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100% Final

  1. Oct 19, 2009 #1
    How common is it to have a final worth 100% of the course mark?

    Do you think it's a good idea?


  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2009 #2

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    I've never had a course where it was worth more that 75% - and that 75% one was the most extreme example. What kind of final are we talking about - in class? take home? Essay? And what subject?
    My 75% one was in class - 4 half-page to one-page long essay responses (3 hours allotted). It was philosophy, so I thought it was pretty fair.
  4. Oct 19, 2009 #3
    Exam format is likely to be formal at a time other than the class is scheduled.
    I have a "disability" that allows me the option to defer course work weights to finals, and am wondering if there are any reasons why this may not be a good idea.

    Of course there is a portion of nontransferable weight associated with labs.

    Do you think profs will look down upon this behaviour? Or even refuse it, unless policy pressure is applied?

    Has anyone persuaded a prof to increase the weight of their final without any medical reasons?
  5. Oct 19, 2009 #4


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    I'm guessing you've never studied outside the West. In China, the final mark in every course, from grade 1 to grade 12, is based on one final exam. There are no presentations, debates, or create-a-poster assignments; there are tests throughout the school year, but they don't count towards the final mark. Not only that, university admissions is based (only) on one standardized exam taken at the end of grade 12; high-school grades, community service, religion, work experience, whatever don't matter. (Awards, though, are at least considered.)

    As for whether this kind of arrangement is a good idea, definitely not. If you got stressed out on the finals or get the flu, too bad--you get a bad mark. If you get stressed out or get the flu on the university entrance exam, too bad--you either apply to a crappy university or wait a year to retake the exam. My uncle got unlucky and came down with a high fever on the day of the exam, so he had to take the exam while getting IV. My cousins panicked after getting a particularly hard exam, and had to retake it the following year.
  6. Oct 19, 2009 #5


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    It'd be a huge risk. What if you get the flu on exam day? (If the professor is flexible and lets you take it on another day, great--at least that's out of the way.) What if you panic? What if, like an uncle I didn't mention, you break your right arm near the end of the school year and can't study as well as you used to?
  7. Oct 20, 2009 #6
    I think the option of a 100% final should be available, but one usually learns a lot more in a course than can reasonably be tested on the final so I think one should be rewarded for work during the term as well.
  8. Oct 20, 2009 #7
    It definitely encourages cramming which doesn't help in the long run. A student can just ditch every class meeting until the final where they only show up to take the test. They can do a week's worth of cramming and pass the final but it's likely they'll forget what they were tested on.

    If it's a class that's not in your requirement major, sure its a good chance to boost your GPA with an easy A.
  9. Oct 21, 2009 #8
    I think it is a lot more common in Europe, at least we have a lot of courses that are like that. With maybe a few assignments and quizzes that can give either points up to a minimum grade or just add a few to the exam result, almost never homework but maybe half the courses have quizzes which give minor amounts points, at the most 10% of the total.

    To the guy above me; that is exactly what is happening with homework. People are just doing it to get points instead of to learn, and usually they get help from others or rely so much on books and such that they have no real clue what they are doing. I taught a course which had both quizzes and homework, roughly everyone passed every homework thing but on average half passed each quiz which was much easier than the homework.

    So I do not think that graded homework is a good idea, quizzes are very good though since they both forces them to learn correctly and to learn continuously instead of discrete.
  10. Oct 21, 2009 #9


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    From a purely principled standpoint, having a single exam at the end of the course is probably not the best way to do things. But whatever your disability is, I'm assuming there's a reason that you are allowed to shift weight from your coursework to your finals, so it may end up making sense for you to do this. Without more information (which you may understandably not want to divulge) it's difficult to guess at what may be right for you. Talking to a guidance counselor or advisor is a good idea; also with the professor in question
  11. Oct 21, 2009 #10


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    Every course that I took, beyond first year, were 100% final exams.

    These are all (apart from the 'panic') classed as extenuating circumstances, for which the university will give the student leeway.

    I don't know what your exams are like, but certainly where I'm from, you can't skip a class for the semester, then do a week's worth of cramming and get a top grade. A 100% final exam seems the more difficult option to me-- it is way easier to get a better grade if it is based upon spoon-fed weekly courseworks.
  12. Oct 21, 2009 #11
    Your purpose in a course, however, is ultimately not to get a good grade (although that is desireable and nice), but to learn the material. Presumably the two go hand in hand. However, I don't see how having a 100% final contributes to a student learning better than homework, quizzes, and tests. The main point being that without graded homework, and to a lesser extent quizzes and tests, the student has little to no real feedback on the quality and accuracy of their work.

    You can say, oh, they have coursework, its just not graded, but then, how is this better than having it be graded? I think its worse because the student doesn't know where they stand throughout the course, and thus focuses and worries more about their grade, instead of focusing on what they should, namely, learning the material.

    To the OP, I don't see why you would want a 100% final. What's in it for you?
  13. Oct 21, 2009 #12

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    I have had 100% finals (and even 100% take home finals) - so many that I don't find it unusual. It was certainly more common under the 10-week quarter system than the 15-week semester system.

