Vi i PR sendte ut en mail til foreleserene om de ville skrive innlegg til nettsiden, et av temaene vi tenkte kunne være interessante var tips til hvordan man kan gjøre sensor fornøyd på eksamen, Prosper tok dette på strak arm og skrev innlegget under. Først litt om Prosper, han har forelesninger i sosial psykologi i første klasse og arbeids- og organisasjonspsykologi i tredje klasse. Prosper er opprinnelig fra Ghana, men har bodd i Norge siden 2006. Interessene hans er familie, bøker, fotball, bilder, historie, ideer og filosofi. En liten funfact: Prosper skriver poesi og utfører snekringsarbeid basert på youtubeinstruksjoner. Gled dere til hans forelesninger, dette er en morsom og klok mann! God lesing og ta til dere litt tips.
This question is interesting because only students feel that way. I read an implicit assumption in the question that a student’s grade is dependent on their lecturer’s personal gratification (or maybe I am reading too much between the lines). Probably, that is why the regularly merciless student evaluations feels like a payback to these ‘insatiable’ examiners. There is no denying there is a percentage of subjectivity in academic evaluations but there are adequate systems to make sure that the subjective component is kept at the bare minimum. What I can say for lecturers and examiners, in general, is that there is a gratifying satisfaction when reading well-written examination papers. Nevertheless, that gratification is more concerning students meeting the learning objectives than the self-interest of the lecturer. So permit me to reformulate the issue thus: “How do you prepare to perform creditably in an exam”? With that in mind, I can share with the reader some selected lessons I learnt along the way across the many academic institutions I have been part of (the list is not exhaustive):
- The importance of the learning objectives in the course
With very few exceptions, there are clear objectives for each topic that is discussed during the semester. Each of these objectives together contribute to achieve the learning goals for the course. At the end of each topic (whether you attend a lecture or read on your own), attempt to discuss your reading in terms of answering the learning objectives. Attempt to reformulate the learning objectives as questions and proceed to answer these questions either by yourself or in collaboration with a colleague. The best option will be with a colleague and notice gaps/lapses in your attempt to answer the question. Then use that information about the gaps when reading your literature in preparation for the exams. In that way, you are prepare for all possible questions covering the topic.
- The influence of previous course questions when lecturers are creating new questions
In most courses (for example a 10 credit course), there are on average fifteen (15) topics for the semester. Assume that the type of exams is an essay where about five (5)/ six (6) topics are covered. Over the course of 3-4 year batches (‘kull’ in Norwegian), most of the topics will most likely be broadly covered by past questions. Thus in the fifth year batch, the exams questions will not be a huge departure from any of the earlier questions because the topics will not be radically different. Most lecturers do not repeat the same questions, so what you are most likely to get are variants of the previous questions from the earlier student batches. So when you are reading your past questions, consider the various ways in which those questions can be reframed. Look back at the learning objectives and consider other theories/frameworks that can substitute the theories/frameworks used in earlier questions. In some few cases, you may expect the same question(s) multiple times if the topic is a capstone (very central) for the course.
- The importance of a structured approach to writing your exams
On the surface, it seems obvious but as writers our trail of thoughts can vanish during the writing process unless we create a good structure prior to writing out our response to the question. I advise my students not to proceed to write their answers immediately they see a question. Rather, they can skim through all the exams questions and allow their brain some time to jolt mentally their recollections of the materials they have read. Plan the structure for each question you will answer, and then return to the questions and answer them. Regularly, students who score extremely well on essays are not only good on content but they structure their content in their unique way.
- The importance of valuing the exams question
Related to the essence of a unique structure for your response is the necessity to ‘respect’ the question. There are questions that are stated broadly so the students can choose their own angle (especially common for home exams). Some questions may also require you to assume/imagine various scenarios. However, for sit-in exams, questions can be more specific. This means you are not at liberty to restate the question at your convenience. Regularly, I notice students who spend more time trying to guess what the examiner intended instead of trying to answer the question stated on the paper. As much as possible, look at the question and consider it as the obvious representation of what the examiner expects. In any case, our systems in place to challenge ‘unsatisfactory’ grades will rely on the questions you received for the exams. It is therefore recommended to maintain the integrity of the question.
- The importance of your personal reflected opinion
Assuming the reader as a student is familiar with the grading system and the explanation of the grading system used at INN and other universities across Norway (in case you are a first year student, look for it and read it). One of the main qualities that is required and that differentiates the grades is the level of judgment and independence (self-critical voice) in the responses. It is on these attributes that students obtain Grade A through to Grade D. A quote attributed to Aristotle is stated thus: “ it is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without believing it”. It demands that you are aware of the multiple positions that exists on a topic but you can develop a critique for why one position is adequate and the rest are insufficient to explain an issue. In simple terms, give us a reason to believe your claims. And if you have an opinion, show how it is informed by the knowledge of other scholars in the field.
To conclude, there are many ways of obtaining the desired grades and there are best practices that can facilitate obtaining satisfactory grade. I hope you can reflect on these issues (and other important strategies) as you navigate the academic landscape.
Prosper Kwei-Narh, PhD