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Asides

Tempting… almost free bonus test marks!

My younger brother Mike, who was recently inspired with a variety of hilarious drawings left on written tests, has attempted to score some bonus marks on his grade 11 Physics test with his artistic abilities. He almost got away with it too!
almost free test marks
This brings two points up for discussion – bonus marks on tests, and entertaining one self during exceptionally long test periods.

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Discussion

  1. Posted by Keith Casey | April 12, 2007, 11:08 am

    With the various “zero tolerance” policies here in the US, this would probably get him in trouble. We have absurd instances where some 6 year old gets removed for making a “gun shape” with his fingers.

    On tests in college, I always brought a discman and listened to a CD throughout. It wasn’t much of an issue at the time, but I only brought commercial cd’s to avoid the suspicion of audio notes, whatever.

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  2. Posted by Tony | April 12, 2007, 2:36 pm

    Good point. Luckily I’m in Canada, so it’s not as bad here. Though it still largely depends on the teacher and perception of humour. I recall getting in trouble at school for “misuse” of “OF DOOM” expression (Invader Zim reference) in one of my assignment’s titles.

    Universities are more relaxed in terms that they let students leave if they are done writing exams early. Back in high school I would litter the backside of tests with random doodles and sketches. I wonder if I have any of them saved…

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  3. Posted by hydrant | April 13, 2007, 12:17 am

    Hmm, I’ve seen that same comic on the Internet before somewhere. In that one, the teacher had written “I don’t negotiate with terrorists” in response :P

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  4. Posted by Tony | April 13, 2007, 11:25 am

    Yup, that’s the one that prompted this art work. The wording is slightly different. So is teacher’s response ;)

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  5. Posted by Bobrobyn | April 13, 2007, 11:40 am

    That’s pretty amusing. I usually ended up using the entire test periods in highschool, unless it was ridiculously long, though. I was one of those people that didn’t do all the Physics homework, so had to figure it out on the test :P

    Of course, in grade 12, when I needed a high mark, I started doing the homework…all of it…the night before. So I’d end up doing a few weeks of Physics homework before a test. That was FUN! — It also made it so I got A’s on the tests. It turned out that teachers like to use problems from homework….a sad realization of mine.

    I was never much of a doodler.

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  6. Posted by Mike Minutillo | April 15, 2007, 12:39 am

    When I was doing exams in my last year of university I would leave a number at the bottom of every page of the exam answer book using the sequence (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) from the TV Show Lost. I liked to think that either the marker would recognise it and think favorably of me or they wouldn’t and it would confuse the heck out of them.

    I have also been known to mark my own tests when I’m done. This will often include notes to the marker along the lines of “I think this could be clearer but I can’t think of a good way to explain it”, along with an actual percentage grade.

    In at least one instance, the marker had responded to most of my comments starting a dialogue with me about why he felt my comments were too harsh, too forgiving and when they were spot on.

    It sounds wierd when I tell people about it, but it really is a good way to make sure that you understand what you wrote and ensure that you think it is reasonable. It will also make you aware of where you think you need to improve your answers and what you need to study up on for the next test.

    It should also subtly affect your marker psychologically but don’t tell anyone I said that :)

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  7. Posted by Tony | April 15, 2007, 1:03 am

    @Bobrobyn – it’s often a common practice to reuse the old exam questions. If you can get a hold of exams from at least 2 years ago by the same professor, not only do they make for a great practice, but also could pleasantly surprise you during the exam itself ;) Proven in practice!

    @Mike – that’s a fairly good idea for spending excess time, but it could depend on a prof. I especially recall a particular question for an Algorithms & Data Structures exam I’ve had. 6 marks (lets say 5~10% of exam’s weight) full page of space to write out code. The main idea was to get a hold of a certain pointer inside the void foo(void) function. It’s tricky. Full 6 marks were given for “can’t be done” answer – that’s 2 marks per word. Perfect answer does not, at all, seem reasonable.

    Though to make this particular example even more fun, consider that I was awarded the majority of marks for scanning the memory for a unique feature to get a hold of the location, while others have also performed reasonably well with the use of global variables.

    Anyways, bonus points for Lost reference!

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  8. Posted by Mike Minutillo | April 15, 2007, 1:58 am

    Ooh I got a star. How’s that for bonus points?

    I used to leave exams as soon as I had finished writing. Then I got into the habit of re-reading my work. After a while I realized when I got my results back that I had made some very silly errors which I should have caught up on the proof read. That’s when I started marking my own stuff. Just to make sure I was reading it carefully.

    The other trick I picked up was to always write something. Never leave a question unanswered. I have picked up marks in an exam where my response was “I’m not sure of the answer but my gut feel is that I will need a stack in my algorithm.” Not too convincing but my lecturer was happy that:

    a) I had recognized the fact that I didn’t know the answer (believe me as a professional, this is FAR more important than stabbing wildly in the dark) AND

    b) My gut instinct would have led me down the right path eventually.

    Of course, this all depends on the lecturer. Some are not particularly forgiving. In some scenarios, you will lose points for incorrect answers so be careful how you use this advice.

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  9. Posted by Bashar | April 15, 2007, 2:16 am

    Well I’m sure the guy has some bright future :)
    We had a professor who used to give bonuses on computer engineering exams like:
    Puzzle: Connect 9 dots
    General questions: What is the arabic date today (Always a difficult question), what does the name mean
    It was unfair sometimes that you get 5% over the others because you knew irrelevant information, but it was fun and people liked it.

    Then he revealed his dark side and got into religious questions that has public conflicts. This is when things started get out of control and turned into chaos.

    As to what I used to do, i would go and write long answers and give examples from soccer on a OS exam :)

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  10. Posted by Bashar | April 16, 2007, 5:05 am

    Ahh Qst: how come by going to http://compsci.ca/blog/ I dont see this post but through RSS I see it?

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  11. Posted by Tony | April 16, 2007, 11:08 am

    @Mike – more good points, nice! I especially agree with the practice of writing at least “something”. Certainly looks better than a blank page, and the start of a thinking process might trigger some new realization about the problem.

    Yes, obviously one has to be careful about negative marks, but from my experience those are usually limited to multiple choice tests, and are meant to statistically offset marks one is expected to get with guessing.

    @Bashar – Philosophically, bonus questions are kind of weird. Maybe I should save this for another post.. Though good job on connecting soccer to OS ;)

    And this post does show up on /blog’s front page. Though because it’s in the “aside” category, it’s actually at the very bottom.

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  12. Posted by Keith Casey | April 16, 2007, 11:18 am

    “Mike – more good points, nice! I especially agree with the practice of writing at least “something”. Certainly looks better than a blank page, and the start of a thinking process might trigger some new realization about the problem.”

    This goes back to what I said the other day… “writing stuff down is not a sign of weakness”.

    Besides, once you start writing stuff down and figuring things out from the problem statement, you give the opportunity for the professor to give you partial credit. If you write nothing, there’s no reasonable way it could happen.

    On that note, when I took my Emag Fields final in my undergrad, the professor (David Voltmer, Rose-Hulman) handed out the test and shared this story:

    “A few years ago when I gave this final, I got back one of the tests and found a $100 bill clipped to it with a note. The note said, ‘A dollar for every point.’ I thought ‘great!’ and gave him $31 in change.”

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