How to write an exam---EXAM101.

Alan Robert Clark

August 25, 2004

Printable pdf version
Abstract: This document basically stems from my frustration at people doing stupid things that are very easy to avoid, but lose a lot of marks in the process. The other side of the same coin, a similar frustration occurs when I am asked ``why I lost one mark, but the answer is right''. This particular frustration can have a fairly violent expression. :-)

1  Basic Premise

Much of what I have to say on this topic stems from the following basic premise as to the purpose of an examination:
It is your job to convince me that you know what you are doing. It is NOT my job to extract some thread of quirky logic from a morass of random scribblings.1

2  Before the Exam.

3  Whilst in the venue, before the Exam begins.

4  The Writing.

Time's Up!

Final Word

Remember that it is a simple fact of life that a pleasantly laid out, neat, logically presented examination paper will gain a higher mark than the one where the information is not explicit and clear. There is a ``mythconception'' that ``we are out to get them''. Please note that the School only gets decent credit (funding) for completed students.

The online version is

Given the amount of time that I can devote to reading the answer, you need to get the maximum amount across in the clearest possible manner! (100 Students, 5 questions each, at only 5 minutes per question, that translates to over a week of full-time marking, doing nothing else!!, but often takes more than 5 mins/question.)
I do not think that I have ever seen a paler face, and a more contemplative expression than the chap who realized that he was writing Signal Processing, not High Frequency Techniques only when I handed him the question paper. I believe his words were: ``But...''
Do NOT try to do a last-minute conflab with your fellow students. It does not assist!
I was once asked by student A whether he could ask student B for an explanation of a finer point on the sheet. E=mc2 ensued :-)
I once assisted in invigilating a first year economics course, with over 1200 students in Hall 29 (ONE paper). A good 10% of the class was mis-seated. There were, I think, about 30 invigilators all calling student numbers out to each other. The JSE had nothing on it.
Rumour has it that a senior academic opposed them in the Senate, since it would no longer allow him to mark affirmatively :-)
Not too difficult for us engineers, but I was in a venue where they switched Philosophy I and II. This was brought to light one hour after the start :-)
One of the reasons I have moved away from the 5 out of 7 question format, is that in EVERY exam, I had two or three bleary-eyed chaps after the exam that answered all 7!
I suppose that most of you have forgotten, but in the 80's, the SRC battled to get that concession out of the 11th floor...Use It
On the other hand...

This document was translated from LATEX by HEVEA.