This week is all about the final exam. I talked a little about the exam format and the study hall forum in the last experience report. I had hoped to write answers to all of the questions and take a look the rest of the groups answers and any feedback provided. I didn’t get through everything, and some of the ones I did submit didn’t get any feedback. I think everyone was pretty busy with the rest of the coursework but I was left feeling unsure exactly how the exam would go.
The final is all written essay style, 3 short form answers and 3 long form answers. There is a special portion of the lecture dedicated to walking through the expectations of answers and explain the grading process. We had 4 days to have all of our answers submitted.
I got a little lucky and one of the questions I answered in the study hall was on the test. Unfortunately it was just one of the short form questions. The rest were ones that I hadn’t really read through before. The exam section of lecture talked a fair amount about structuring the answers well, and I hadn’t written a real long form essay for a while. I wanted to try and manage my time and not be stuck trying to write long form essays at the last minute so I jumped in to try and knock those out first.
It took a bit of stopping and starting, but I ended up getting a decent rhythm going. About half way through the exam I realized how much I was actually enjoying (geeking out) thinking about and writing about the questions. We aren’t supposed to share the questions and answers for obvious reasons but I did want to take a few since it felt like they would make for some good blog posts.
An interesting aspect to the test is that you are not required to respond with answers that conform to what is taught in the lectures. They aren’t looking for a right or wrong answer, they are looking for a thought out and well supported answer. It really flies in the face of the typical multiple choice prescriptive answer type of test. I didn’t find any reason to argue against the teachings for the test answers but it was nice to know that if I did, I wouldn’t have to recite lecture answers in order to pass. I that really adds credibility to the class, testing can be a subjective task, so being able to support your position is more important in the real world than reciting (or regurgitating) course teachings.
After the forums closed for submitting answers each class member was assigned 2 other classmates exams to grade. The instructors included guidelines for the grading to help focus the efforts. As testers we are often asked to offer feedback or constructive criticism, so its good practice. However, it still felt a little uncomfortable getting started but I followed the lectures suggestions about breaking up the question into pieces and assigning each piece points which made it easier. I hadn’t previously given much thought to grading as a learning exercise, but it makes you critically read other opinions on questions you already worked through. It also makes you do more research to be sure that you understand the material enough to be able to grade other peoples work. I had to go back through the slides and parts of the lecture to make sure I was on solid ground for grading the work.
The grading is just another post in the classmates individual exam forum, so you see other peoples opinion of the work. Testers can have the stereotype of being overly critical, and some grades seemed a little harsh. Its tough to tell though, it could be a variety of issues. We have a diverse group, so sometimes the written word gets processed differently, or English may not be the first language so I may be reading it differently than intended. The grading process is also being graded so some people might feel they are trying to get the best grade possible. Don’t get me wrong it’s a valuable process that I think offered insight for both the sides of the process.
After you have graded others you are supposed to circle back and grade your own. This actually brought up an interesting conversation in a side forum of the class discussing bias.
When you go to grade your own responses, the classmates assigned to grade you may or may not have already graded your work. This self evaluation is another graded assignment. So do you wait for your peer reviews, and then evaluate your own work? If so does how does the feedback you have received effect your own self review? Reading some self reviews did seem a bit defensive, but its natural to want to counter/rebut the arguments in the review.
Conversely though if you write your own review before others have written theirs, how does that effect their feedback to you? Will they pick up the criticisms you mentioned of your own work? Does that change what their response would have been. I guess the same argument could be made for the first reviewers thoughts affecting the second reviewer. It was an interesting thing to think about but for me it ended up not really being relevant.
I received one set of feedback quickly, but I added my own review before the second reviewer submitted their feedback. I didn’t want to have to scramble at the last minute if my second reviewer posted their response close to the deadline. This worked out to be a good strategy since I never got that second persons feedback.
We’ve started getting instructor feedback. Its interesting since it seems we may not get individual feedback on our answers. Instead general feedback and explanation is provided as well as links to particularly good answers from our classmates. I think this works well, I would have liked the direct instructor feedback but between the peer grading and pointer to good answers I think that is more than enough to learn from.
Hopefully I did well enough to pass, I invested a lot of time in both the class and exam. I’m pretty confident I did well though. One of my answers was included in the instructor feedback and that felt pretty good. I’m hoping it is a good indicator for my overall results…