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People not following the rules

  1. Oct 30, 2009 #1
    Today I wrote a chemistry mid term examination. I was nearly finished when I heard "OK, times up, bring your test to the front", too bad i didn't finish I thought. On my way to the front I noticed people still writing the exam. I thought well that's unfair, but hey that's life. After I handed my exam in I looked around, and people were STILL writing the exam. I did a quick calculation: at that time (who knows if they kept writing) these people had 6% more time to write the exam than I did.

    I decided to talk to the prof about the matter, just to inform her as to what is happening. She told me that she had discussed the matter with her TA's and they had fanned out to bring the "stragglers" in. I told her that's not what happened, she says something along the lines of "I only saw a few keep writing" .... uumm WHAT?

    Why is it acceptable for these "few" to have an unfair advantage over me? What they're doing amounts to cheating plain and simple. I'm competing against a number of these students for entrance into second year programs, and she finds it acceptable to provide them with an unfair advantage? If I was the prof. I would've taken their exams and given them all 0! Because they're cheaters.

    All the while one TA was giving me a dirty look. I was thinking "Yeah, I'm ratting you out for doing a terrible job".

    Is my experience the norm? In the future, should I flagrantly disregard the rules and continue to write an exam until they rip it out of my hands?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2009 #2
    I wouldn't say your experience is the norm. I've heard plenty of stories of people receiving 0 for continuing to write. However imagine the position the TA is in to give a a mark of 0 to these people who just took the 3 hours to write the damn thing anyways just because they wanted to finish writing down their final thought. They should have gone around forcing people to submit but hey that's not what they did that's life.

    If I were you I would feel that if I was comfortable enough to get up with my unfinished exam and hand it in that regardless of how much extra time these people took I would probably end up doing better anyways.
  4. Oct 30, 2009 #3


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    If the professor felt generous and wanted to give people a little more time, why did you not take advantage of it? In the real world, you'll rarely be in a situation where doing a problem 6% quicker will make a huge difference. If somebody needed several extra minutes on a three-hour exam to finish their calculations, I really don't think it's a big deal.
  5. Oct 30, 2009 #4
    Are you saying "uumm WHAT" due to the inaccurate number of people continuing to write, or due to the relaxed nature of the reply?

    I agree and I think it's totally unacceptable if nothing is done about it.

    In my opinion this would be the proper response, but only if the prof. made sure to inform everyone in unambiguous terms before the tests that to keep writing would be considered cheating. Some people may be under the mistaken impression that this is acceptable due to prior experiences with inaction from the professors' side.

    I'm thinking that perhaps the right thing here to do is to tell the prof. discretely that he/she really ought to do something about it because the scores have a lasting effect for you. Depending on policy you may even point out the fact that it's against university/department policy to ignore the issue, in a non-accusatory manner of course (I know it would be against policy at my university to accept such behavior). Don't go blaming the TA or prof. because that is likely to give you bad results, but urge them to consider the problem.

    I don't know whether it's the norm since frankly I have never really stayed till the end of a college test, but the instructors make sure to inform us prior to every test that not stopping to write will result in a 0 and no one I have spoken to have complained about this kind of behavior so I suppose it's not an issue here. I have been attending some math competitions when in high school (such as IMO), and there it was never an issue (everyone stopped the second time was called).

    I would advice against disregarding the rules since:
    1) It's frankly an inconsiderate thing to do.
    2) The time you do it, you may be unlucky that the prof. listen to you, or that you have another prof. who do give 0s for this behavior.
    3) Most tests are made such that a good student will be able to finish in time.
  6. Oct 30, 2009 #5
    Are you saying "uumm WHAT" due to the inaccurate number of people continuing to write, or due to the relaxed nature of the reply?

    The implication that she allowed the few an unfair advantage over the many.

    I'm thinking that perhaps the right thing here to do is to tell the prof. discretely that he/she really ought to do something about it because the scores have a lasting effect for you.

    Yeah, I'm thinking about going to her office hours one day to speak about the matter. I just want to say my piece. My problem is that on the front of the test it says: "You have 50 minutes to complete this examination", and she doesn't enforce this rule.

    Really it's more than that; I had 50 minutes to determine 20% of my mark, why should some have 53 minutes?
  7. Oct 30, 2009 #6


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    I once had a high school teacher tell our class that we should do exactly that.

    Now that you have seen that people are permitted to keep writing a few extra minutes, you may want to use that to your advantage in future exams if you are not quite finished with writing something down.
  8. Oct 30, 2009 #7
    rules were meant to be broken. in these situations it doesn't help to be the leader, it's not like the professor is going to fail half the class.
  9. Oct 30, 2009 #8


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    I wouldn't worry about it. People who finish at the last second usually don't get much help by having a few more minutes to finish the test in my experience.
  10. Oct 31, 2009 #9


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    Perhaps all the people who were supposed to hand in their exams when time was up did so. It's possible that the TAs failed to be discreet about allowing a few students to remain who were granted extra time or an untimed exam due to learning disabilities, or some other issue.

