June 13, 2017

What's the theory that take-home exams redress gender inequity?

I'm seeing this story — "Oxford University blasted for 'insulting' decision to allow students to sit exams at home as it implies women are the 'weaker sex'" — but I don't understand the underlying policy decision. Why would take-home exams help women? Is there some idea that woman get nervous under the pressure of a in-class exam?

In law school, there are lots of take-home exams, but I almost never chose to give this form of exam, mainly because I thought there was no safeguard against cheating and that made it unfair. I was required to grade on a curve, so the exam only produced raw scores that would be converted to the same range of good and not-so-good grades no matter how much or how little the students could come up with in answering the questions. I thought the in-class, proctored, timed setting gave a more accurate reading of where each student belonged in the curve.

I never heard any arguments that take-home exams were better for women, but then those who wanted a take-home exam badly enough could avoid my classes. I think a take-home exam can be worse for anyone who has a home with children in it. I can only remember taking one take-home exam. You may remember seeing this "famous" picture of me:

Studying for last law school exam

What you don't see in that picture is the rest of the studio apartment which contains a 2-month-old infant who had no idea I needed to concentrate. Give me a proctored exam any day. Arrive ready to go, hit the ground running, and when time is called, you're free. But I'm good at writing fast, thinking as I go, and getting it to come out pretty coherent. Is that not a woman thing?

127 comments:

AlbertAnonymous said...

These days some group of people or another will complain about anything and everything.

It's racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, islamophobic, whatever...

I guess we're all irredeemable deplorables.

cubanbob said...

Eventually you graduate and then in life there are no take home exams.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...and getting it to come out pretty coherent. Is that not a woman thing?

No, it is most definitely not...

YoungHegelian said...

a 2-month-old infant who had no idea I needed to concentrate.

Babies! Selfish little bastards! Who the hell came up with the bright idea of babies?

Tim Gilliland said...

Take home exams are like open-book tests or any other exam that doesn't require the student to have committed anything to memory. It's a lazy way to conduct a class and ensures the teacher and student both don't have to work too hard to produce the desired result. The feminism angle is just a hook to hang hurt feelings on. This has little to do with the actual goings-on and everything to do with this boiling resentment that is being stoked by people who hate everything unlike themselves.
Personally I think they hate themselves too, but that's inconvenient for them.

Etienne said...

I came to class one day, and I didn't know we were having the final. I mean, he told us it would be a day early, and I just forgot.

I told the professor about my screw-up, and that I didn't have my text book.

He said, if I come back later he will have to take points off, so why not just take it, and the points will be about the same.

OK, I took the test cold turkey. Best f'n grade I ever got in engineering.

The professor asked me how I did it, and I said since I didn't have things to distract me, I was just pulling it down out of core memory.

This is why you don't want to do drugs in college. Keep those synapses firing! I don't think a woman could do it though. Women's brains are inferior to men's. (t-i-c)...

Nonapod said...

Ms Foreman said the reason why men outperform women in their degrees is because young men are encouraged to be risk takers, while young women particularly at school are encouraged to be conformist.

I'm not certain that males being more prone to risk taking behavior is something that's encouraged in our modern society. In fact if anything it seems more like something that's discouraged.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

cubanbob said...

Eventually you graduate and then in life there are no take home exams.

I disagree. At least in my experience, most important things you need to think about can be decided on over multiple days, and during that time you can put in whatever hours you feel are appropriate to get a good enough answer. Far rarer are situations where you only have two or three hours to figure something out.

Certainly there are fields ( sports, combat ) where you are being tested in real time. But that is not the majority of cases for the majority of people.

Expat(ish) said...

When I was at UNC/CH (back when MJ roamed the sororities) we had an honor code that prohibited cheating and many profs would let you pickup the test and take it where you chose. I liked the library b/c the chairs were more comfortable.

Ah, you say, the walk time? You were on your honor to only spend 50 minutes on the test and then bring it back.

This worked well for me as I was working and took several final exams during my dinner hour at work.

I never knew of someone cheating, though i am sure it happened.

Now that is impossible as the faculty have given up demanding honor.

-XC

MikeR said...

When I first saw the headline I thought that only the women were allowed to take it at home. That would have been outrageous and evil, but at least it made sense as a way to address gender inequality.
When I read the article and saw that everyone got take-home exams, I was puzzled.
But you know, if you get a random result and don't like it, give the game a good shake and see if you like it better.

David Begley said...

One of my law school professors frequently said in class that women were smarter than men. I later found out that he was having an affair with one of my classmates. And then there was the visiting lecturer from a Big Ten school who propositioned two of my Catholic female classmates at the same time. He wasn't from Wisconsin.

Tim Gilliland said...

I don't know about Ms. foreman, but gender roles since oh, I don't know, creation? have entailed men taking risks in the open while women were at camp/cave/home due to their essential nature.
No one seems to want to face it, but women's roles were dictated by the fact that from the time of about 15 or 16 they were either pregnant, nursing or caring for multiple children. Some people act surprised when you mention this.
Taking exams should have nothing to do with comfort, living arrangements or medical condition (to paraphrase Mary E. Glynn) IF you want to be equal with men in what is a test of mental discipline.

SDaly said...

Obviously, women belong in the home. They should call it a "take-it-in-the-kitchen while barefoot" exam.

Big Mike said...

Is that not a woman thing?

There are some men who are good at it and some women who are good it. Any effort to make it characteristic of one gender or the other is misguided.

Fernandinande said...

This post should have a "fake news" tag since the "blasting" consisted of a feminista saying it was “well intentioned” yet insulting to women.

StephenFearby said...

