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Assessment Of A Visualization Based Placement Exam For A Freshman Graphics Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.113.1 - 3.113.8

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Paper Authors

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Michael F. Young

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Sheryl A. Sorby

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

Session 2238

Assessment of a Visualization-Based Placement Exam for a Freshman Graphics Course

Sheryl A. Sorby, Michael F. Young Michigan Technological University


At Michigan Technological University (MTU) many freshman engineering students enroll who have already taken one year or more of high school drafting or technical drawing. For many of these students, freshman graphics courses are redundant and these students are frustrated that they must spend time re-learning material they have already mastered. A placement test was designed to assess a student's visualization skills as well as their understanding of conventional practices. As a part of a re-structuring of the freshman graphics courses in the General Engineering department at MTU, the visualization-based placement exam was developed for those students who have a minimum of one year or prior graphics experience. This test was administered for the first time in the Fall of 1997 and preliminary findings were reported during the 1997 mid-year Engineering Design Graphics conference in Madison, Wisconsin. This paper is a follow-up to that previous presentation and includes assessment results investigating how the student performance on the placement exam corresponds to their preparation and describes experiences from the use of this placement exam.


Incoming students in Mechanical, Civil and General Engineering typically enroll in one of two introductory graphics courses independent of their graphics preparation. These courses cover the majority of traditional engineering graphics topics and introductory descriptive geometry. The topics are taught using a mixture of sketching and instrument drawing techniques. Approximately 25% of incoming students in these engineering majors have no preparation in graphical communication while the balance have had some previous experience in art and/or drafting classes at the secondary or post-secondary level.

We have observed over several years that students with two or more years of prior drafting experience view the introductory graphics courses as remedial and boring. The academic performance level of these students is often below those who are learning graphics for the first time. Also, the educational value added by the introductory course is typically much larger for the novice when compared with students who have mastered the fundamental graphics techniques. Historical grade distributions in these courses are either typically skewed toward the upper end of the grading scale or show a bimodal shape. We assume that placing students into a graphics course consistent with their background and preparation will enhance both student and teacher performance. The students will be more motivated if they feel that they are learning something new. Enabling the instructors to focus on the novice student population will improve teaching effectiveness. We searched for an existing placement exam to assess visualization skills and engineering graphics knowledge without success. This prompted us to design and implement an exam that was suitable to screen incoming students in these areas.

Young, M. F., & Sorby, S. A. (1998, June), Assessment Of A Visualization Based Placement Exam For A Freshman Graphics Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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