An Exam Question For All : LUSENET : UR General Chemistry : One Thread


A word or two concerning the first exam:

First, it is an embarrassing fact that the percentage of "cheating" at US colleges is high, making it necessary to devise schemes to prevent this from happening at exam time.

Second, it is not obvious how to define "fairness" other than in reference to the material covered in class and in assignments. However, even asking different people to answer the exact same question within the same period, regardless of other circumstances, is sometimes difficult to justify, when conclusions are to be drawn about the comprehension of material. (You may be aware of the nation-wide discussion about the usefulness/uselessness of "intelligence tests.") A more or less random distribution of similar (simple) test questions among several sets of questions is the one I generally find easiest to defend. This is what the three exams ("three easy pieces") represent and why, for example, Question 1 of the gold exam is almost a carbon copy of Question 2 of the blue exam, and why Question 5 is identical for both. These things happen with a relatively small sample. - But, as a matter of interest: Was there a difficult question on the gold exam at all? If so, the recitations should tend to the topical issue. Of course, anyone who found any of the questions difficult to answer has his/her work clearly cut out for them.

Third, one has every reason to expect that any student in the course who has worked in the course, done the reading, homework, and participated in class and recitation, would have been able to pass each of these simple tests with reasonably close and good grades. This is in particular true as help sheets were allowed, even for the very limited topic covered in this first exam, such that each student had the chance to make available to themselves at exam time that information that deemed most valuable. The sheets probably contained different information for different people, helping further to level the playing field, as well as to alleviate the stress associated with every exam. Of course, people who did not attend classes or recitations, or otherwise had neglected their responsibilities, would have found it slightly more difficult to answer certain questions, e.g., those that their more motivated colleagues had heard discussed repeatedly in class. Clearly, students not attending classes are disadvantaged at exam time. I have no particular motivation to change that asymmetry.

Fourth, a question for everyone: Suppose that there are four exams, each with three different sets of questions, and that the sets are distributed randomly among the students. In each exam, there is one set that is significantly more difficult than the other two. What are the odds that YOU will draw the most difficult set every time, or even three times out of four? I will not disclose the answer here, but just want to let you know that these are odds I can live with, and so can you!!!

Let's take a positive attitude and work together at the subjects that appear difficult! After all, this is why we are all here.

Enjoy your weekend.

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2000


Come on, people! You know that this was an entirely hypothetical question: What IF there were SIGNIFICANTLY different exams...? Of course, this is not my intent, has not been, and the versions of the first exam were not significantly different. What possible reason could I have to design them in an odd way?

On the other hand, I am not particularly attached to the 3-version exams. Maybe, the 2-3 room exams suggested by some are a better way. For one, this latter methods would cut my already considerable workload. So, I am all for giving it a try next time around.

However, based on my long experience in this "business", I do not expect to see a significant effect of the testing method on the results. It is hardly ever doubtful at the end of a course how to categorize students. Of course, whenever in doubt, the decision is "pro", not "con".

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2000

yes, i understand what you're trying to get at professor Shroeder, but what if that one student, just one got all three tests or four including the final being the "harder" one? would that be fair to that one student? i know the odds are small, but at the same time, looking at the class size there is a great possibility that there will be at least one student. I understand that you want to prevent cheating. I don't want people to cheat off of me and i don't think anyone who has studied hard wants that. But is it fair to give different tests? how is that uniform testing? I attend all lectures, i take copious notes, i go to extra help sessions during recitations and i do ALL the problems. I did fairly reasonable on the test but i am still intersted in seeing the means for each invididual test and how they differ. Then mathematically we can see which test is harder and which test was easier and then perhaps we can put this "talk" to rest as I to would like to learn chemistry. thank you

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2000

After being at UR for 1 1/2 years, I've found that, judging from the experiences of various friends and acquaintances, there is relatively little cheating going on here (my observations could have "sampling error" but I'll live with it). People are taking classes to learn the material because, for the most part, it relates to future plans in which they'll HAVE to understand and know it, so they might as well learn now.

In order to prevent possible situations of cheating, perhaps the tests could be held in 2 different rooms, like last semester, because there are too many students in the class for everyone to have an empty seat between themselves and the next person. (Though I understand this may be hard to arrange when tests are held during class time).

Anyway I'm not complaining about the different exams; I had the gold one, I got a 'mediocre' score though I went to classes, studied, etc., etc. It's a lot better grade than I was getting in CHM 103, so I'm happy. I just resent that it is being implied that I would cheat on a test if the person sitting next to me had the same exact exam. I may be chemistry-impaired but I'm not a cheater, and neither are most of my classmates. The ones who are, well, who cares what scores they get? It'll catch up with them eventually and they'll have to deal with a lot more than one bad test grade.

By the way, the probability that I will draw the hardest test every time is about 100%, because things like that just happen to me.

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2000

Hello, This is certainly a very interesting issue. I happen to have gotten the gold test.. You mentioned Dr. Shroeder, that from the grades you are able to tell who goes to lecture who goes to recitation etc.. Basically you are saying that the grade one gets relatively reflects on how studious one is in their chemistry work. I have gone to all the lectures, and recitations, studied extremely hard and got a mediocre grade, I dont know how well i would do if i had gotten a different test, i will never know. maybe i could of gotten a good grade. The point is i will never know, but what are the chances from your statistical assumptions and collective data (meaning the average grade of one test compared to the other) from the class that i would have gotten a higher grade, even by a mere point. I studied just as hard as the guy who had another test, and maybe know just as much, but yet end up getting a lower grade even by just a point. But i question as to why the majority of the people that had the gold test didnt do well. Was it that the gold test just happen to fall on the third of the class that didnt study as hard? is it a possibility? Yes, but is it a probability? i would have to say no. So i ask that you would please take this into consideration, maybe ask the TAs for their opinions on this, I know you may think that ohh its probably the ones that did bad on the exam that is getting all worked up about this, maybe.. I mean i would like to see my grade be raised. But that is why i ask that maybe you ask the TAs who are not directly effected by any decision that you make, and see what they have to say about this. That is all i have to say, and as for the possibility of a person getting all the "harder test" I am not as "unlucky" as the previous person, my chances of getting all "hard" tests is about 98.9%... I dont think i would want to risk it Dr. Shroeder.. thanks for hearing me out. See you in class...

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2000

I'm not going to go on and on about the different exams and criticize Professor Schroeder's methods, whether I agree or not. I would just like to state that I feel the 1.23% of the class that will take all four "hard" exams are receiving a less than fair chance of excelling in the material. I consider myself part of the 33% of the class already on their way to being part of that statistic. I didn't do that bad, but not as well as Chem 103, the class I attended four lectures in all semester, and received a B+ in. I went to all of the lectures thus far, and felt bored in that the material was well behind the depth and volume of Zumdahl.

-- Anonymous, February 13, 2000

I would just like to say that I am a senior at the university and in all the classes I have taken I have never seen an exam that was so different that the questions did not resemble each other to the degree that there was an easy and a hard exam. Why not just mix up the question order and use different numbers? I myself took the gold exam and did fairly well. However, how do I know that I would not have done better with a different exam? Possibly this could effect my grade at the end of the semester. Maybe becasue I didn't get an A on this exam I might not get an A for the semester. Thus, I don't think that it is fair that I (or anyone else) should even have to take one exam that is harder than any other let alone all the exams that are harder than the others.

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