1) Grading of Exams
Your exams are graded on the assumption that you probably really did know what was going on – that you weren’t really ignorant, but that you just missed something or made a math error, and basically knew how to work the problem. HOWEVER! If I return your graded exam paper and 1 minute later you are up at my desk handing me the paper, pointing to a big -5 circled in red and saying “What’s that for? What’s wrong with that? That looks right to me.” then I realize my original assumption was incorrect. You really were ignorant. My assumption that you could work the problem was wrong, and you owe me more points. So please be advised that you would be wise to take your graded exam home and study it carefully, and compare it with the posted solution, and once you fully understand why you lost points and fully understand how to correctly work the problem, THEN bring it back if you still feel it has been unfairly graded. If you come up to the front of the class as soon as I return it to you without KNOWING and UNDERSTANDING why you lost points, you will very likely lose additional points. If you have not made a serious attempt to see where you went astray, and I have to show you why you lost points, even after having carefully circled the place where you deviated from truth, then YOU OWE ME MORE POINTS and I intend to collect them. I would also like to suggest that after grading 80 or so similar exams, I am pretty sure what the right answer to the problem was, and that’s not likely what you wrote down.
Please note that this does not apply if you have spent a reasonable amount of time checking over your exam. If, after an hour or so of study and comparing it with the posted solution, you are still truly unable to work the problem, I will be more than happy to show you how, for free. No points deducted. But I insist that you make a good faith effort to find out where you went wrong, before asking me to spoon-feed you the solution. Also, you may find that I did indeed miss something on your paper, and I owe you points. Believe me, if I have gypped you, I will happily give you back any points you deserve. I have no use for them – they just collect dust in the closet.
Your exams are first marked by my teaching associate to show me where you went astray. We sit down and I give them a key with a complete list of every mistake you could possibly make. They then go through and mark where you deviated from the key. They do not assign point deductions, they only mark errors. They also mark errors which I thought were unlikely, for my further consideration. I then go through and assign a grade to your work.
I try and get your exams back to you in a timely manner, but truly trying to figure out what you are doing, and fairly evaluating your work is not easy. You can usually expect them back within two weeks of the date given. One thing I always do is maintain a detailed point deduction sheet for every problem. That way even if a week has passed before I got to your paper, I know exactly how many points that error was worth. See example here. That should show you how complex even a simple problem can get, and why it takes so long to get them back to you. Sometimes I get the comment that “You took off 10 points on my paper for using the wrong yield stress, and only took 5 off of my friend’s”. True, but you used the wrong A992 steel with Fy = 50 ksi – i.e. wrong steel and wrong stress, thus -10 points. Your friend on the other hand used the correct A242 steel in which Fy is sensitive to the flange thickness, but got the flange thickness wrong, thereby also getting the value of Fy wrong, which was only -5 points. I admit that both papers say Fy wrong, with yours getting -10, and hers -5, but I hope you see why. You used the wrong steel from the get-go, she used the correct steel but made a later error.
2) Course grading scale
Your final grade in this course will be based on the scale below. No “deals” will be made at the end of the semester, i.e. if I make an “A” on the final exam will you give me an “A” in the course? If I pass the final exam will I pass the course? If I make all A’s will you give me a “C”, (that one doesn’t come up too often.)
If you have a problem that is affecting your performance in this course, or if you are having problems with the course material, see me immediately for help. If you wait until the end of the semester, it will probably be too late. I also often get requests like “Dr. Lowery, will you please let me study for an extra two weeks after the semester is over and take the final then? I have been under a lot of pressure, and working two jobs, and my mom died and then lost her job, and my dad has cancer and my girlfriend is …” Sorry people, but I am not qualified, nor permitted by the University to make such decisions. I am expected by the University to teach you everything I can, in one semester, and then test you to see what you learned under the same time constraints and life conditions as your peers.
I will certainly admit that many of you have had more problems in one semester than I have had in a lifetime, and believe it or not, I do sympathize with you. However, short of giving everyone in the class who has any kind of difficulty in their life the same extra time or extra points as you is just not ethical. If you think that you have truly experienced conditions this semester that have negatively impacted your performance for which you need relief, you should contact the Student Counseling Services Office at 845-2700, or the Dean of Engineering, or the C.E. Student Services office. Such offices are competent to properly judge your problems and are permitted to request that I give you a second exam, or more time, or whatever, and I will gladly comply with their decisions.