    Beyond that, I agree with Pengwuino that those who are desperately struggling beyond the allotted exam time are usually getting pretty lousy scores anyway. I have never had an A student be the last one to leave an exam, but have regularly had that last person lingering get the lowest score. Even when I was a TA and worked for one professor whose only time limit on exams was that the students had to turn in their papers if another class needed to use the room (oh, did I HATE that assignment on exam days), and one student always tried to stay forever...he still got the lowest score even if he sat there for an hour longer than everyone else.
  11. Oct 31, 2009 #10


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    That's quite interesting. I used to get the top mark in my science and english classes, but I was always the last person to hand in my test. (My philosophy was that taking advantage of every available second can't possibly disadvantage me in any way.) By contrast, the people who hand in tests 20 minutes before the end of class tend to get below-average scores.
  12. Oct 31, 2009 #11
    That's one way to look at it I suppose. The other way is that you failed to take advantage of an opportunity given to all of the students in the class (to work a few extra minutes).

    The best, most effective, people in real life, know which rules can be bent, and which can be broken. This one can be bent, sometimes, if need be, and now you've learned that. Instead of mouthing off to the professor and everyone else about how your experience didn't live up to your idealized vision of fairness, perhaps you should take the lesson that this is how the world works, and learn from it.

    Heh. Sure you would have. And had no problems when your supervisor comes down on you, because he just got 20 calls from students and parents of students outraged at this blatant overpunishment. All actions have consequences.

    Learning how far you can push the limits is part of learning to function in the real world. There's a middle ground.

    But most importantly, life isn't always fair. Deal with it.

    All of this said, I agree with the previous posters that a few extra minutes shouldn't be necessary, or make a difference. Personally, I think its better to focus on your own knowledge and mastery, then to get caught up in the competition with Joe Schmoe.
  13. Oct 31, 2009 #12


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    Not in my classes. If they know the stuff well, they can finish the test in 20 minutes, still take another 20 minutes to go through and recheck all their answers, and turn it in 20 minutes early. I've also encountered a lot of students who do more harm than good by spending too much time rechecking...they end up second-guessing themselves and changing right answers to wrong ones.

    There are sometimes good students who stay until the end of the exam just to give themselves time to consider one or two questions they had difficulty on, or to double check, etc., but they have no problem with just turning in the exam as soon as time is called, because they really were done with it well before that. They aren't the very last out the door. The last ones out the door are just the type the OP is talking about, the ones who are desperately trying to scramble for some extra time.

    When I give exams, I hand them out from the front to the back of the room, and then collect from front to back, so generally, it ends up pretty even if someone in the back is still writing when I take the exams from the front row, since the students in the front row never wait until everyone has their exams to begin (and I'm not going to spend a lot of time doing silly things like sealing the exam book so they can't start).

    The only time I ever had an issue with a professor who allowed students to take longer to complete the exam was one chemistry course I took. We weren't told ahead of time we could have longer than the scheduled lecture period, but then students were allowed to stay as much as a half hour or more later. I had another class right after that one, so had to leave to get to my other class. I thought that if we were going to be given the option of THAT much extra time, not just 3 or 5 minutes, the professor should have either let us know ahead of time so we could let the instructor of the next class know the situation, or find out if people had other classes to get to and not allow the added time if we couldn't all use it.

    I don't have those particular issues with the classes I teach, because all my students are in the same major and take all their classes together, so if one has a conflict, they all do.
  14. Oct 31, 2009 #13


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    Well said. I know it took me many years to appreciate this, and I'm still not very good at bending the rules when appropriate. But at last I appreciate it's okay to do that sometimes.
  15. Oct 31, 2009 #14

    You can also break the rules but there is certain risk invovled. I agree with the above post that "The best, most effective, people in real life, know which rules can be bent, and which can be broken." You have to think yourself how much risk is invovled and how much you can gain by breaking those rules, and how long you can do this. I don't hesitate to break ones where risk is low and I can gain more.

    I mostly finish my exams before the end time but when exam is hard and I have some incomplete questions I don't try to work overtime because it's never been the case that I would have gotten more than 2% if I had gone overtime. I just think of the bell curve :).
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  16. Oct 31, 2009 #15


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    Is this why government employees are the way they are? :rofl:
  17. Nov 2, 2009 #16


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    I disagree with the punishment. What's the penalty for turning in homework late? The only reason giving a 0 would be seen as acceptable punishment is because turning in an incomplete test is seen as about an equivalent result as turning the test in late. The punishment of not finishing the last problem or two is about equivalent to deducting points for turning the test in late (which would be a more appropriate punishment than giving the student a zero - rule 42 in parenting is don't lay out consequences/punishments you can't see yourself actually enforcing; like grounding your kid until he's 18, for example).

