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Exams and Cheating

How often and during what part of the class should I give quizzes?

Different arrangements for quizzes can compliment different class structures. People usually give daily, weekly or pop quizzes. Daily quizzes are a way to keep the student’s memory fresh, and can also be a way to keep attendance. Weekly quizzes can be used as an activity between weekly assignments that motivates students to think about the material before the last minute. You can also give “homework quizzes” on a daily or weekly basis (see section on Grading Homework). Pop quizzes can reduce the amount of work, while still keeping students on their toes.

Usually people give quizzes at the beginning or at the end of the class. Quizzes in the middle of the class could help by breaking up the lecture, but group work is usually better for this. Quizzes at the beginning of the class are good for warming up for the lecture, and to review the last day’s or week’s lecture. Quizzes at the beginning of the class help motivate students to come on time, whereas quizzes at the end of class help motivate students from leaving early. - Circle S08

When is the best time to go over answers to quizzes?

You can either go over the answers immediately after the quizzes are turned in or when you return the graded quizzes. There are pros and cons to both scenarios.

The advantage to going over the quiz right after it was taken is that students are curious to know if they got the right answers. Unfortunately, they may be less likely to take notes at this point, whereas if they had their graded quiz in front of them, they may correct their mistakes to use for future reference. This is the main advantage to going over the quizzes when you return them. It also cuts down grading time because you don’t have to write out everyone’s mistakes on their quizzes - they can write the corrections themselves. Additionally, if you have students who are allowed extra time on quizzes, this may be your only option to avoid giving away the answers. However, students may not be interested in correcting their mistakes by the time you return the quiz, even if it is the next day. - Circle S08

I find that on average the students who did well are interested in going over the quiz so they can feel good. The students who did badly aren’t because they figure they’ll study harder next time and don’t want to dwell on it. I have had a little more success going over the quiz right after it’s been given and it’s on their minds.

I made the midterm too hard, and my class is crushed. What should I do?

Some people give some tough extra credit assignments to let people make up credit. I have allowed students to re-write their exam perfectly to gain a rebate of 1/3 the points lost. One GTA told their class that they would have the same or similar problem in one week, and that their quiz scores would replace their exam scores on the problem. I think the general idea is to give students a way to do legitimate work to earn grade credit. RESIST the urge to say you’ll be ‘nicer’ or ‘easier’ on the next exam. Your next exam is going to be as hard as you think is appropriate to measure their learning. Don’t give them the feeling that the difficulty of exams correlates with how kind you are.

How hard should my midterm be? Final? Quiz?

This is always hard to judge the first time you give a test. You should talk with other GTA’s and compare midterm questions for levels of difficulty. Give your midterm a test run by seeing how long it takes you to write out answers with the amount of detail you want to see from your students. Make sure that it takes you no more than 25% of the time that you will give your students. Preparing midterms and final exams will also be a topic for discussion at the GTA monthly meetings.

One of my students claims she has quiz anxiety! What should I do about it?

A lot of students get nervous for quizzes and tests. If this student’s test anxiety is actually connected to a learning disability, then she needs to get tested and certified by the DPRC (Disability Programs and Resource Center). See the question in Disabilities on midterm accommodations for more information.

I don’t know any magic solutions to quiz anxiety, but here is something I’ve done in the past. I’ve given hard quizzes in this format: they work on it by themselves for 5-10 minutes. Then they draw a line on the page and put down their pens. I give them 1 minute to ‘cheat’. They can talk to anyone they want, but they can’t write anything down. Then I say stop and they can add whatever they want to the quiz, under the line. Their work still counts for credit, so they have no incentive to cheat.

Good things: they have intense incentive to work together, briefly. They can see how they did without help and how well they do with a little bit of help. I can see the difference too. People seem to like it, and it does give them some practice being under pressure. -EH

I caught a student cheating during a quiz/midterm. What should I do?

The official university policy is quite fearsome and escalates quickly to expulsion. It will be better if it doesn’t get to that point. I suggest that if you think you’ve caught students cheating, you e-mail me, Judy Kysh and the Chair, about the situation, and we’ll handle it on a case-by-case basis. -EH

I had a case with a student cheating once. I was sure of it since he turned in a carbon copy of the paper of the person next to him right down to the mistakes that came out of left field. Plus, I had seen him looking at her paper on other quizzes. At any rate, in finding out what to do, I eventually got turned over to the Vice Chair of Undergraduate Affairs. He told me to pull the student aside, and show him the papers and that I had suspected him of cheating and that the issue has been passed on to the Vice Chair of Undergraduate Affairs. It worked! It was pretty obvious that student wasn’t even entertaining the idea of cheating anymore. Sometimes all you need is a little scare tactic without actually accusing. - Amy Morrow

How can I avoid cheating in the first place?

Think about different ways you can structure or proctor the test, such as arrangement of desks, giving different exams, or letting them bring in a page of notes. You should also record who was sitting where during the test, to compare later if you suspect cheating. There are also several ways to create a system of selling hints at the cost of a point or two. - Circle S08

One of my students came back with a chapter test that he claimed I'd graded wrong. Sure enough, I had marked a bunch of problems wrong that he did correctly. I am pretty sure he changed the answers after I returned it, but I can't prove it. What should I do?

In this case I would say there isn’t enough evidence he cheated to actually accuse him. But, the next time I handed back his test, I would xerox it before returning it. People have been silly enough to be caught the second time around. If you are really concerned, you can scan tests in the copy room and email them to yourself.