That was a hot photo of AA. In the day, it would have evoked in me the temptation to hit on her...by mansplaining something or other.

Probably wouldn't have worked.

Jersey Fled said...

Women are more collaborative. They can't even go to the ladies room alone. With a take home exam, they can all get together and get a better grade.

Men, on the other hand, like to perform complex tasks individually. That's why I always hated group projects. I always felt that I could do better if I did it myself.

Unknown said...

Personally I hated take home tests. In class it's 50 minutes and you're done, for better or worse. At home, you've got the darn thing hanging over you all day, or in the worst case, all weekend.

Charles said...

To me this will do nothing for "gender gap" men will also do better with the take home exams and so the gap will be the same or similar, unless there is evidence that men to do improve with take home vs in class proctored tests. I think this is just a way to move the curve up so that more get better grades and make the institutions look better.

Todd said...

I never heard any arguments that take-home exams were better for women

They are actually "better" for anyone taking an exam if your goal is to allow the taker a better opportunity to "score" better versus a goal of understanding what the student has retained.

The arguments for a take-home exam if your goal is a "great score" include Google, unlimited time, call-a-friend, the possibilities are endless. So it appears that the goal is to enable the women to LOOK like they are better (by scoring better), not for them to actually be/get better.

Char Char Binks said...

Some smart people aren't good exam-takers, just as some strong people are bad at weightlifting, because every contest is a test, and some really fast runners can't run a mile in under 20 minutes because of anxiety.

Mr Wibble said...

I disagree. At least in my experience, most important things you need to think about can be decided on over multiple days, and during that time you can put in whatever hours you feel are appropriate to get a good enough answer. Far rarer are situations where you only have two or three hours to figure something out.

Certainly there are fields ( sports, combat ) where you are being tested in real time. But that is not the majority of cases for the majority of people.


I have to agree, to an extent. Timed exams are good if you want to test the basics, but more complex problems are probably better off being considered as papers.

Friends of mine in engineering say the worst tests that they had were open book exams. They were designed so that if you didn't know the material you'd never finish in time.

Yancey Ward said...

I never had a single take home exam in college (1984-88), and only one in graduate school- Physical Chemistry.

If I were a professor, I would never give a take home exam for the simple reason that I could never be sure the student actually did the exam himself, and that worry would have only grown with the rise of the internet.

J. Farmer said...

Every take home exam I ever had in school I cheated on. My old mentor, who was in graduate school in the late 1960s, had classes where the students graded themselves. "Can you believe there were people that gave themselves less than 'A'?!" he used to joke.

traditionalguy said...

The Patriarchy force is everywhere, but it weakens a little outside of classrooms filled with rapists...1 in 5, if I recall.

Fortunately women get affirmative promotion and authority quotas. With a bonus if the woman claims Cherokee ancestors...no proof required, of course. Other wise you will break her

Caroline Walker said...

The whole prog gestalt rests on an erroneous concept of equality, which posits that men and women are indistinguishable and interchangeable. And so we get tiresome contests and endless whining about the injustices of having to negotiate the world, traditionally province of men, with all of our female stuff.
Women are life bearers. I would challenge Womyn to consider how this innate characteristic can bring salt and light to the world. Instead, we seem to operate according to the false premise that women are inferior men and men are inferior women. SAd!

Yancey Ward said...

Of course, Etienne's story reminded me of many nightmares I have had that continue to this day.

Balfegor said...

Re: cubanbob:

Eventually you graduate and then in life there are no take home exams.

No, eventually you graduate and practically every exam is open-book, take-home. I went to an engineering school (before the Fall) and in those prelapsarian days, we had open book, take home exams since, after all, once you're out in the working world you can go look up the formula anytime you want. Math and science aren't primarily memorization games, though, so as Mr. Wibble says, the fact that they're open book doesn't really make much of a difference. You can look up all the formulae and explanatory verbiage you like, and it won't help you solve the problem if you don't have the necessary understanding.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Cuban Bob says: Eventually you graduate and then in life there are no take home exams

This is exactly correct. These students have been pampered all their lives. Given participation trophies. Coddled and told that they are doing great, when in reality they are not doing even good. The grow up into entitled sub-adults who have never been actually tested.

Once out of college they come face to face with the real world where "NO ONE CARES" about your snowflakey ideas of how special you are.

They are in for a very rude shock and most likely will still not learn a thing.

Hagar said...

"Take home examination" is a contradiction in terms.

Writing a paper is not an examination.

MikeR said...

There was a story going around when I was preparing for my oral thesis defense, probably apocryphal.
One old professor always used to ask the same question: "Do you know Stirling's formula for the factorial?"
Normal students would look it up beforehand. But there's always one guy who won't play along...
"Do you know Stirling's formula for the factorial?"
"No, sir - but I know where to look it up when I need it!"
"Son - you need it now."

tcrosse said...

I wonder how the gender gap looks when you throw the trans-gendered into the mix. Look what it's done for sports.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Clearly Oxford understands that a woman's place is in the home.

Yancey Ward said...

Take home exams necessarily are biased against the homeless.

William said...

Were you involved in some kind of Bliue Whale challenge? That doesn't look life affirming although the sexy librarian look is kind of life affirming........My facile, cynical view is that students who cheat--I mean the ones who successfully cheat--have a fair amount of success in life. Ted Kennedy did better than Hillary Clinton, and he wasn't even all that good at cheating. Bill Clinton got to be President and a Rhodes scholar because of his visual acuity and knowing who to sit beside.

sparrow said...

Balfegor is right. At work your understanding how and when to apply the formula is tested, not how well you can spit it back out. Tests frequently don't cover what really matters: recognizing what type of problem you have and then selecting the right approach.

