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EDITORIAL: Are M/C exams a rip-off?

Please choose the best answer.
Multiple-choice examinations are:
a) Easy as pie
b) An insult to your intelligence
c) A waste of your time and money
d) Far too common in science and large courses

To figure this out, let’s do some math. UM costs full-time students $12,919 per semester, in just tuition. At 15 credits, the average course load, this averages to $861.27 per credit, or $2583.80 per 3-credit course. In certain courses (in the biology and chemistry departments, for example), your grade for the semester is solely based on three multiple-choice examinations of, let’s say, fifty questions each. Therefore, $2583.80 divided into these 150 questions that determine your entire grade gives an average of $17.23 per question. Obviously the value for each question would be different under other circumstances. If there are more questions or four instead of three tests, the value will decrease, and if the teacher determines the grade by using a curve, some questions will increase in value while others decrease.
However, the problem is that no student realizes, when in the high-stress environment of the examination, how much these questions are worth, both academically and economically. If you studied and were well prepared, then you are closer to realizing the full value of your education. But the average student is susceptible to the Glorious Xmas-Tree Method of Multiple Choice Tests. Under the pressure of time, the honor code, and the myriad of other stressors of student life, we forget how much we’re spending to choose between the letters A, B, C, and D (or T and F).
We deserve better for our tuition payments. Yes, professors have argued for years that M/C examinations are much more convenient because (choose the best answer): A) the class size is too large, B) the material is not suited for essay format, C) The TA doesn’t like to do work, or D) Because I said so. Yet it is a tragedy of modern education when we exchange convenience for the chance for a more thorough and expressive (rather than recall) learning.
It is obvious that at $17.23 per question none of us is paying that much attention. When we accept the “norm” or M/C tests, we are denying ourselves the access to a more comprehensive relationship with the professor and the material; we just repeat like parrots what we learned in the text. In the absence of M/C exams, we can be assured more patient and intimate contact with the course and ultimately more bang for our bucks.

The Miami Hurricane will soon consider applications for the position of Opinion Editor for the spring semester of 2004. Applicants may be of any major or school, or any grade level, but must be students. It is encouraged that applicants be able to hold the position through the fall semester of the next year. Stay tuned to this space for more information regarding application dates, portfolio requirements, and interviews.

September 26, 2003

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.