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An Alternate Presentation Method For Final Examinations

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.61.1 - 4.61.15

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Paper Authors

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Paul D. Schreuders

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Arthur T. Johnson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1608

An Alternate Presentation Method for Final Examinations Paul D. Schreuders, Arthur Johnson University of Maryland, College Park


Final examinations are a stressful time for everyone involved. In an effort to reduce the stress level (and have a little fun), over the last several years some of the faculty in the Biological Resources Engineering Department at the University of Maryland have given final examinations in the “Great Literature” format. The Great Literature series of final exams is based upon recognizable literary masterpieces. The styles and general contents of these examinations mimic those of the literature they represent. The courses in which this examination format has been used include a graduate course in Instrumentation Systems and undergraduate courses in Biological Systems Controls and in Biological Responses to Environmental Stimuli.

Examination Objectives

While the content of the courses in which the Great Literature exams varied widely, the objectives for using the format were similar. These objectives were (1) to provide context form the calculations that the students were performing, (2) to require the students to demonstrate that they could isolate and manipulate critical information from a larger set of information, and (3) provide a humorous milieu in which to present final examination requirements.

A common problem in engineering learning is developing relationships between a theoretical presentation of a subject matter and practical engineering skills. In our experience, students benefit from developing these ties. By providing examinations in a “story” format, an examination’s problems were placed within a context. That is to say that students could relate the theoretical problem solution with the scenario in which the problem was presented.

Engineering students are often visual learners and problem solvers. These learners prefer and intellectually respond to problems that they can visualize. Story problems let them perform this visualization. In fact, some students responded to the examinations in kind, and submitted “great literature” answers. Another result of this set of examinations is that they evoked sympathy for the students taking the course. However, the examinations have been well received by the students during the examinations and we have received positive comments at the end of the semester.

Practicing engineers seldom make decisions in the absence of a context. By providing a context, decision-making skills could be developed. This form of examination was designed so that the information required for a problem’s solution was not neatly provided. In many of the examinations, students were required to extrapolate from the presented data or required to make educated assumptions. The students were also required to separate the essential information from

Schreuders, P. D., & Johnson, A. T. (1999, June), An Alternate Presentation Method For Final Examinations Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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