    I think the OP is taking a bit of a risk, though. If (s)he insists on a 100% final as a reasonable accommodation and then bombs it, it will be difficult to then turn around and argue that this was somehow unfair.
  14. Oct 21, 2009 #13


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    You can have coursework that is corrected but not graded. This is 'better' for the student because it gives those who want to learn the chance to get detailed feedback on their work. Coursework should, in my opinion, be targeted at those students who want to succeed, and should benefit those students, instead of being a way to try and enforce learning on students. I've graded lots of compulsory coursework, and there are certain instances where it is just counterproductive-- students hand in copied work, just because they have to, so they aren't learning the material, but are simply trying to get a high score. Note that the two are not equivalent! By not making coursework compulsory, you stop having to mark all the copied work done by those students trying to cheat their way through the course, and can focus your feedback time on the students who actually care.
  15. Oct 21, 2009 #14


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    That's my case. All my undergrad studies follow this rule. We don't have any assignments (except lab reports), instead we have suggested exercises. We can do them or not, knowing of course that we'll suffer if we don't do them.
    It's not perfect since you can always fall over a very difficult exam and do bad while you knew somewhat well the material. Nothing can get your grade up. On the other hand you're obligated to know very well the course, which I believe make you a better physicist. (I study physics)
    I don't know if I'd change this system. If assignments were like 20% or more than the final mark, many people not knowing well the subject could pass.
    I'm just sad for the ones that knows well the material and do bad. Hard choice.

  16. Oct 21, 2009 #15


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    At my university there are 3 periods of final exams (on February-March, July-August and December) in which there are 2 or 3 days one can take the finals. But one has to subscribe a week before taking the test, in order to take it. But if one gets the flu or if he's suddenly lazy, even though he subscribed to take a final exam, if he doesn't enter the room in which the final exam is taken, he wouldn't have any grade nor any mention he hasn't attented the final . However if one enters the room, he must sign a paper and if he leaves the room without doing anything then he gets a 0/10.
    So getting the flu or being scared or whatever is absolutely not a problem. One could eventually retake the exam and get a single grade.

    If life was so easy! I personally cannot cram for a final. I don't know what kind of final you've taken, but the 4 hours-ones that cover every single chapters of the material are generally hard. I've spent a full vacation-month exclusively for studying a single subject. I generally did well but not always. And I'm not alone, it's very common to do so, here.
    By the way I'm stuyding in Argentina although I'm from Canada/France.
  17. Oct 21, 2009 #16
    I don't necessarily agree with all that is being said here. Not everybody learns the same way.

    And I especially do not think that a test score is always an accurate description of how much a student knows.

    I know many smart students who work their arses off. They do they HW and actually try. They do all that is expected of them. But for some reason they absolutely panic when it comes test time.

    Even they know this. They know that they just panic, but still cannot find a way to overcome that panic. As a result they end up with lower test scores. But if I start a conversation nonchalantly about the same material, they can talk about it all day with no problem at all.

    Just my 2 cents :smile:
  18. Oct 22, 2009 #17


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    I don't think putting all of a grade into a single exam is a very good thing from a student learning perspective. It certainly has some appeal from the perspective of easing the workload of writing and administering exams.

    Each professor writes exam questions with a slightly different style and expectations. If you have your entire grade based on one exam, and you happen to miss the mark on what was expected by that professor or have some difficulty with his/her question style, that's it, you only had one chance and your entire grade is down the drain. More frequent exams and assignments give you a chance for feedback on your progress early in the course, and more opportunity to improve and correct your approach to studying to meet your professor's expectations.

    I have to admit I have never heard of a disability where the accommodation was to put more weight on just a single exam. Having a disability that requires accommodation during exams seems like even more reason NOT to want your entire grade based on only one exam. It seems it would be preferable to have a few exams or other assignments to show improvement or to recover a grade if exam performance is poor on one of them. The only situation I can think of where it might make sense is if the disability is diagnosed mid-semester, and the grades are shifted toward the final exam because the earlier exams were not given with proper accommodation.
  19. Oct 22, 2009 #18
    You have to realize that when you base the grade on the exam then it gets much, much easier to retake courses. I think a large reason why the US have much graded homework and such is because it warrants them to force you to retake the whole course and thus pay them more money instead of just retaking the exam like you do where I go.

    This is good for many reasons, for example it allows you to retake the tests so the scores represents better what you know when you graduate rather than what you knew when you took the course and it also is a better representation of what you know rather than how much work you put in. Of course people learn better if they have small tests and such throughout the course, which is why we do have quizzes and such but their worth is negligible compared to the exam and you can always get the highest grade by just writing the test.
  20. Oct 23, 2009 #19
    In my degree, each course consisted of four assignments and one end of year exam. To get the highest pass, you needed >85% in both the coursework and the exam. A grade 2 pass was 70% - 84% etc, right down to the lowest pass mark of 40%

    So, you could have got 100% on all the assignments, but if you got 75% in the exam then you'd get a grade 2 pass. Similarly, you could get 100% in the exam, but if your assignment average was 40% you'd get the lowest pass.

    I'm now doing an MSc at a different university, and here the coursework is worth 33%, and the exam is worth 67% of the final mark, which seems fairer!
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  21. Oct 23, 2009 #20
    When I did my Undergrad degree in the UK, the mark for my whole degree was 7 final exams at the end of the final year plus 1 research dissertation.

    Yeah - you read that right.

    Brutal. I did fine but it is not recommended. Some people can excel in that kind of environment, but it cuts out at least 50% of the intelligent population.
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