Levi Starks said...

So,
Women are gratified that the system wants to single them out for special assistance,
But insulted that the system thinks it needs to.
That explains a lot.

cubanbob said...

DBQ got me right. As a business owner, for better or worse there is no equivalent of taking home a test that I could cheat on or have someone do for me. I make the right call or I don't.
At some point the time for a decision is now, and just like a proctored exam you either got right it or you didn't.

gspencer said...

What I like about my law school exams was the process. You were given a number and required to use that number on all your test papers. No names.

Now this didn't prevent the grader from guessing the gender of the test taker based on how the writing appeared, but it did prevent the grader from knowing his/her class favorites.

Jane the Actuary said...

This makes perfect sense to me -- that is, one of the explanations being proffered for why boys do better on standardized tests than girls do, despite those girls doing better in their classwork, is that girls are simply better than boys but boys perform better in high-stakes testing environments, because (you knew this was going to come down to something bad about boys) they're more aggressive and more willing to guess when short on time. (I wrote about this a while back: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetheactuary/2016/09/boys-and-math-and-the-math-myth.html)

Hence, the "feminist" thing to do is to give exams without the time limitation and, since you don't want to wait in a classroom forever, that means a take-home exam.

AllenS said...

Yancey Ward said...
Take home exams necessarily are biased against the homeless.

Can you imagine the shear terror that Elizabeth Warren had when she realized that she'd have to go home to the teepee with only the glow of the campfire for light?

Meade said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
I found the headline (in the NY Post, not the Telegraph, per Instapundit, or rather Sarah Hoyt) very confusing -- it suggested to me that women got the take-home exam and men didn't, which is absolutely bollixed. But the actual story just says take-home exams, presumably for everyone.

[REDACTED], if every menstruating woman (which means a quarter of fertile women at any given moment) is "medically compromised," we have a big problem. Starting with the fact that take-home exams don't generally last a week. Pregnancy is, obviously, worse; can you hold off your exam until you give birth (or maybe months after that, given post-partum depression and all)? I don't know what you mean about women being "more comfortable in the home." As for daycare, (a) most college-age women actually aren't pregnant; and (b) we've been begging men for ages to step up to the plate re: childcare, and maybe for 24 hours they might actually do it. Unless you're just assuming no father, in which case, well, tough. Either you put up with the live wailing baby in your "comfortable" home, or you hand it off to a friend for the aforesaid 24 hours.

Etienne, your story reminds me of one of my own, from second-semester physics. I had two finals back to back -- as I thought, history in the morning and physics in the early afternoon. I'd settled into my chair for the history exam when I suddenly discovered that everyone around me was taking biology. Yes, I'd gotten the times screwed up, but worse than that was that, while the physics wasn't open book, we were allowed to bring in one sheet of paper (both sides) with any equations, &c. we liked, and I had thought that the best way to finish studying would be to make up my cheat sheet after the history exam.

Well.

So first I ran to the student cafe and frantically scribbled out my cheat sheet, and then ran the rest of the way to where the physics final was going on (most of the way across campus, worse luck). By now one hour of three was gone. I burst into the room, and found no seats, so I sat down on the floor and started in. After awhile, the professor (a very kindly man) directed me to a seat I'd missed.

It wasn't my best grade ever in engineering -- those'd be first-year chemistry and electrical engineering -- but it was still an A.

6/13/17, 10:12 AM

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

Take home open book is the best. You never have to attend class.

TWW said...

I had a law school prof who was asked why he (and others) gave an eight-hour exam but only four hours to complete. His answer: Because if we gave everyone eight hours, all of the answers would be the same.

rhhardin said...

Perhaps only works in STEM stuff.

n.n said...

Althouse was a nerd and a mother. It... they have their benefits.

School/life balance is a gimmick in progressive use that creates a false impression of reconciling priorities. Hint: invest early for an optimal return.

There are different skills and character traits examined in closed and open environments. The value of tests is not only to assess knowledge and skill, but other personal and work-related traits, including: preparedness, stress management, time management, ingenuity, etc.

Cath said...

I attended Oxford in the 1980s. In my discipline (English) you were allowed to substitute long papers (like a very extended term paper), written during term time head of the exam period, for 2 of your 9 final exams.

The final exams covered everything you'd studied in the prior two years, and as such relied a great deal on the ability to memorize large volumes of quotations from both the original sources and the relevant criticism. The longer papers written "at home" ahead of time gave the student some scope to demonstrate a deeper analytic ability than final exams did. And you still had to stock your brain up with enough memorized/quotable material to cover you for the other 7 exams. IMO this was a good system for evaluating the skills & knowledge expected from someone reading English.

In my year more men got the highest marks than women did and not one thought the system was sexist. I expect these current history exams, even with this "girl-friendly" take-home system, will shake out the same way.

The generally understood way that the exam system was "gamed" was this: each year the English exam questions were set, and the exams graded, by a small subset of the University's English tutors (the particular tutors changed every year). Keep mind that exams and all weekly term-time essays were expected to be written by hand. Everyone was aware that if your own college's tutors were among the examiners for your year, you had a reasonably good chance that they would recognize both the themes that you had covered in your tutorials with them, and your HANDWRITING, and you would be more generously graded.

sean said...

"that is impossible as the faculty have given up demanding honor."

Honor codes work well as long as (i) the group is small and culturally homogenous, (ii) the stakes for doing well or badly are not particularly high, and (iii) the study has a strong ethical component. In short, a 19th century American seminary, which is what most U.S. colleges with honor codes were when they instituted those codes. Academia today is nothing like that, and it is more appropriate to remember the golden rule and the Lord's Prayer, and just as we do not wish to be led into temptation, it is better for universities not to lead their students into temptation.

n.n said...