The University grading scale will be used in this class. Minor relaxing of these standards may be made at the end of the semester, but if you make the grades shown below, you are guaranteed no lower than the following letter grades:
90-100 = A; 80-89.999999 = B; 70 – 79.999999 = C; 60 – 69.999999 = D; 0 – 59.999999 = F.
- Weekly Exams: 60%. There will be about 12 weekly exams (probably 10 to 14), given at the end of the last class during the week, during the semester. They will make up 60% of your final grade. Materials to be covered will be anything up to and including the material covered on the day of the exam.
- Final Exam: 30%. A comprehensive final exam will be given at the university specified date and time (see syllabus for time and date.) It will cover everything covered during the semester.
- Homework, special assignments, pop quizzes, class participation: 10%. All of these are equal in value, if given, unless specifically stated otherwise. Usually it includes only homework, but if any of the others are given I will tell you their point value at the time. It is extremely important that you work all assigned homework problems. The only way to learn the material in this course and to perform well on the exams is to practice working problems. The importance of working all assigned problems cannot be overemphasized. Homework is assigned so you can practice the things you have learned in class.
Note that the homework grades are sent to the professors shortly after the deadline listed on the McGraw Hill website so you MUST remember to submit your work for grading before that time. The website is set up to let you continue working on unfinished problems to help you learn more, but after the deadline your grade has already been sent and recorded by us.
3) Submitting exams for re-grading due to grading errors
- First, read (1) above.
- You must hand in any exam papers for re-grading within one week or 7 days, whichever comes first. No exceptions. One week should be plenty of time for you to check over your paper.
- On a separate sheet, you must show a copy of the correct solution to the problem in question, so I can tell that you at least know what the correct solution was, and how it was found.
- You must also submit a written description of why you think your solution is correct, or why you think too many points were deducted, or that your points were added incorrectly, or whatever.
- It is OK to claim that “You took 3 points off on my paper, and only took off 1 point on my friend’s paper, and we both made exactly the same mistake.” That may be true. However, I won’t begin to consider that without proof. If you feel that is the case you must submit a copy of your friend’s paper with yours, or I will not consider your request. It is very unlikely that they made exactly the same mistake, unless they were copying off of your quiz, which I doubt.
- Having copies of both quizzes I will then check against the grading sheet where I keep a record of all errors and points deducted. See example here. If your friend did indeed get it wrong and I just missed counting off for their error, then they got a lucky break and I will not change their grade. However that in no way entitles you to more points., since everyone else in the class who made that error also lost 3 points. If on the other hand I find that the error was indeed only worth 1 point I will be happy to correct your grade.
- “How can you know how many points you took off of other student’s exams with 100 people in the class?” Because every time I first encounter an error on the first exam graded I make a note on a copy of the quiz of how many points I deducted and stick with it from then on. I then know exactly how many points to deduct from then on.
- Finally, staple your papers together and hand it in to me at the end of class. Do not put it in the “homework submit” folder or it will simply remain there for you to pick up.
4) Questions Regarding Makeup Exams
If you plan on missing, or if you already missed an exam due to a university excused absence, you must contact me as soon as possible by email at email@example.com. Otherwise I will assume that you do not plan on taking a make-up.
You must email me with all of the following information no later then three days after the exam was administered. Thus if the quiz was given on Wednesday, your email request must be dated no later than Saturday midnight.
What class you missed
Your telephone number
Your email address
The subject line MUST read as follows: CVENXXX makeup exam where XXX = the course number.
The reason for this is I get hundreds of spam messages a day and I just won’t notice your email otherwise.
I will then compile these emails into a single list and distribute it to everyone needing to take the make-up. You will be responsible as a group for picking a time we can meet for the make-up. Failure to take the makeup will result in a grade of zero for the exam. The makeup exam will be given later in the semester, as soon as possible after the original exam.
There will be only one, single, unitary, uno, mono, 1, make-up exam given. If you missed more than one exam, they will be given back-to-back.
Note that it is 100% your responsibility to inform me that you need a make-up exam. Many people miss the exam because they are dropping out of school or out of this class, and I am simply unable to try and track you down at bad email addresses and inaccurate telephone numbers to ask why you missed the exam and if you want a make-up. It is your responsibility to contact me as listed above.
Student questions from the past:
“I was just wondering what the protocol is for the make-up exam. How do you decide who gets to take it?” If you have a university excused absence, or even a reasonable excuse, you can take the makeup. See student rules for definition of excused absences.
Can I take it tomorrow? No, I will only be giving it once more, and everyone who missed it/them will have to take it at that same time or get a zero.
