Friday, November 21, 2008

Apparently E is the new F?

I am so close to being done with my statistics class I can practically taste it.  (Mmmm....savory and sweet.) I take my final exam on Tuesday at my favorite testing center. (The one where they are friendly and mellow.) If it seems to you like it's taken me forever and a day to complete this class - - you're right.  If I had it to do over again of course I'd do it differently, and be done before now.

The course has three midterm exams AND a cumulative final (sick and twisted, that) and each one of the midterms has two sections, 1) the classic "multiple guess" questions and 2) the ever popular "show your work" questions. Section 1 should be a slamdunk except that these folks are terribly fond of using very tricksy wording s0 that what seems like the correct answer sometimes isn't. When I first enrolled in the course the school's policy was that you could take the two sections separately, on different days, which sounded great to me.  Take the first half, see how you did, study more where you were weak, and then take the other half.  Marvelous!  Unfortunately, between the time I started the course and the time I requested the first exam, the school decided to change this policy. Without informing anyone currently enrolled in the course.  Nice, eh?

Yes, they should have told us.  And yes, if they wanted to change the policy they also should have grandfathered the students already enrolled and applied the new rules to anyone enrolling after that date.  Like many distance education courses, this one is open enrollment, not semester based, so it would be tricky but not impossible.  And this is not a small college, this is a major university, one that certainly has the resources to accomplish such a task.  My panic button on the whole issue was that now instead of taking two smaller one-hour exams, I would now be taking a huge two-hour exam.  I can and do get A's on all the assignments but that's a whole heck of a lotta test to swallow in one sitting. And I have to say, with this material after the first 60 minutes I'm cross-eyed and by 90 minutes my brain cells start to dribble out my ears so two whole hours?  Aaaaaaaaarrrrgghhhhh!!!!!!!!

Anyway, on the first exam I got a B on the multiple guess portion, and a C on the other part. Perfectly acceptable.  Then on the second exam I only scored a C on the first section (did I mention the tricksy wording?) but earned an A on the other part!  And not just any old A, a bright shiny 100% A!  Which I would think supports my theory that the questions and potential answers are poorly worded, because when it came to the part of the test where I had to show all the computations to arrive at the correct answer, obviously I knew my stuff, right?

Here's something to consider though - the first part of each exam is worth 16% of my overall course grade.  But the second portion is only worth 1%.  So no matter how pretty that A is, it's really more practical to focus your attention on the craptastically worded questions and answers.  So that was my strategy for the third exam, and I knew when I turned in my completed exam that I had kind of taken a dive on the second half of the exam, but I figured it was worth it in order to do well on the first half since it counted for more.

About a week after completing that last midterm exam I logged in to check my grades and saw that it was posted as B+/E. I thought, "okay, great to get the B, that's what I wanted, but what the hell is E?" So I looked at the instructor's grading scale on the syllabus and realized that in fact, "E" means "fail".  Okay, no problemo - it's only 1% of my overall grade and averaged in with all the assignments and exams it will have very little impact so I really don't care.  I'm guessing in a more traditional classroom environment an instructor might take notice of a perfect score followed by a failing grade and contact the student to enquire if perhaps the student passed out halfway through? But I know that in distance education the individual students are a 1,000 times more nameless and faceless than in the largest lecture halls, so I don't expect that. The part that surprised me was that although of course I know that alphabetically "E" is the letter after "D", in any schooling I've gone through in the past, "F" is used to signify "fail".  Apparently that has changed?  Or is it just this one wacky university. Perhaps E is more Educated? Please, do Enlighten me!


undeadgoat said...

They're probably avoiding hurting your feelings. Is my guess.

Anonymous said...

Sooooo, basically you need a degree in statistics to be able to figure out your final grade in this wicked little course? Higher learning is just silly sometimes.

Carolyn (Harbor Hon) said...

You are so very smart. I don't know how you keep all those statistics in your head. As you know, I'm bad with any kind of math. I always thought F was the fail letter. Maybe the E stands for excellent? xxoo

D said...

Maybe we should explain that "E" is for "Evidently there is a problem with your testing methods." Good luck tho on Tues. I'm with ya.