If this is really an issue, then give both closed and open environment exams. Perhaps also collaborative exams to assess team/social skills. Then take an ensemble average as a representative score.

Balfegor said...

Re: gspencer:

Now this didn't prevent the grader from guessing the gender of the test taker based on how the writing appeared, but it did prevent the grader from knowing his/her class favorites.

Mmm, maybe. It was precisely to avoid this sort of thing that the Imperial civil service examinations (科舉) were recopied by official scribes so that the examiners could not tell which candidate had written an exam. Of course, this practice only became standard in eleventh century, about a thousand years after the civil service examination was first administered.

Unknown said...

>Of course, this practice only became standard in eleventh century, about a thousand years after the civil service examination was first administered.

And I thought I had to wait a long time for my grades!

CStanley said...

Of course, Etienne's story reminded me of many nightmares I have had that continue to this day.

You and me both!

Got my degree in 1988 but still regularly have those dreams. Variations range from the exact scenario Etienne described to the realization that I have forgotten to attend a class for an entire semester, or that I've been in the wrong class all semester, or I figure out these mistakes at some point but I can't find the correct classroom AND a series of mishaps ensues as I try to get there.

Bay Area Guy said...

I like that pic of law school Althouse! It's a great balance of 70's hotness and nerdiness.

We had a gal in our college circle, AJ, an English major, who wore glasses like that, so we dubbed her the "Nympho Librarian." She had a terrific sense of humor, and liked the nickname. She dated my pal EA, who ended up marrying NK, so AJ got the boot -- but nobody cares about that now.

Paddy O said...

BAG, that last paragraph could be a description from an episode of Soap.

James K said...

I think those nightmares are universal, in one form or another.

Isn't the answer that take-home exams are noisier signals of actual subject knowledge (because of the cheating potential), and therefore (assuming equal propensities to cheat) likely to lead to more equal (and less meritocratic) outcomes? I would also be offended if I were a woman, since the assumption seems to be less meritocratic = better for women.

Owen said...

Steven Nearby: "...it would have evoked in me the temptation to hit on her...by mansplaining something or other."

Rule Against Perpetuities. Works every time.

Dave from Minnesota said...

The nightmares...I've had that one for about 20 years.....they started about 4 years after I graduated from undergrad.

In mine (I swear, I'v had this identical dream....maybe 50 times over the years), its about 2/3 of the way through the semester when I realize I had forgotten to go to 2 of my 5 classes. Went the first day and that was it. And they are always math or science classes. Now I have to remember when they meet and what building/room they are in. I'm walking around the campus in a panic.

Owen said...

Value of open book exams may vary with discipline. Maybe in hard science you should not need to memorize the 19th decimal place of some important constant.

But you should have a very comfortable relationship with core formulae and how they characterize/predict the behavior of a system. And if you can go home and "obeying the honor code" consult your books and anything else, it is both more and less representative of your ability.

More representative in the sense that in "real life" we can go to the bookshelf and check things or browse around a suspicion or an hypothesis, or wander down the hall to ask that really smart older person.

Less representative in the sense that in "real life" we sometimes have to go, right now, with our best gut estimate.

Discuss.

Owen said...

Dave From Minnesota: Wait. You had that dream? Dammit, that's MY dream!

Where does one assert copyright on dreams?

My version involved the Bar exam. Where we broke for lunch and were to return for the crucial afternoon session. And just when I finished lunch I realized I was like 30 miles away from the examination venue and could not possibly get back in time.

Aggh.

Wilbur said...

I don't recall having any take home exams in law school.

The best - and most difficult - exams I had in law school were given by a professor who disdained the usual format of ridiculously long fact patterns with the instructions of identifying and discussing all issues (or claims and defenses, or some such nonsense). His exams consisted of 25-30 sophisticated and difficult questions no longer than a paragraph, which called for an answer no longer than a paragraph or two. No room for bullshit; you either knew it or you didn't. No curve grading - in his first year federal civil procedure class two-thirds of the students received C- or below. I loved his classes and exams in that you were responsible for every sentence he uttered in his classes, and he uttered nothing that was not relevant. I took as many classes as I could from him.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Test taking.....in MBA program. The classes were 3 hours and 20 minutes long. So were the tests. The instructor would hand out the tests and I would think to myself "2 hours tops and I'm atta hear". 3 hours and 10 minutes later I'm rushing to try to finish up.

Amazing how many tests one takes that take that long.

Owen said...

Cath: Great comments on the Oxford exam system. Thanks.

tcrosse said...

There was a short-lived comedy sitcom in which Our Hero was a secret agent. In one episode he has That Dream, then is relieved to wake up and find that it was only a dream, and he is just being tortured by the Gestapo.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Sorry, Meade. I forgot.

Paddy O said...

I do take home open book exams. Mostly take-home because they don't take up class time. Mostly open book so as not to tempt unethical choices. They are harder than a non-open book test, but also test applicable skills better. The facility to use the tools (texts) of the subjects are more essential than random fact memorization. It also uses the exams as another review of the course material. The bulk of their grade is a research paper rather than exams.

Virtually Unknown said...

Maybe the willingness to cheat is a good indication that somebody will be a good lawyer. Ever think of that?

Krumhorn said...

Nice photo of our hostess. Wrong glasses, but the hair was fun. Lips and eyes very sexy. While I'd like to think otherwise, I suppose the 2 month old infant would explain the NI.

- Krumhorn

Known Unknown said...