Do you know when that will be? I will get with everyone who missed the exam and we will set a time that everyone can agree to be there. Please note that having another class at that time won’t be a good reason for excluding that time. You already missed my class, so it won’t hurt you to miss someone else’s class to take an important exam.
Is the make-up harder? Yes, it is harder. At least everyone who takes it says so. However, the people who took the regularly scheduled exam always say it was easier, so I really don’t know. I do know that there is safety in numbers – i.e. if everyone who took the regularly scheduled exam makes a 20, we know that the prof is the problem and a grade curve is appropriate. However, if two students take a make-up and both make 20, there aren’t enough scores to statistically say who is to blame and the scores cannot be curved.
Can I take it early? No one is ever, under any circumstances, permitted take it early. I tried that once, with a straight A student with whom I would have trusted my life. After the regularly scheduled exam, another student complained that she was the only one in the class who hadn’t been let in on what was on the exam, and had therefore made 40 points below the class average. I confronted the student who took it early and his eyes, and then his head dropped, and he swore that he had only given it to his roommate. With whom he would have trusted his life.
CVEN 221 and 305 homework will be computer graded this semester, as noted on the syllabus. Once you work a problem, you can check it and be told if it is correct or not. You can then work it again and again. If you get tired and want to quit, and come back later, just “Save and Exit”. You can always come back to it later on. However you MUST SUBMIT the homework before the deadline or it will be recorded as a zero.
6) Discussing your exams before they are graded:
From: Distraught Student
Subject: Major Exam
Dear Dr. Lowery,
I was just thinking about the test since I left class yesterday and I realized that on the last problem I gave you a shear diagram instead of a bending moment diagram. Seeing that there were only 4 problems on the test I am pretty sure this will take a substantial chunk out of my test grade and now I am worried about still getting a good grade in the class. Can I please come talk to you about my grade?
Sorry, but until I get the exam graded and see how you actually did, I won’t discuss it. I’ve been there too many times before, where students waste an hour crying about how they knew better, and can I cut them some slack, and then leave in despair – and then end up making a 92.
Never again. Please wait until we know how you actually did on the exam. At that time I will be glad to talk with you about it.
7) Scholastic Dishonesty:
The following does not pertain to you. I think that the above article greatly magnifies the number of engineering students willing to chance jeopardizing their continued enrollment at A&M. Most weigh the meager gains potentially available with the likely consequences and make the proper engineering risk/reward decision to abstain. However, no doubt about it, students are stacked in the exam room like sardines, and it is very tempting to glance at someone else’s paper, just to see how badly they are doing. Or perhaps just to see how they are incorrectly working the problem. Or perhaps to see if they think a free body is required.
Please don’t. Being told you can no longer attend TAMU is bad enough, but it can haunt you long after that. We have one student who a year after they graduated was shown to have committed scholastic dishonesty, and the University rescinded their degree. Flat took it back. No questions asked and no legal rebuttal filed.
Now the harder I make it for you to resist cheating, the less I become complicit in the act. Thus you will find that I give two or more different exams. Sometimes the exams look the same. Sometimes they look identical. But there are always small differences, and unless you can see that their given load is 38 while yours is 83, or that their question hidden in 4 sentences asks for the maximum shear stress while yours asks for bending stress, one of you will have to answer some very embarrassing questions later on. It also makes such actions much easier to find since the exams are numbered. It also makes it very easy to simply write down your seat number if something looks fishy during the exam, and to check it out later. I know I have personally looked over a single exam three or four times when grading it when a student appeared to be copying. I compared it in detail with the numbered exam near them. I found every miniscule mistake on every single problem, and made sure that no stone was left unturned and no benefit of the doubt was granted. They weren’t.
But you don’t need that kind of scrutiny. You really don’t.
8) Waiting until the last minute to do your work
I recently received the following from one of my consulting employees:
I tried to print the charts to do the report required on the Washington lawsuit and it printed rows of random characters. I am pretty sure I either have a virus or my printer is going bad. I was able to get a friend to print the charts but I couldn’t get somewhere to print the report in time for your 6:30 flight to Washington so I have attached a copy of it to this email. If the lab opens before your flight leaves I will print it off but I am not sure if it will be, so I attached a copy to prove I did it.
Your employee who puts everything off until the last second even though the work was given to me a week ago
Thanks for forwarding the report to my Blackberry. Perhaps when I get to Washington I can Xerox the screen and give that to the opposing attorney. Or perhaps I will just throw the Blackberry itself on the table and myself on the mercy of the court and hope for the best.
P.S. I hear they are hiring at Santaburger.