Timed Midterms

I just finished administering and grading all of my midterms—I had one class on Thursday, and two classes on Friday. I attempt to write midterms that are short. I have written about this topic before

I have two things to add. The first is that I think this gives students a more accurate assessment of their ability. Short exams eliminate the “I knew the material, but I got a bad grade because I ran out of time”-factor. You eliminate an excuse for the students.

The second comment is one of goals: I am generally happy with the length of the exam if the exam has an LD-50 of “10 minutes.” By this, I mean that 50% of the students finish with at least ten minutes left in the class period. There is no scientific basis to this, only a sense that I am providing a thorough enough exam without creating much of a time pressure.

I was able to meet my goal in two of my three classes. Interestingly enough, I teach two sections of multivariable calculus and only one class met the LD-50 goal. I am not sure why this is.


2 Responses to “Timed Midterms”

  1. ericakathryn Says:

    I’ve found that classes often have very different personalities. The difference between them may have absolutely nothing to do with you, but with the makeup of the class.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      This is probably the case. I think that there may be some sort of peer pressure thing going on—one student finishes early, and then other students figure that they should leave early, too, rather than looking at their exam more.

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