"Ms Foreman said the reason why men outperform women in their degrees is because young men are encouraged to be risk takers, while young women particularly at school are encouraged to be conformist."

Don't worry, elementary schools are hard at work beating that out of boys as we speak.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The universal I forgot to go to class and now I am screwed dream.

Dave from Minnesota says In mine (I swear, I've had this identical dream....maybe 50 times over the years), its about 2/3 of the way through the semester when I realize I had forgotten to go to 2 of my 5 classes. Went the first day and that was it. And they are always math or science classes. Now I have to remember when they meet and what building/room they are in. I'm walking around the campus in a panic.

Yes. Math or science class in my stress dream as well. AND once I just give up on taking the exam or leave the class, I realize that I have completely forgotten where I parked my car and have to spend the rest of the dream stressed out about fining it.

I wonder what version of this universal dream is experienced by people who didn't go to college? High school stress dream? Work stress dream?

Lately, even though I've been retired from my financial career for several years, I dream that I have a new job: can't find my desk, computer won't work, clients coming and I have no idea who they are but it is very important that I solve their problems....and always the missing fucking car!!!

southcentralpa said...

You're our hostess, but the word that comes more immediately to mind is "notorious" rather than "'famous'"...

[was Ingrid Bergman ever better...?]

Dave from Minnesota said...

DBQ....I think my nightmare involves math and science classes as those are ones you can't just show up in 2/3rd of the way through the semester and expect to pick up everything you missed.

I wonder what version of this universal dream is experienced by people who didn't go to college? High school stress dream? Work stress dream?

For 2+ decades I've had 2 other recurring dreams. One is I am back in Jr high or high school and I can't remember my locker combination. I understand this is a common one.

The other? I am the age I am now (so the dream is in real time) and I have to take my old paper route back. I am riding my bike down the street and trying to remember which houses to stop at and drop off the Eau Claire Leader Telegram. Its very realistic. And you have to be 100% accurate. If i can remember 80% of the houses, then a fifth of my customers don't get their paper.

readering said...

Hard for me to come up with an opinion relating to b.a. history exams at Oxford U, UK.

Peter said...

"I'm not certain that males being more prone to risk taking behavior is something that's encouraged in our modern society. In fact if anything it seems more like something that's discouraged."

Surely the rational approach is to balance the risk against the benefit? It makes no sense to encourage taking large risks for a chance at a paltry payoff, or to discourage taking risks one can afford to lose if the payoff is worth it?

BUT if take-home exams degenerate into rampant cheating-by-collaboration (assuming collaboration is forbidden) this would surely discriminate agaisnt both the less socially adept and the more honest.

Unknown said...

"Eventually you graduate and then in life there are no take home exams." cubby, I am a practicing engineer and my working life IS a take-home (take-work?) exam. I don't use a formula without checking to make sure I have the right formula, the right constants, and the right inputs. Even if I 'know,' I check the book. Many times I go back to solutions manuals to compare my approach to someone else's, and if I can get someone else to review it you'd believe I do. I certainly don't think of it as cheating. I'd rather be right than smart.

"As an Engineer, [in humility and with the need for Divine guidance,] I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give the utmost." -- Obligation, Order of the Engineer

Dave from Minnesota said...

Which Ivy league school was it? Were there was a take home exam and several students worked together on theirs. Answers were too much alike they were busted. Actually made national news as a "cheating scandal at xxxxxx". Some tried to spin it as "typical unethical business people".


When I started my MBA, we watched a program on this as part of the new student orientation.

Owen said...

DBQ: "...the missing fucking car!!!"

We are really on to something primordial and important, ja?

Tell us more about zis sense of loss?

About ze car?

Ach. Our time this week is up. But soon, ja?

Dave from Minnesota said...

BUT if take-home exams degenerate into rampant cheating-by-collaboration (assuming collaboration is forbidden) this would surely discriminate agaisnt both the less socially adept and the more honest.

A large local auto dealer does not do price negotiation. He marks his cars at a set (and low) price. You take it or leave it. He said one of the issues with the old way is that nice people pay more for cars than jerks. This way everyone gets the same price.

Owen said...

Dave from Minnesota: "...nice people pay more for cars than jerks." But who are we to deprive the nice people of the psychic payoff of paying what they think is 'right'? And not forcing them to be jerks, just for the sake of a few bucks?

Your concept of the market is very limited. You need to acknowledge the role of Feelz.

Virtually Unknown said...

For me it's always a big exam and I am lost in the administration building trying to figure out where the class I never went to wash actually held at a college I never attended.

Gabriel said...

In real life the exam happens in real time. It may be given without warning, for a class you may not have ever registered for. Such as "surviving an active shooter in your place of work 101".

Furthermore, there's meetings. In a meeting you don't have time to go look everything up. If you don't know your material cold you are not credible. You have to be credible, no one will sign off on your work even if you are right, if you can't speak on it credibly to people who don't have the skill set to understand it. These people might be executives, they might be customers, or lawyers, or Congressmen.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We are really on to something primordial and important, ja?

Tell us more about zis sense of loss?

About ze car?


Ok Therapist Owen let us explore the subconscious ramifications of this aspect of our dreams :-P

For people who have grown up in a time and place where autos are are an essential part of their lives..... Traveling is freedom. Having your own car is not just freedom but control. Being able to go where you want, when you want, and with whom. I hear that young people today don't drive, know how to drive or don't find it important. This I don't understand.

Learning to drive at 16 gives you independence. Getting your first car is a huge accomplishment and advancement into the adult world. Owning a car gives you the ultimate freedom and control over your life. The type of vehicle you own also says something important about your hopes, dreams, desires, your artistic sensibilities and, yes, even sexuality.

