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experimenting with exams

Posted by ulfarsson under

Teaching
[2] Comments
I experimented with a new format for the midterm of my single variable calculus class (which is running during the summer session here at Brown). The midterm consisted of 10 problems and at the beginning of the class the students were allowed to work on all the problems but at the end they each had to choose 5 problems to turn in. The remaining problems then turned into a take-home midterm which was due the next day.

The students liked this format but found the midterm itself a bit hard. I’m in the midst of grading it right now and it seems to have come out just fine.

Here is why I like this format:

- Students don’t need to know and worry about every single type of problem that I might put on the midterm.
- It takes most of the time pressure away.
- It is less likely that students collaborate on the take-home part since they might not even have the same problems chosen.

I think that next time I give a midterm I’ll experiment with different ratios, only allowing students to take 3-4 problems to work on at home.

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July 17, 2007 at 4:03 am

What I’d worry about is that take-home problems have to be an order of magnitude more difficult/contrived than in-class problems to compensate for the availability of resources like the textbook. I’d think most students would be able to identify the hard problems and take the same ones home, which then amounts to just giving fixed in-class and take-home sections.

July 17, 2007 at 6:41 pm

That is a very good point. However, I tried to have the problems around the same difficulty level. And the vision was that students could take care of the problems that they were comfortable with in-class and take the rest home. Of course this is a bit idealistic. This is kind of what happened as the students only turned in two common problems for the in-class part of the exam.