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Courses Alternatives to Coursework as Means of Demonstrating Knowledge

  1. Oct 19, 2007 #1


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    The problem with coursework is that coursework is structured in such a way as to "measure" knowledge at the end of the course. It provides no means of measuring knowledge months after the course, when one may have absorbed the course material better (especially since learning is best done over a period of months, especially as one must review the material in order to learn material on top of that). One could choose research, but you can't really compare one's research with another, and the results of research are highly dependent on chance variables such as the selection of project and that of mentor.

    I know that there are the GRE Subject tests, but the level of those subject tests aren't so high. Moreover, I don't want to be accused of being a "lazy bastard" just because of high GRE scores and low GPA. I do pull numerous all-nighters and spend numerous hours on homework - it's just that my learning style is different from that of others, and as a result, I don't absorb material very well on the first try, but absorb it better through mistakes that I've made (and I tend to be motivated by coursework to pull all-nighters to study - it's harder to do that by purely self-studying). I'm actually less distractible during all-nighters (but it's just the way I tend to operationalize how hard I need to work).

    Ideally, I'd like there to be an exam system similar to that of AP exams and SAT II exams (or the systems that some other universities use, that you can pass out of the material). But yet here, you can only take exams by taking more and more courses. Evidently, it's not a good way to demonstrate knowledge because people learn at different rates and some may learn better after reviewing the material over a period of months after the course.

    I could try to arrange with a professor to "re-take" an exam independently of the course - but that's not going to accomplish anything... (unless the professor is going to write a rec for me).

    Anyways, this is how I tend to view lectures:
    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=97194 [Broken]

    Anyways, so my questions are
    (1) anyone with similar experiences?
    (2) any suggestions other than pre-studying? (which is the obvious route, which I'm planning on doing, but this isn't going to help with courses I already didn't do that well in - but learned well through self-study later on)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2007 #2
    Either you're smart enough to do the work or you're not. Lowering academic standards hurts those who are capable of excelling.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Oct 19, 2007 #3


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    Simfishy, you have noticed that often subject-matter retention is a problem, and you also noticed the often overlooked method which some people try to avoid; study the course again to review it and learn it better. Getting motivated to do this is difficult, but actually doing it is effective. Once people pass a course, they do not want to study it again, because they already have their course credit. They need some concepts and skills from the course, but they do not want to improve them.
  5. Oct 19, 2007 #4


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    Is allowing people to retake tests indicative of lowered standards? The fact that the SATs can be retaken multiple times does not lower the standards of the SAT (same goes for APs and SAT IIs). Somehow, there is no standardization at the college level, which hurts those with independent learning styles.

    Either you know the material or you don't (by the time you apply). The problem is, that the lack of standardized exams at the college level (or means to demonstrate ability) prevent some people from demonstrating ability.

    Besides, I like taking exams, and I find that the environment that I take them in to be very conducive to learning. I consider exams as a learning experience more than anything else. Yet I'm frustrated that it's apparently only possible for me to take them by taking classes.

    Yes, that's true, many people don't want to study their courses again. The problem is that I have a different learning style (and it's not an issue of intelligence - it's learning style - I do understand the material very well after I learned it - it's just that I tend to encounter the main barriers early in learning, rather than later on - and I understand the material better than most people do since I approach all of my material by asking questions such as "how does it fit into the general framework of things"; etc etc etc). And I don't want it to disable me when I know full well that I can master the material (in say, for example, the summer after not doing particularly well in a course).

    The main thing is that knowledge in math/science is cumulative. My knowledge in linear algebra or differential equations may not be complete by the time I "finish" a course, but I need to review it later on, and find my understanding of them MUCH improved after reviewing them (after finishing a course that only lasts for 2.5 months)

    And under the traditional system, I don't find ways to demonstrate knowledge in fields that I've self-studied. I'd like a way to do this (I could jack exams off MIT OCW - but then I can't prove that I took them out cold without looking at the answers)
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2007
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