Misplacing or losing a car (in a dream) probably is a reflection of the stress of feeling that you are losing control, may become stranded, are being thwarted in someway. Forgetting where the car is, may be a realization that you aren't taking care of business and have become careless.

Geez it is bad enough, in dreamworld, to have to take a chemistry exam that you didn't ever go to class for, but to lose or misplace your car, just icing on the stress cake. (In actuality, I often take control of my dream. Take the damn test anyway and generally, after a lot of walking around and exploring of the environment, find the car.)

This is fun. Let's talk about your dreams.

campy said...

My dreams are mostly about trying to find a bathroom.

Gabriel said...

@Peter:f take-home exams degenerate into rampant cheating-by-collaboration (assuming collaboration is forbidden)

They do, and the rise of online courses demonstrates that this is a feature and not a bug.

In the old days of CLEP you were required to have your exam proctored. Any high stakes standardized test for adults, such as GRE or the actuarial exams, are proctored. Online course exams almost never are.

The students get their credentials, the universities get their check, everyone is happy. Any time I would point this out to other faculty the response invariably was that since we cannot possibly stop all cheaters it would not be fair to stop only some of them.

Yancey Ward said...

One version of the dream I have had more than once is walking out onto a stage to perform piano concerto, sitting down on the bench and suddenly remembering that I can't even play the piano and I decide to try to fake my way through it.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Dave from Minnesota said...

Which Ivy league school was it? Were there was a take home exam and several students worked together on theirs.

I TAed a grad school class from a respected STEM school. We had a take-home exam. Out of the ~350 finals I graded (over multiple semesters ) I caught a group of three students who collaborated one semester, and a group of four the next.

If you don't know the material well enough to do the exam on your own, you don't know it well enough to change your answers so they don't appear all the same.

Helpful hint: If you are going to cheat by collaborating with someone, and the exams are submitted online, don't collaborate with the person next to you in alphabetical order!

I graded one, closed it, opened the next one, looked at the diagram that I was to grade, did a double-take, figured I has accidentally opened the same one I had just graded. Tried again, same thing. Opened them both at the same time, side-by-side. Not quite identical, some things had been dragged to new locations, some text paraphrased. But no doubt about the collaboration.

James Pawlak said...

The most demanding examination I ever had was a take-home exam inflicted by my Psychhology professor in a "Theories Of Personality" course. It was "Develop Your Own 'Theory Of Personality" and defend it". As an undergraduate I was fortunate to receive a "C+" grade as was superior to the grades received by some graduate students in that class.

Virtually Unknown said...

This actually happened to me in junior high. The kid sitting next to me copied my test paper verbatim, including my name. If I didn't know him so well, I would have said he wanted to get caught.

TWW said...

If you give a take home exam you might as well just give the entire class the same grade.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The stupid Brits get everything backwards. That article has a picture of students in cap and gown captioned, "Oxford University students celebrating matriculation".

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The most demanding examination I ever had was a take-home exam inflicted by my Psychhology professor in a "Theories Of Personality" course. It was "Develop Your Own 'Theory Of Personality" and defend it".

That doesn't fit the definition of "exam" but rather sounds more like a thesis paper.

Donald Douglas said...

Althouse, I think you just like posting that photo, lol.

Kirk Parker said...

I literally never have bad dreams about school, or university, or test-taking. Clearly I lead a charmed, er, I mean, *privileged* life.

holdfast said...

My best year of law school was First Year, where all of the tests were closed-book, and students had to take all the same courses (other than 2 credits of "enrichment" crap).

I hated open-book exams because I am a slow writer and get hand cramps easily. Open book is all about mass regurgitation and over-preparation of cute summaries.

Closed-book is about going to class, learning and demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the core concepts, and then expressing that knowledge concisely.

Sebastian said...

"I'm good at writing fast, thinking as I go, and getting it to come out pretty coherent. Is that not a woman thing?" No. You sure you are not a man after all? There's still time, you know.

Basil said...

The nightmares...I've had that one for about 20 years.....they started about 4 years after I graduated from undergrad.

In mine (I swear, I'v had this identical dream....maybe 50 times over the years), its about 2/3 of the way through the semester when I realize I had forgotten to go to 2 of my 5 classes. Went the first day and that was it. And they are always math or science classes. Now I have to remember when they meet and what building/room they are in. I'm walking around the campus in a panic.

This is so weird. I thought this was just me.

Except mine always included (don't have them anymore) not having bought the book, as well as forgetting to go to class and not graduating as a result.

Glad to know there are others with this dream sequence thingy.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Can anyone propose one or more counterexamples to the following thesis:

Women, or those comprising the feminist movement (to exclude such as our many excellent women commenters here on Althouse), are inferior to their counterparts,

because every concession to feminism or the needs or wants of women has been to lower standards and make things easier (preferentially, if possible) for women, or else to make things harder for men.

Nothing is ever really enhanced by feminism, only degraded.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Glad to know there are others with this dream sequence thingy.

6/13/17, 12:55 PM


I occasionally have a dream where I am found to have neglected some niggling requirement of completion of high school, and have to take a make-up, either a test or a whole semester class.

Dave from Minnesota said...

One of my accounting professors said that he had a student who, after the graded tests were handed back, said he actually has a correct answer marked as incorrect. So his grade was changed. Then it happened a second time. Hmmmmm odd thought the man with the CPA.
Then it happened a third time. But this time the instructor had photocopied the students test before handing it back. Yes, he was changing answers.

To paraphrase what someone said above, if you are too stupid to get at least an okay grade on your accounting exams, you may be too stupid to know not to pull this thing 3 times with the same professor.

khesanh0802 said...

