No Fancy Name
Friday, November 04, 2005
reminiscing about final exams
In a recent post, Jane Dark mentioned lining up for registration and I thought that was so quaint. Yes, I realize a lot of schools probably have in-person registration but the way she described it, with the waiting hours before the appointed time in the department, it just reminded me of the way my undergrad school did final exams. Not with the lining up in the department or anything, since we had no departmental distinctions by building or office suite, just the "old skool" aspect of it all, what with this technology age and such (case in point: my registration appointment this semester means that 3:00pm on Nov 11 PeopleSoft will allow me to classes to my

Our final exam system went like this: we had a list of exams, and five exam days in which to take them, with two exam slots on each day for a total of ten available slots. We got a card (pictured here) with the list of exams and room locations. Except the room location wasn't where you took the exam (although you could), it was just the place you picked it up—you could take it anywhere in the building. We only had three buildings on campus in which classes were held: art, science, and "academic." Because, you know, art and science aren't academic? Whatever. It was just the name of the building— art was in Deming, science was in Pierce, and everything else was in Academic. Really. Ok, so when I had exams that were held in the science building, I often took my exam into the bathroom and sat on the floor, instead of sitting at lab tables and what not. All that science stuff just doesn't do it for me. But when my exams were in Academic, I always scored a place in the cushy chairs in the 4th floor lounge-like area (four chairs next to a window) . For all three years, that's where I took most of my exams.

When you went to pick up your exams, the prof in charge of handing out exams for that slot on that particular floor—could be anyone from any department, they just had a box of manilla envelopes with names and courses on them)—initialed your card. When you handed it back in at the end of the three hours (or before), whomever took your exam initialed it again. That's all. No proctoring (well, if you were in a room there was someone there, but if you were, say, in the bathroom or the lounge no one was there watching you), no clearing-of-the-building when a time slot ended, none of that. Everyone just gave their exams back on time or reasonably near, and that was the end of it.

I could say a lot of negative things about my college, but I don't number the faculty among the troublesome things. Nor do I count academic dishonesty among the negative things. We had more than our fair share of not-so-bright students, and their personal and political philosophies rarely matched mine (and vice versa, of course), but I don't think they were a bunch of cheaters. This method of exam-taking had been in place loooong before I attended the school and never had a reason to change it. What's happened since then I don't know, but at least then it was a really low-stress affair. Also? The cafeteria was open for late-night breakfast during exam week, which was cool. Of course, I typically went to Waffle House at night, after I had transportation and/or friends with transportation. Sigh. Waffle House, how I miss thee.

Why did I keep this card, you might ask? I don't know. I recently found it in my Latin book. I think I kept it to remind myself of a pretty fun final semester of school. This card shows seven classes, but I actually took eleven that semester—I had two exam cards! One of the benefits of a small school is that if your Department Chair (Ethel) and Dean (Jim) sign off on your crazy plan, you can do your crazy plan. Mine was to take 33 credits in one semester. Yes, that's one more final than there were exam slots in the week, but one course was the Major's Seminar (no final) and one was Latin II which was an independent study and thus a final I could take whenever. The 3.6 I got that semester was the second-best I had done in the six semesters I was there, and I would have done a hell of a lot better had it not been for the B in the crappy sociology class I took. Stupid social sciences. (I kid, I kid.)

Needless to say, I cannot fathom a final exam period like this in a college with more than the 800 students mine had. Then again, since you couldn't bring the Internet into the exam room with you, and nothing more than a few pencils or a notesheet (if your exam envelope stated as much), maybe there wouldn't be as much cheating as I just—unfortunately—assume there would be nowadays.


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