Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Critique of My Mid-Term Examination

Took my first graduate mid-term exam. It kind of sucked, but it knew it would. I walked around all semester saying "this is too easy, I just read and underline." This was justification that grad school will require actually, time-consuming work.

The test was short answer: respond to 3 out of 4 questions, each one asking us to compare similar/dissimilar themes across multiple essays. The test took me a while to write. I think my arguments are fine, but who knows. I'm just trying to figure out what they want. I know the information, but criteria used to grade the test are unclear to me.

overall, I fell like I could have a better draft of all three answers tomorrow. The more time I have to digest the specific issues being addressed, the clearer my argument becomes. More than that, I feel robbed of giving a clear articulation of my knowledge of to coursework. Is this test an appropriate medium to communicate the essence of my knowledge of the subject?

Consider the formal' qualities of the test (formal meaning the specifics of how the test is conducted, not the content). First, the short-answer open-book test format is limiting. It lets us get deep into specific concepts on the test, but offering only 4 questions puts limits on measuring the scope of my knowledge of the work. I go from considering the entire syllabus to just a few readings. Also, why is it a timed test? Why do we need to hurry this? Aren't these concepts worth the time of 4 days?

I understand that this test format is the established norm, and that is does give the student and chance to take a deep dive into specific reading. But there is a problem inherent in this system, and we need a change! I PROPOSE: we modify the testing format to include an oral argument portion. This would be an oral defense of your written work, to make sure the professors see you know the concepts, removing the danger of complete plagiarism. PhD's do it, so should we.

Much like Socrates, I do not trust that writing can capture the truly meaning behind the language. An oral argument allows the student to speak directly from the heart, from the "soul" and demonstrate his/her understanding of the subject at hand. The oral will confirm the transfer of education to the soul (Plato's logo) while the writing portion verses the student in the formal characteristics of academic writing.

The test was due at noon. I started drinking at 12:01pm.

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