@SteveFearby I am glad someone else thinks AA was "hittable" in her youth - even after she's just had a kid. So 70's!

James K said...

I wonder what version of this universal dream is experienced by people who didn't go to college?

I've had versions of the dream involving music lessons or performances. As I am a professor, the most frequent one the last 20 years involves neglecting to show up for nearly the entire semester for a class I was supposed to teach. In one version I'm assigned to teach a class in an entirely different field (Chemistry) from the one I am trained to teach, and that's the one I don't show up for.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

khesanh0802 said...

I am glad someone else thinks AA was "hittable" in her youth...

This blog's archives make it pretty clear someone found her "hittable" in her late career.

David said...

"Glad to know there are others with this dream sequence thingy."

Althouse Blog as therapy. Hoo Ha!

I get the exam dreams too. They come in waves. Then disappear. Usually they involve being unprepared, lost, late etc etc etc. Sometimes law school exams again. Funny, because I was always well prepared for them. Undergrad I was a crammer, not knowing that I was a acquiring a very valuable skill.

I was and am seriously ADD. Timed in class exams were far preferable for me. That triggered intense concentration. Too much time has always been problematic. I gather males are far more likely to be ADD than females. Maybe that is the female take home advantage.

Angel-Dyne said...

"The move is designed to boost results for female students at Oxford, who are less likely to get a first-class degree in history than their male peers."

Maybe the males as a group are smarter than the females as a group. Anguished educators ever think of testing that wild hypothesis?

Oxford is supposed to be one of the globe's top universities, right? So the population of students is from the far right reaches of the intelligence/ability bell curve, no? As there are significantly more males in that group, why would you expect equal outcomes, unless admission standards resulted in a percentage of females comparable to what you'd find on an IQ curve?

You would predict equal or closer performance at Average U, but at the highest levels you'd predict males outperforming females, no matter how much the admissions and "test vs. classwork" standards have been jimmied to get more girls in.

"Girls do better than boys at both GCSE and A-level exams and outnumber their male peers in higher education."

So it's a mystery why males keep outperforming females in top-tier higher education, but nobody's terribly curious about the causes of "unequal outcome" in secondary education? Probably already figured out what that's all about. (Girls rule boys drool, I guess.)

At secondary school level, girls began to outperform boys in exams when more coursework was introduced in the 1990s.

Oh.

Big Mike said...

In my experience women are a bit better at memorization than their male counterparts, so I expect that having a take home exam would disadvantage female students relative to their male counterparts. I do think it's cool to do something that takes away a female advantage, small as I expect it to be, with the announced goal of improving female outcomes.

Back when I taught IT classes I preferred to give open book/ open notes/ open laptop exams because I want to determine what they could apply rather than what they could memorize. So no treatise on the difference between NRZL versus NRZL digital encoding but questions about how to size a network for a given workload.

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

I thought the underlying theory seemed pretty obvious:

-Cheating is easier for take home exams which allows weaker students to compensate for their lack of knowledge.


Now they can't admit that in public so they come up with some BS about stressful environments.

johns said...

Do women benefit from take-home exams? Why has no one done any empirical investigation here? I have some minor observations to contribute. When I gave 2- or 3-hour in-class exams to MBA students, a few of them would finish in as little as twenty minutes (causing me embarrassment that I had written such a simple-ass exam) and another few would take the entire time and still not be done when the time was up. If women are disadvantaged by in-class exams, then it should be female students who are not finished at the end of the exam period, right? But my recollection is that it was usually males who fought me over handing over the exam. I think those students had psychological problems; do more males have test-taking anxiety?

However, I think it was also predominantly males who tossed the exam in after only twenty minutes. I believe that is because the females were more conscientious about writing the exam. So my theory of how women would do better in a take-home setting is that many females will work harder and spend more time completing the take-home.

DanTheMan said...

>>Glad to know there are others with this dream sequence thingy.

I've had that "forgot to go to class for the semester and it's exam day" dream a number of times. Always glad to wake up after that one.
:)

Speaking of test taking:

Two engineers apply for a job. The hiring manager says: “We are going to give you both a test. Whoever gets the best score will be hired.”
Both candidates take the test, and after the manager scores them he says: “OK you both got nine out of ten right. So I’m hiring candidate #1.”
“Hey!” says candidate #2, “If we both got the same score, how come I didn’t get the job?”
The manager replied: “On question number 7, he wrote ‘I can’t solve this equation.’, and you wrote ‘Me neither’.”

WiseAssLatino said...

Jersey Fled: "That's why I always hated group projects"

Meade: "But still it was an A"

How I made an A on a group Project

Back in the late seventies, our 12th grade English class was divided into groups, and mine was assigned
"The Ox-bow Incident". Inevitably, I was typecast as one of the captured Mexicans. When I showed up for our presentation
wearing a pancho, straw hat, and a fake mustache (I was a late pubescent), the class started giggling. Even the teacher who I think was a descendant of Jane Austen couldn't suppress a chuckle. When the time came to speak my lines, unable to resist an easy joke, I used my best "See Senor" Mel Blancish Mexican accent. Well, the dam broke, and everyone erupted. That was the highlight of my 6 years in HS.

TWW said...

A recruiter from a 'Big Four' accounting firm, PWC, visited my college to take questions from accounting students. One student asked, "Why do you only recruit students in the top of their class? The recruiter replied with a straight face, "Because we can't afford an average number of mistakes."

Virtually Unknown said...

I've had that "forgot to go to class for the semester and it's exam day" dream a number of times. Always glad to wake up after that one.

I've had it so many times I am not 100% sure it's not a real memory.

