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You Bet Your Grade! Using Exams To Promote Student’s Self Assessment

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Curriculum: Ideas/Concepts in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1482.1 - 10.1482.7



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Paper Authors

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Randy Isaacson

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Peter Goodmann

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You Bet Your Grade! Using Exams to Promote Student’s Self- Assessment Peter E. Goodmann, P.E. and Randy M. Isaacson, Ph.D. Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne / Indiana University South Bend


This paper reports on a technique used by the author in his ECET courses to help students develop an awareness of their own level of competence and knowledge. This knowledge, when successfully developed, enables the student to study more effectively and efficiently by concentrating on those areas in which his or her self-evaluation reveals weakness. It enables the student to avoid the nightmare scenario of believing she or he is thoroughly prepared for an exam (and possibly even walking out of the exam confident of receiving an “A”) only to find his or her performance was much lower than expected.

The instructor may help the student develop this awareness by offering a tangible reward to those students who demonstrate it. The student is rewarded by requiring him or her to identify the exam problems she or he is most confident of having solved correctly, in effect “betting” on those problems. The point value of the problems the student “bets” on are approximately doubled, giving the student a significant incentive to “bet” wisely.

Exams are divided into three sections, with each section requiring greater problem-solving skill than the previous one. The student is required to “bet” on two problems in each section. After completing all three sections the student is asked to estimate his or her overall score, and receives 2, 1 or 0 additional points depending on the accuracy of her or his estimate. This is an additional reward to the student for accurately assessing his or her own knowledge level. The exams described here are too lengthy for most students to complete in one class period, so they are given as take-home exams.


The technique described here was suggested by a presentation given by Prof. Randy Isaacson at IPFW in March, 2004 entitled “What Happens When Students Don’t Know that They Don’t Know”1. Experience has shown that students often think they are well prepared for an exam when they really are not well prepared. The result is that the student performs poorly on the exam and receives a lower grade than expected. Almost everyone has had the experience of going into an exam believing they knew the assigned material backwards and forwards, only to find that they were not as prepared as they thought. Most students (and instructors, who were once students) have also had the experience of taking an exam and thinking they performed very well, only to find that they received a much lower grade than expected. Both experiences are the consequence of not knowing that they didn’t know what they needed to know. Students who exhibit this problem on a regular basis invariably become discouraged, believing that they are not smart enough to perform well or that the instructor is not doing a good job of teaching, and may unnecessarily drop the course or drop out of school. While the instructor may be partly at

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Isaacson, R., & Goodmann, P. (2005, June), You Bet Your Grade! Using Exams To Promote Student’s Self Assessment Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15196

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: © 2005 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