Here are some generalizations about exams in all of my courses.
- All exams are closed everything with no electronics of any
kind, and (of course) no collaboration of any kind. You have a pen
in your hand, some blank paper on your desk, and your brain with whatever
is in it on that day.
- Because I am a softie you are also permitted
one page of notes, 8.5x11 paper, both sides, any content or format
that you choose. If the exam is good then the notes won't help much.
- Your notes shall be
handwritten! No microfilm! No magnifying glasses!
Here is my favorite example.
For the final exam you are allowed one page for each midterm, and
another page for the final. For example, if there are two midterms,
then you are allowed three pages for the final, so you can bring your
notes from both midterms, and another page.
- The viewgraphs are the most important study source. Any
question I ask will be closely tied to some point made on a slide
that is linked on the calendar page for this course.
- Make sure you have a fresh copy of the slides. I frequently
make changes (and even some additions) to the slides after lecture to expand on
some points or clarify. I also annotate slides to note any
slides that are "out of scope".
Older slides are "frozen" one week before the exam.
- A midterm exam covers all material introduced through the second-to-last
class before the exam. Material introduced in the last class before
the exam is not covered. Final exams are cumulative and comprehensive.
- An exam covers all labs or problems assigned before the exam.
I may ask questions relating to any lab or project that has been out for
more than a week, even if it is not due until after the exam.
- Every course has a topics page with supplementary readings. In
general, details in the readings are not covered. However, some
readings expand on concepts on the slides, which may be covered.
Some readings are notes I have written on material covered in the
course lectures. These notes are all covered, in every detail.
- Know the lingo. For better or worse I introduce a lot of
terms, and I spend more care and attention than most in
defining clearly (I think) what the terms mean. If a term is highlighted on a
slide then you should know what it means, and take care to use it
carefully on the exam.
- I recognize that exams are timed tests and that you are under
pressure. I take these things seriously and I always grade them
myself. I just want you to show me that you know the stuff. So
show me quick and dirty.
Scrawled keywords or figures, sentence fragments, bullet lists,
etc., are all fine if I can figure out what they mean.
- Every question that I ask has a short answer that is worth full
credit. I am more than happy to give full credit for an answer with a few
well-chosen words or phrases. I don't
care about the quality of your prose on an exam. I only care about
the structure of the material that is directly topical to the
- Don't leave it blank. Tell me what you know.
- I don't ask trick questions. (At least not on purpose.)
- I don't ask questions about details that are not in some way
fundamental to a concept. I don't care about syntax.