Friday, May 16, 2014

The value of simple exam questions

Gradually with more teaching experience most lecturers slowly learn that "easy" exam questions can be a good test of students knowledge, understanding, and skills.

In several earlier posts I have discussed my concern that some undergraduate students seem to be able to get to second, third, or even fourth year without being able to perform basic tasks such as
  • sketch a simple function
  • keep track of physical units in a calculation
  • have a feel for orders of magnitude so they can notice if a calculation gives a ridiculous answer
  • examine a plot of experimental data and note whether its qualitative and quantitative features to the predictions of a theory
Hence, I like, and think it is important, to set exam questions that test some of these skills. Here are some samples for a fourth year solid state physics course. Slowly I learnt it is also important and worthwhile to slightly change recycled questions.

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