Asee peer logo

Proficiency Exams In A Supportive Learning Environment

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Direct Measures of Student Performance

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1188.1 - 12.1188.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


William Carpenter University of South Florida

visit author page

William Carpenter is a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of South Florida. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. from NC State University, has 6 years of industrial experience with Boeing and consulting engineering companies, and has been affiliated with several universities in the U.S. and Europe.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

A Proficiency Exam Protocol in a Supportive Learning Environment Introduction A procedure utilizing proficiency exams, referred to as The Proficiency Exam Protocol, was developed by this author and was found to be a powerful way to help students learn material, build their skill sets, and develop cognitively. The Proficiency Exam Protocol is more effective and less stressful to students than homework, exams, and pop quizzes. The Proficiency Exam Protocol leads to enhanced student cognitive development and guarantees that students have a mastery of basic material. Not only does The Proficiency Exam Protocol help students learn, it also provides an assessment method which assures satisfaction of specific ABET outcomes.

The Proficiency Exam Protocol The format of The Proficiency Exam Protocol is as follows: • A topic is presented to students using traditional teaching techniques: lecturing, active learning, cooperative learning, homework, etc. (As an example, one topic covered in Structures I is bar forces in a truss using the Method of Joints.) • After the coverage of this topic, students are given a single exam question on the topic where they can demonstrate proficiency. (In the Structures I example, the exam question would require that students solve for all the bar forces in a simple truss as shown in Figure 1.) • Although proficiency can be defined in numerous ways, the method works well when, to demonstrate proficiency, a student’s solution must be 100% correct. This definition of proficiency forces students to thoroughly understand material, eliminates student attempts to negotiate for a better part-score, and makes it much easier to grade the proficiency exams. • Unless calculations are done to engineering graphics standards and are organized so that they can be readily checked, the exam is not even graded. Thus, the proficiency exams become not only a way of ensuring that students have mastered material but are also used to help develop students’ organizational and communication skills. • In order to relieve test anxiety and the stress caused by the demanding grading scheme, students are allowed to take, without penalty, as many proficiency exams on a topic as are required to demonstrate proficiency. • The initial administration of a proficiency exam occurs in the classroom. • Subsequent administrations require students to come to the professor’s office to take a re-exam or arrangements are made for a group of students to take a re- exam after class. Therefore, remake proficiency exams do not impinge on class time. • After 2 or 3 failed attempts to demonstrate proficiency, a student is not allowed to take further exams until he/she comes to the professor’s office so that the professor has the opportunity to work one-on-one with the student on his/her comprehension of material.

Carpenter, W. (2007, June), Proficiency Exams In A Supportive Learning Environment Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1797

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: © 2007 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