes with a self-declaration policy, except that, unlike the U of S, the change is not optional for individual professors. “Physicians were often acting as a rubber stamp and saying, ‘the patient indicates this’ and signing it. So really, what is this doing that a patient couldn’t do in a signed declaration anyways? They’re just taking the student at their word,” Kevin Friese, Assistant Director of the U of A Health Centre, told the Gateway.
The University of British Columbia, University of Toronto and McMaster have also implemented comparable policies.
Part of the learning curve involved in becoming a responsible adult is figuring out how to deal with illness. Learning when it’s worth it to call in sick and when you should just suck it up and get through the day is part of becoming productive and successful. Self-declaration puts more responsibility on students to find that balance, as it doesn’t give students a doctor’s signature to hide behind.