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Writing exams: time allotment?

My first evening hour exam was Fri 06 Oct 2006 - I moved it from class time (2:30 - 3:20pm) to afternoon (5:30 - 6:45pm) under the assumption that some or most could use an extra 25 minutes.

Afterwards, students told me I was right. "It would have been possible but a tight squeeze to finish it in 60 minutes and extremely hard in 50, but with 75 we had about 10 minutes left to clean up and check our work."

I've heard that exams should be written so that students get 3-5 times as long as it took the instructor to solve the problem. I usually allow about twice as long (60 minutes for an exam I work in 30 minutes, 75 for one that takes me 35-40 minutes), and it's been a tight squeeze.

What's your experience been, as a student or as an instructor? (Please say what you took or taught.)



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 22nd, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
Our current genetics exams are conducted that way.

Namely, all the TAs and the instructor should complete the exam in an hour. If it's longer than that, it's too hard.

We are then given 3 hours to do the exam. But even then, for our grad class in bio, that's not a solid indicator of our ability to get to each question. I thought it was fair but I did... well, I got the average, which I was happy with.
Oct. 22nd, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
Extra time will not help you if you don't know the answer. However, too little time WILL hurt you even if you do know the answer. I write very quickly, and for most of my classes expect to finish about 10 min before everyone else does. Sometimes those 10 min are all that save me from a a very painful death of being stopped mid-sentence.
Oct. 22nd, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
It's been so friggin' long that my main memory of essay exams (history, we're talking late 80s) is the time my hand cramped.

Also the time I spent 50 minutes answering the wrong question and 10 minutes very sloppily writing the correct answer. (Not to mention the time I completely made an essay up on the spot that must have been correct, because I got a good grade on it.)
Oct. 23rd, 2006 07:24 am (UTC)
I'm weird with tests. I write very quickly and it turns into a crazy scrawl depending on the length of what I'm writing. But I'm always finished first on tests. I don't know why. It doesn't matter how long the test is, or how much or little I know--I just finish first. I hate it. I will purposely just sit in my chair and keep looking over the test to see if I possibly could have missed anything until someone else turns in their test or I get bored.
(This went for high school and college [mostly psych tests, but any class, reallly.])
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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