Most veteran professors would likely tell us that the first exam in their
course makes a significant impact on the number of students who complete
each section. In an age of increased accountability mandates to improve
student retention and graduation rates, the more effective management
of this critical milepost can have tremendous impact. Believing that each
student about to complete their first course exam with a clear and accurate
expectation of its content and format. Stated another way, there should
be no significant surprises for a well-prepared student. Thus, the instructor
- Develop the exam several weeks in advance, so in the sessions immediately
prior to administering the exam, you can be assure to address all
of its content;
- Provide students a study guide of the concepts that will appear
on the exam;
- During the session immediately prior to the exam, conduct a thorough
review. Consider also conducting an exercise that provides a sample
of exam questions very similar to those that will appear on it;
- During that same session, remind students of any supplies that would
be required, as well as your procedure about storing their textbooks,
book bags, etc. during the exam.
- At the session during which the exam will be administered, arrive
early to serve as a resource for those with a last minute question.
Greet students if possible, and wish them well on the exam. Refrain
from making statements about the ease or difficulty of the exam.
- At the regular starting time, ask if there are any final questions,
and answer them briefly without comments such as "you should have.
- Ensure students' desks are free of un-required materials, then distribute
- nform students where to deliver their completed exams, and provide
details about resuming or dismissing the class (with the request to
leave the room quietly);
- If any students are missing, position yourself next to the door
for a few minutes to ensure late entries do not disturb the students
- After scoring the exams, calculate the range and mean of the results,
and if possible, an item analysis of questions missed;
- In reviewing the exam results at the following meeting, consider
holding on to the answer sheets until the questions are reviewed and
- Following distribution of the scored answer sheets, write the ranked
scores on the board, along with the mean score;
- Since students are likely to have added your class late, not purchased
the expensive textbook in a timely fashion, etc. you might consider
offering students an option if grades were less than satisfactory.
For example, if they choose to write "Plan B" on the answer sheet
for the second exam, you might "drop" the first exam score, and weight
the final score on the remaining graded items. So, if there are four
scheduled exams, plus a paper, each weighted at 20% of the final grade,
you might offer the individual option to assign a weight of 25% to
each of the remaining items.
Students often have very legitimate reasons for not performing well on the
first exam. It should not necessarily "dig them a hole" from which they are unable
to rescue themselves.
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