Jock's Backroom Blog

Views from the Backroom, and the Classroom, at Oxford Brookes University

Exams, exams, why exams?

Posted by Jock Coats on January 12th, 2012

I notice from what information we have available to us that all four of my modules this next semester will have examination based assessment.  In the case of the politics module, the exam is 100% of assessment.

Now I am sure there is a place for exams, but I suspect it is a lot less often than is actually the case.  It may be that my politics module is all about remembering facts, O level style, that can be regurgitated through a series of simple questions and answers, but it doesn’t sound right.  And the thought of inflicting one or more on hour essay type answers in my ageing handwriting on a marker is a little disturbing.

Further, it means we are not producing any assessable work throughout the module.  No essays and such like.

I read in an American academic’s blog a while back about one half-way house solution.  If you don’t want to hand out essay titles and have people read up on them and write a polished, cited, argument over a period of weeks, potentially allowing them to get someone else to do the work, then how about handing out an essay question for return the following day?  It gives minimal time to “cheat” but adequate time to spend on a decent argument, on setting the whole paper out with bibliography, citations and neatly type-written, and it doesn’t have to be done in a sweaty hall with 300 other students having had everything they’ve learned blown out of their heads by the volume and length of our Academic Registrar’s recorded reminder of examination rules.

All my other modules have exams this semester.  One module had an exam last semester (and that was, arguably at least, in Microeconomics, one of those subjects where facts and definitions can be tested in examination conditions).

Some thought needs to go into this.