Multiple exams throughout the semester test class performance

By Alissa Groeninger

With the semester halfway over, students are thinking ahead to spring break and securing summer jobs and internships.

However, midterms are a roadblock preventing University students from being worry-free.

To further complicate some students’ lives, some midterms planned for Monday were postponed due to the power outage.

University Provost Linda Katehi sent a mass e-mail asking faculty and staff to be “understanding” with regard to homework deadlines and exams. While students who were unable to study because Compass and Mallard were not working now have adequate time to prepare, they also have more time to worry.

History professor Kenneth Cuno had to postpone a midterm.

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    “It did push things back one day, but you have to build some flexibility into a course plan or at least be prepared to alter things as you go along,” Cuno said in an e-mail.

    He said the postponement gave students more time to study and no one complained.

    Alina Nuth, sophomore in LAS, said her exam was not canceled because the exams are graded on a curve.

    “If you’re at a disadvantage everyone else is at a disadvantage so it’s going to reflect on the curve,” Nuth said.

    Erin Galis, sophomore in Aviation, said she had tests last week and will have tests this week and next week. She also has to spend six hours per week flying.

    At the end of the semester, Galis will take tests in order to receive a government license to fly. She said the tests require months of studying because they are graded on a pass/fail basis. If a student fails he has to retake the course.

    “That kind of takes up a good portion of the work,” she said.

    On average, Galis spends one or two hours studying for an Aviation test and four to five hours studying for tests in her other classes.

    “Aviation just comes a lot easier to me than other classes,” she said.

    Nuth is a biology major and said she has no actual midterms but has at least one exam every week.

    “There’s always exams,” she said.

    Nuth said she studies for 10 to 12 hours for each biology exam. She said the tests can be challenging until a student learns how to prepare for them and take them.

    “Once you get the hang of it, it’s not really that bad but it can be a bit daunting,” Nuth said.

    While some students are bogged down with midterms, others have to worry about projects and papers.

    Kate Bowen, senior in Media and former Illini Media employee, said advertising majors do not have a lot of tests. She did have two midterms this week but also has four group projects to work on.

    “It’s kind of a more drawn-out process,” Bowen said.

    She said that she usually studies for a test for two and a half hours and spends five hours on a project.

    Education professor Sharon Tettegah said students should experiment with different types of courses, taking some that are centered on projects and others that incorporate tests and exams. She said students learn better when they experience diverse assignments because different types of assessments utilize different areas of the brain.

    The ideal class would incorporate many different ways to test students’ knowledge, but it is difficult for professors in large lectures to utilize tests, projects, papers and assignments, Tettegah said.

    Maggie Regan, freshman in General Studies, had midterms and finals in her courses last semester. However, this semester she does not have any midterms. Her instructors only assign exams or papers throughout the semester.

    There are pros and cons to both options, Regan said. She said she likes having midterms because there is one test and then students can relax. She said this semester she always has an exam or paper coming up. However, this means the material covered on each exam or assignment is more recent and fresh in students’ minds, Regan said.

    “I can never sit back and relax,” she said. “(But) I have more than one chance to prove my grade.”

    Tettegah said different teaching styles better suit different students.

    “People do learn differently,” Tettegah said. “People do vary in the way they prefer to learn.”

    Grading systems

    “Faculty have the freedom to set their courses up how they choose as long as they are in line with the campus’ general guidelines.” Renique Kersh, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs the College of Applied Health Sciences

    1) What you have to do to do well in the professors class

    2) The average grade earned

    3) How many A’s are earned

    4) Why the professor grades the way they do and/or uses the specific components to make up a grade

    5) What components a grade in the class consists of

    6) the class(es) the professor teaches

    7) student response

    Anne Farrell, Accountancy

    1) Read the required readings in advance, practice and review material after class, participate in small group activities and participate in discussion

    “They need to develop the skill of grappling with uncertainties in problems.”

    2) B

    3) Varies by semester

    4) She grades in class assignments to help students learn from the problems and their mistakes.

    “I try to give feedback that helps students reflect on what they’ve learned.”

    “It’s also learning from things you can do better.

    5) Exams, technical skills displayed in the lab, in class work, evaluation of peers, case studies are graded for content and writing, small homework opportunities, essays

    “People have opportunities to shine in different parts of the class.”

    There are 1,000 total points given in the class

    6) Accountancy 302

    7) “She worked in the field so she brings a lot of experience to the classroom,” Allison LaBelle, sophomore in Business. LaBelle said Farrell is able to tell students when they are gong to use specific material in the real world. LaBelle said Farrell is energetic and bubbly, making the two hour lecture fun.

    “She tries to get everybody involved. “There’s a lot of positive energy in the class. Students are inclined to learn.” “I think she’s a great professor, a great aspect to the college of business.”

    Bill Jones, Aviation

    1) Study

    “You either know it or you don’t.”

    2) B (most people earn As and Bs), people rarely fail (he said)

    3) Varies class to class

    4) He gives extra credit because the University does not have courses in aerodynamics and his background is in that field.

    “Just to try to help them out if they’ve done poorly on one exam.”

    5) Four exams, one final, one homework assignment, six extra credit quizzes

    6) Aviation 130 and different flight courses every semester

    7) “It was pretty intense. He’s a really, really good instructor. He definitely pushes you to know every fact and every detail. His (exams) are fairly detailed and in depth.”

    Ken Chapman, Biology

    1) Score well on exams and homework

    2) B- (more As and Bs than Ds and Fs but students receive every grade)

    3) 20 to 30 % receive As

    4) He grades on a straight scale and does not use a curve. At the beginning of the year he makes the grading scale known (A 90-100 %).

    “That way student know how many points they have to get to get a certain grade.”

    He does not like to use a curve because it creates a competitive situation between students.

    “If everyone in the class gets an A, which never happens, it’s because they all did all the work I asked for.”

    He said if he has a higher percentage of good students in a specific semester then a higher percentage should get good grades.

    5) In MCB 101 he gives 3 exams (including a final) and a lab practical.

    In MCB 100 there are four exams (including a final).

    In MCB 312 there are four quizzes and a final.

    6) MCB 100, 101 and 312

    Harry Hilton, graduate professor in Engineering

    How to do well- participate, do the homework, do well on exams.

    Average grade- mostly As and a few Bs

    “If they get a C, they shouldn’t be there. These are special groups of students.”

    He screens prospective students to make sure they can do well in the class.

    How many As- Most of the students get As

    Grading Philosophy- “It’s very difficult for me to tell whether the exam was easy or if it was hard.” It’s why he curves exams.

    He said the number a student scores on an exam shows what they could deliver on that exam and is not completely indicative of their work in the course.

    Lawrence Angrave, computer science in the College of Engineering

    CS 125, undergraduate lab

    How to do well- work hard.

    “It’s a demanding course.” He said students often drop because it is difficult and they do not put the commitment in the beginning. He said you have to keep up with the work and ask for help when you need it.

    “It’s about being able to learn new facts.”

    “You’ve got to be interested. You’re going to learn a lot more if you’ve got interest.”

    Average grade- If you work hard, you can earn an A or B.

    How many As about 40 percent earn As

    Grading Philosophy- “There’s lots of material for students to get on top of the materials.”

    “What we try to do is inspire people.”