    Other than that, you could ask the same question about whether it's fair for a few people to get away with speeding while the majority of us have to manage our time if we want to get to work on time. Of course, that 'few'/'majority' estimate would probably be a little naive. Most people take the attitude that small stuff isn't worth sweating about - and people who speed just a little or people who take just a little extra time really aren't a big enough issue to worry about. The absolute deadline is probably set as much for the time that the resources are available as for any other standard (testing based on availability of resources instead of the course objectives is an undesirable practice, by the way; it's just one of the compromises one has to make with life).

    Here's how people feel about deadlines (and authority in general):

    You don't become the hero of a story by enforcing standards. You become the hero of a story by cleverly violating "unreasonable" standards.
  18. Nov 2, 2009 #17
    Hahaha that movie is great!!

    I'd have to disagree about the receiving a mark of 0 though. This is completely different submitting an exam and an assignment.

    Assignments lose how much per day on average 10% of their mark? Should a person be ablet o sit in the exam class for a full day and lose only 10% of their mark? Taking extra time is tantamount to cheating and cheating in the schools I've gone to always receives a mark of 0.

    If you think that the universities should allow students to write their exams with extra time just because they want to then I don't know what to think. My senior year of high-school would probably be more difficult than how you think an university should be run.
  19. Nov 2, 2009 #18


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    that's an unfair sweeping statement Moonbear:grumpy:
    well...you’re partly correct, but for instance, I remember that I never hand in any of my QM exams before time expires…….hell, I never get the final answer, I only get it in the last [STRIKE]min[/STRIKE] second and I never had the time to review my calculations.

    that's just so fair, I might follow that. thanks for sharing :smile:
  20. Nov 2, 2009 #19
    No it isn't. This is like saying going 48 mph in a 45 mph zone is the same as going 80 mph in that same zone. The actions carry vastly different risks (in terms of bodily injury) and rewards (in terms of time saved).

    The potential gain of working an extra 3 minutes on a 50 minute exam, while people are bustling about to put their papers on the desk, is no where near the potential gain of actually cheating-- say, stealing an advance copy of the test and working out the solutions.

    It's all a moot point anyways. Frankly, most teachers write their tests such that those extra few minutes aren't going to make any difference anyways. This is why they do not worry so much if a student doesn't slam their pencil down immediately.
  21. Nov 2, 2009 #20
    Yours is not the only school that does this. At my school, I've seen teachers have to physically take the test away from a student. The student isn't punished so their isn't any reason for this to discontinue.
    At my high school we lost points or failed if we didn't put pencils down when told to do so. As a result, we got really good at time management on a test. I guess this was part of the standardized test conditioning.

    I agree with some of the posters above, most students who need the extra time are not doing well anyway. The extra time will mean little to them. If you think that you could actually gain from this time wait, observe the environment, and make a decision. If they don't punish the others, then take the extra time and use it to your advantage.
  22. Nov 2, 2009 #21
    Seems like some people just get away with bending the rules because they're lucky, not because they have some intricate understanding of the world.
    To use your analogy against you, going 48 in a 45 is speeding, just as going 80 in a 45 is speeding. Of course going 80 will get you a stiffer penalty, but just because speeds exist that are higher than 48 doesn't mean that 48 isn't still speeding.

    There's different degrees of cheating. Some give you a slight advantage, some give you a huge advantage, but it's still cheating nonetheless and still giving you an advantage that others didn't get.
  23. Nov 2, 2009 #22
    Exactly. The idea of getting a zero for working for 3 extra minutes would be equivalent to getting your license suspended for a year and a thousand dollar fine for going 3 miles over the speed limit.

    It doesn't happen, because its not fair (and impractical).

    It's worth pointing out that all students were given the opportunity to work a few extra minutes, its just that only a few, apparently, took advantage of it, in this case.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2009
  24. Nov 2, 2009 #23
    There's no way to know that you do have that opportunity until you take it and then maybe when you do take it, you get caught and punished.
    Do you think everyone had that opportunity? What do you think would happen if everyone kept working for a few minutes after the time was up?
  25. Nov 2, 2009 #24
    Very good point, If the entire class ignored the teacher we would all get written up for insubordination. As long as people are lining up and going through the motions of leaving, the teacher doesn't care that his/her instructions were ignored by a few.
  26. Nov 2, 2009 #25
    Just because every single individual can't bend the rules at the same time, doesn't mean each individual in particular didn't have the opportunity to do so.

    This is like looking at a room of 1st graders and saying that each and every one of them can, when they grow up, become President of the United States, if they work hard enough. It's perfectly reasonable that at that point in their lives, each one of them has that opportunity, if they work hard. However, clearly they can't -all- become President of the United States, because they're the same age, term limits, etc... but each one certainly has the capability (say).

    More succinctly, asking what would happen if everyone kept working is invalid, because everyone did not keep working. But clearly the OP could have, with no ill consequences.
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