Each year I teach some of a fourth year undergraduate course PHYS4030 Condensed Matter Physics which is based on Ashcroft and Mermin. Back in 2012 I started the course by giving the students a Pre-test, which tests some basic knowledge and skills. I posted the test and some reasons why I thought that it was a particularly valuable exercise.
Yesterday I gave the test for the fifth time. Some of the results were a bit disturbing; more than half the 20 students scored less than 60 per cent. Some struggled to do basic calculus, sketch graphs, or remember Schrodinger's time-independent equation or that the heat capacity is the temperature derivative of the internal energy, ...
I said before that the test is a useful wake-up call for the students. However, I realised it is also a wake-up call for me. I really have some idea of what the students can do and can't do, what they struggle with. I can't just blissfully hope they know more than they actually do. There are also some basic points and skills I will have to keep coming back to.
I welcome comments on the test and my observations. Is it reasonable to expect students to score greater than 60 per cent on such a test?