Asee peer logo

Frequency of Exams and Student Performance in Solid Mechanics Courses

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Assessment & Grading in Mechanics

Tagged Division


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Stephen N. Kuchnicki York College of Pennsylvania

visit author page

Dr. Stephen Kuchnicki has been on the Mechanical Engineering faculty at York College of Pennsylvania since January 2008. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Rutgers University, specializing in computational modeling of dynamic deformations in solids. His areas of technical expertise include solid mechanics, crystal plasticity, vibration, and fluid-structure interaction. He received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2001.

visit author page


Scott F. Kiefer York College of Pennsylvania

visit author page

Scott Kiefer has spent the past sixteen years teaching mechanical engineering at four institutions. As an exemplary teaching specialist in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University, Scott received the Withrow Award for Teaching Excellence, given to one faculty member in the College in Engineering for outstanding instructional performance. Scott specializes in machine design, vibrations and controls, and mechatronics. He started his career at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez in the traditional role of teaching and administering a modest research program. At Trine University, a small private school in Angola, Indiana, Scott taught ten different courses from introductory freshman courses to senior design, while serving as advisor to many undergraduate research projects. For the last six years, Scott has been at York College of Pennsylvania where his concentration is on undergraduate education in mechanical engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This study compares several methods of examinations given in both an introductory solid mechanics course and a follow-up machine component design course. To help determine the best frequency of evaluating student performance, several examination schedules are compared for each course. For the introductory solid mechanics course, three exam schedules were used: Three equally-distributed 75 minute exams with a 120 minute final exam; two 75-minute midterms, daily five-minute clicker quizzes and a 120 minute final exam; and six or seven shorter 40 minute exams in addition to the final exam. The machine component design course used two different schedules: Two equally-distributed 120 minute exams; and six or seven equally-distributed 50-minute exams. Neither exam schedule for the machine component design course used a final exam. Typically, the longer exams (75 minutes and longer) each had three or four problems, while the shorter 40 or 50 minute exams had two problems each.

The relative effectiveness of each method is evaluated using outcomes assessment data from the exam questions given and via student self-assessment. From the instructor point of view, it is found that offering what amounts to twelve to fifteen midterm problems over the course of the semester instead of nine to twelve allowed for finer evaluation of student outcomes. That is, a problem could be given early in the semester that tests stress transformations explicitly via a predetermined set of axial and shear stresses. Later in the term, a more complex problem requiring students to evaluate these stresses and then find the appropriate principal stresses could be offered, allowing the instructor to assess each of these steps in a more straightforward manner.

Performance on midterm and final examinations using each schedule is compared. Both methods are tested for students’ ability to demonstrate knowledge of new concepts as they are taught via midterm performance, and ability to retain these concepts on a cumulative final exam. It is found that student performance on these midterms is improved when more midterms are offered rather than fewer. Further, the data shows comparable final exam performance regardless of the number of midterm exams offered. Lastly, students’ self-assessment of learning is improved when there are more midterms in the course; students feel that they have learned concepts more thoroughly when there are more exams. The data shows a similar understanding at the end of the course no matter which schedule is used.

Kuchnicki, S. N., & Kiefer, S. F. (2017, June), Frequency of Exams and Student Performance in Solid Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28386

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015