Bad Lieutenant said...

readering said...
Hard for me to come up with an opinion relating to b.a. history exams at Oxford U, UK.

6/13/17, 11:59 AM


Then shut up, laddie. It isn't hard to do.

tcrosse said...

Ann's picture is a bit inauthentic because it shows real bookcases instead of period-correct bricks-and-boards.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bad Lieutenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Just to pile on about the anxiety dreams: Me too. Mine are usually a small upper-class/graduate math or physics seminar where I haven't seen the professor or any of the students since Day One. Though there are variants: A couple of weeks back I had one where I had two days to write four musicology papers, on none of which I'd prepared anything. (That's become more common in the last couple of years; they used to be all math and physics. Another had me nominally in a musicology seminar with a very distinguished professor; I showed up once or twice, but didn't do any work.)

The thing is, sometimes these dreams resonate because parts of them are true. Take that second-semester physics: One thing I didn't mention is that I simply blew off the last three weeks of class. Or my electrical engineering final: My professor there was the late, celebrated Otto J. M. Smith, and boy did he work us hard. One thing he made clear up-front was that you were going to fail if you didn't turn in enough homework. Well, I hadn't, and I came to his office to tell him so. (Speaking of "menstrually compromised," that was a very bad day.) He nodded, and then wished me luck on the exam. That was it.

The exam was ten questions, every one of which was some extension or readaptation of something covered in class. It was insane. A couple of them I couldn't even begin to answer. I knew I was doomed.

Otto had the nasty habit of handing exams back in grade order, highest to lowest. For the final they were piled outside his door in two halves. So I went through the lower half. Didn't find my paper. Then started on the other one, from the bottom. Mine was third from the top. The TA who graded it must have been desperate to find partial credit, any partial credit, because he awarded it even when there no answers at all, not even wrong ones.

Gahrie said...

So the population of students is from the far right reaches of the intelligence/ability bell curve, no? As there are significantly more males in that group, why would you expect equal outcomes,

But that can never be admitted at a modern university, let alone discussed. E.g. Larry Summers and Charles Murray.

Bruce Hayden said...

"This actually happened to me in junior high. The kid sitting next to me copied my test paper verbatim, including my name. If I didn't know him so well, I would have said he wanted to get caught"

Junior year physics in HS,my lab partner would routinely cheat off of my tests. I would get As, and he would get Cs and Ds on the same tests. Then, I ran into him my sophomore year in college at a HS football game. When I told him where I was going, he told me his brother was there. Turns out His brother was a fraternity brother of mine, who joined Phi Beta Kappa, and ultimately got a PhD in, I believe, biochemistry.

At college, we had a fairly strict honor code that most of the kids took seriously - to the point that the profs were not welcome in the classrooms during tests. Little cheating - except the pre-meds (bio and chem), where it was rampant. Which is why I was always a bit distrusting of the doctors of my generation - so many of the kids who got into med school went for the money, and not to save lives, and were, thus, the most unscrupulous students I knew at the time.

Finally, the big place I saw cheating in law school was when writing onto law review. There was an initial Blue Bookng test that showed that you could properly cite cases, etc, and results were delayed for a couple weeks, after it was discovered that 15-20 students had gotten together and worked the problems together. Something like that. And, yes, it wasn't supposed to be a group project. These were supposed to be bright kids, but apparently hadn't figured out that that many identical answers was suspicious. They were apparently (mostly) scared straight by the dean reminding them that cheating, if relayed to the bar, might keep them from being admitted to practice law, and the only reason that this wasn't going to be formalized was that it was quasi-extracurricular (but they weren't going to be on law review either).

Big Mike said...

@Michelle, as a senior in the mid-1960s I took the 2nd semester of Gen. Ed. Biology class pass-fail (a brand new concept back then). I thought I had done enough to pass so I blew off the class nature trip and most of the dissection labs. Then I opened the final exam and realized that over half the exam would be on the nature trip. Oh oh. Then the first question was fill in the blanks: "The dominant tree in the forest preserve is the ________. Tree-dwelling rodents known as _________ eat its acorns for food." I aced the exam and the course, but only got a "P."

Douglas said...

My law school here in China does not allow students to type final exams (we can't afford the software to lock up the students' laptops during the exam). The result is that I have to read handwritten blue books - dozens and dozens of them. In response, sometimes I will give a take-home exam in an elective class, mostly so I'll have typed answers to read. I have found that if you write sufficiently fact-intensive essay questions, the answers will not change very much from in-class to take-home exam, and I get exactly the same spread between the best and the worst. I have never had a problem with plagiarism, either, which would be pretty easy to spot in reading 20 exams. What about the gender issues? Well, at my school the stronger students tend to be the women so it's never been an issue.

Ann Althouse said...

That reminds me. Another thing I didn't like about take-homes: They weren't good enough. I expected better thought out answers and didn't get them. With an in class exam, I understood there was a limitation. Without the limitation, I was disappointed.

RigelDog said...

Every time I see that picture of our gracious Salon Host, all I can think about is how ridiculously thick her hair is. Thick and glossy, like a separate creature. I do envy it!

MountainMan said...

I used to have those anxiety dreams as well, just about always involving going to take a final exam in college when I had not even attended the class for the entire term. They were very frequent over my 40-year work career. I always thought they resulted from the tensions of all the projects I worked on, which usually had firm deadlines with no option to delay.

Since I retired last year I have not had a single one.

Gretchen said...

If I were a student I would be insulted.

Sturt said...

In this long ago photo you look amazingly like the still young Australian singer Courtney Barnett, who shares a fascination with the implications of words
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcnIhzaDTd0