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Dumb professor testing methods?

  1. Oct 6, 2013 #1
    So I took an elective in environmental science and the professor puts stupid trivia questions on her tests/quizzes to prevent people from getting 100 on her course.

    For example from one of her online quizzes: she asks what percentage of air pollution is caused by motor vehicles. Or another example: how many people die as a result of under-nutrition annually? She expects the class to memorize the textbook (or she doesn't: she just doesn't want people getting a 4.0).

    I ended up applying optical character recognition to the e-version of the text and just using control + F to find the answer.

    Midterm is coming up and I won't have access to a computer. I think I'll have to export the OCR'd text portion of the relevant sections of the textbook to a simple text format and just use my smartphone to do an easy look-up during the test. She says she'll be giving everyone more than double the time needed to do it so time isn't going to be an issue.

    I feel guilty for the easy 100 but I have no choice because this woman refuses to change her style. Anyone have any other less-cheating alternatives?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2013 #2
    Accept the hit to the GPA like a man/woman.

    Protip: make sure you answer some questions incorrectly. If you get 100% it will be too suspicious. If you get 90% you'll still get the 4.0 depending on your university's GPA scale but the prof won't be on your butt.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  4. Oct 6, 2013 #3


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    Get good.
  5. Oct 6, 2013 #4


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    I'm confused, your complaint is that the professor is asking material from the textbook and your solution is to cheat with a smartphone on the exam? It sounds like you're just trying to justify yourself.
  6. Oct 6, 2013 #5
    I think it's akin to asking how many children Newton had on a physics exam.

    It was probably mentioned somewhere in the textbook that he was never married and therefore the prof. would be asking material from the textbook.

    Another solution is to write some sort of algorithm to parse all the facts/statistics in the textbook and generate flash cards. Print the flash cards and test yourself regularly.
  7. Oct 6, 2013 #6


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    If you think you can deduce the number of children from his marital status, then you are probably too dumb to be a physicist :biggrin:
  8. Oct 6, 2013 #7


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    So you have a problem with the test style and decide to cheat and think that's ok? That's terrible and unproductive. Firstly because your knowledge isn't representative of the grade you have attained (regardless of whether or not the exam should be judged meaningful) and secondly by cheating and getting a high score you are validating the test. If a professor sets bad exams then this will only become apparent when most of their class attains low scores promoting those whose job it is to investigate to investigate. Now all you've done is screw over current and future class mates because whenever someone complains the test is bad she can just point to you and your perfect scores.

    Furthermore there's nothing wrong with being required to memorise facts. It's a huge part of learning, sure one can go overboard with it but without knowing more it seems all your teacher is requiring you to do is learn relevant statistics. The two examples you've given sound like the type of thing that would be useful to know off the top of your head in such a course.
  9. Oct 6, 2013 #8
    I guess you get 100% in all other courses.
  10. Oct 6, 2013 #9


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    You would definitely have failed one of the university entrance exam papers I took - A predecessor of http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/our-services/subject-specific/step/about-step/

    The instructions said to spend about 1 hour of the exam on one section of the paper. There were 30 questions and for full credit you had to answer all of them (i.e. 2 minutes each).

    EVERY question required that you made a numerical estimate of something, based entirely on physical constants and "general knowledge" data that you had to KNOW. There were no "formula sheets" or "tables of useful random facts" provided. And you couldn't cheat with your smart phone, because the internet hadn't been invented yet!

    Typical questions:

    1. Estimate the change in the earth's angular velocity when an elephant begins to stampede along the equator, traveling west.

    2. (Modified for US readers:) If a pendulum clock keeps accurate time at sea level, estimate its error when it is at the top of the Statue of Liberty.

    3. Estimate the power output of a traditional Dutch windmill.

    And so another 27 in the same style...

    Whaddya mean, "high school students aren't expected to know the formula for the radius of gyration of a sphere, or the mass and radius of the earth, or the maximum speed that an elephant can run ..." :smile:

    Of course you got marks for your method as well as for the numerical answer, but you had to be somewhere in the right ballpark. And at two minutes a question, you didn't have time to mess about "proving stuff from first principles"
  11. Oct 6, 2013 #10


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    Fermi would have loved that exam. :biggrin:
  12. Oct 6, 2013 #11

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    If one feels the test is unfair, the proper response is to discuss the situation with the instructor, then the department head, and ultimately the dean. It is not to cheat.

    That said, the complaint "She's..she's making us learn facts!" :cry: is not likely to generate much sympathy within the administration.
  13. Oct 7, 2013 #12


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    I don't like the current grading method that is used here.

    Most professors tend to make multiple choice quizzes. Most of the questions require calculations and mastery of multiple skills that the student learns during the course, and if the said student made a small mistake or had small problems with that question/subject, he/she gets 0 out of lets say 3 or 2 marks; it could have been 2 out of 3 marks if the student made most of the calculations/explaining correct.

    Professors use that method because it is easier to grade multiple choice papers. I personally don't like it, as it is quite inaccurate and most of the quizzes tend to be short, which doesn't cover all the material properly.

    Note: I didn't mention guessing in multiple choice exams.
  14. Oct 7, 2013 #13
    This is not only a recurring concern in academics but in job interviews and job tests as well.
    The truth I realize is tests can not evaluate completely what you know or don't know about things.
    In 1990 there were 50 volcano eruptions in Hawaii, and in 2010 only 40. Now I forgot the exact number 50 but still remember 40. I can word and reword in my speech that there should have been higher data recorded of the fact compared to one in the year 2010. The important point to emphasize here is it was higher not the exact #50 or #40. So it is the importance of the speech I am making that decides which is more critical to what audience I am targeting to transfer my knowledge. And thus your professor was (90%) correct about what she asked you in her test, the rest 10% is because I don't know about her plan and intention.

    Another case, in a job test for a C++ position for a game company, the company only advertises the position as a game developer with a lot of requirements without having previously mentioned the frameworks (e.g OpenGL, openES) for use during development. However, that you will be asked to create a program using OpenES at the exam is pretty ridiculous. There are a lot of tools and frameworks as well as 3rd party libraries that helps one to create a game engine. That test method should not be used to evaluate candidates.
  15. Oct 7, 2013 #14


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    A good test would look for factual knowledge as well as the ability to apply it. There's nothing wrong with being asked to remember facts, they're obviously going to be useful! Sure there can be an over reliance and many things it's not important to know off by heart but at least know how to look up and interpret. But the fact remains that all education is going to involve a hefty amount of memorisation.
  16. Oct 7, 2013 #15


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    I don't understand how you consider the examples to be stupid trivia. If an answer to the first one was 20.5% and her four choices were all between 20 and 21, that would be stupid. But if the choices were more spread out (like 20, 30, 40, or 50), why wouldn't you be expected to at least know a ballpark figure for the science that you are studying?
  17. Oct 7, 2013 #16
    That sort of sounds like material that would be covered in the course. If it's multiple choice, I don't see a problem with having it on the test, but if you're expected to remember precise numbers of every statistic in the book and type it in the answer box, then that's BS.
    If it's an online test, then the teacher knows you'll have access to the book or the internet to look up the answers. The point, I think, is that you know the information well enough to know where the answer would be located in the book. Using your method is cheating. But depending on some variables, it can be justified or not justified.
  18. Oct 7, 2013 #17


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    (bolding mine)

    Is this an open book test? Otherwise, I don't see what she means by giving everyone double the time needed to complete the test. You either know the answer or you don't. Is she giving people double the time necessary so they have plenty of time to change their answers from A to C to B repeatedly?

    Either way, using an electronic device to search for the answer is cheating. I would hope you would have enough of an idea of what's in the text book that you could at least remember where to find the answer to the question.

    But, regardless, professors are usually hired because of their knowledge of the material. There is no guarantee they know how to write a test. Only elementary school teachers and secondary school teachers have to get teacher certifications, or otherwise prove they know how to teach. With college courses, especially higher level math and science courses, finding a person that understands the material is hard enough. It's just not practical to start levying other requirements on top of being an expert in their specialty.

    Of course, actually, there's also an awful lot of high school teachers that don't know how to write a test. In a literature course, I actually wound up writing my essay question using the True/False questions and Multiple Choice questions as my source. (We were supposed to read around 13 or 14 short stories, but one of them was definitely a chick story, and what are the odds? Well, actually, about 1 out of 13 or 14, I guess.) I managed to get a "C". (I also got quite a few confused comments from the teacher, as well. From my essay, it was obvious to her that I'd read the story, but who the heck was Hector? And, for the record, if she'd read her own True/False questions, it would have been obvious who Hector was. Obviously, I missed that particular T/F question.)

    If I had a clue, I could turn a B into an A just by good test taking techniques - even in subjects such as Chemistry. If the test was long enough, the right answer to the questions I didn't know had a good chance of being revealed by how a different question was worded.

    So maybe that's what she meant when she said there was twice as much time as needed to figure out the answers. Maybe she knew she wrote lousy tests and that a good test taker would eventually find the answers to any questions they didn't know somewhere else in the test.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
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