About the exams
The exams in this class are where you will do most
of the learning. They can take far more than a weekend to write, so
you will want to plan ahead.
How the exams will work
There are three sections to each exam.
- Glossary. This portion is take home.
You will be provided with a list of terms that you must define.
Use no more than 2-3 sentences in your definition. This section is
graded on a binary scale.
- Short Essay. This is a short essay
question that you will receive at least one week before the test
is due. These will be graded on a point system that you will know
about at least three days before the due date. Your answer should
be a 1,000 word or less typed response. It should be formatted as
a one page paper with 1 inch margins on all sides. If you must use
two pages, print both front and back of the page. We want to
handle only one physical page. See the sample
essay we provide for the preferred
- Multiple Choice Items. There will be
two types of multiple choice items. Some items will cover general
background knowledge. Preparation of the glossary is an excellent
way to study for this portion of the exam. The other type involves
the application of the background knowledge to a case. These cases
will be available to students at least one week before the exam
date. Meeting in groups to discuss these cases is an excellent
approach to studying for this portion of the exam.
The links above provide access to a long list of
items for each exam from which the actual exam is guaranteed to be
taken. You should begin your studying using this superset.
Tips for how to approach the exams.
- Work alone and study in groups. These
exams are cooperative for a reason: they are very difficult to do
by yourself. Work alone to consolidate what you know and to be
able to bring something to your group. Share your ideas with other
students and take ideas from them. Ask other students who have
taken my intro class before. Ask other faculty. Some faculty
outside of psychology are good resources too (e.g. Gordon Marino
in Philosophy knows a lot about Freud).
- Be sure to ask questions in class. We
will spend much class time preparing for the exams. Take advantage
of this time to show your outline to others, or to ask me or the
student assistants a question. If you are too confused to ask a
question, tell us. We are good at helping you find out why you are
- Begin making an outline as soon as you know
the questions. Don't wait until the night you want to write
the essay. First, you won't be able to share your work with
others. Second, you need to try an outline of all the questions to
help you decide which one you want to do. You often don't know how
hard a question is until you begin to actually write down the
- Always work with someone else. Did I
mention this before? Students who work in groups almost always get
better grades than those who do not. For one thing, if you work by
yourself you can find your answer is "out in left field" compared
to what the majority of other students are doing. Remember that
other students talk to the teacher too, and they can pass on what
they have heard.
- Be creative, but be sure to mark the big
ideas. Exam answers can take many forms. Some students have
done scripts for Oprah or for 90210. Others have done arguments
between two theorists or a play. Most folks do the standard essay.
Do what feels best to you. But be sure, however you frame your
answer, to mark the main points of it so we can tell. Go back to
the question and check it against your answer to make sure you
have answered all of the points in the question. Check your paper
to make sure they main points of the answer are clear to the
- Don't assume the grader has seen your
earlier papers. Since there are four people doing the grading
for this course, you can not assume the person grading your paper
now has graded it in the past. In fact, we pass them out so that
we all get a chance at each student's papers. So make sure you
answer all of the question and don't assume that we know that you
know the answer. It has to be on the paper.
- Make sure to have someone proof-read your
exam. Please do this. Mispelled words, sentence framgents and
mistakes in tense and nuber is hard to red. It makes a bad
impression and makes more work for the grader. It makes it harder
for us to tell if you know what you are talking about.
How we grade the short essay portion
I couldn't do take home essay exams in a large
class students if I didn't get some help in grading. Graders for this
class are usually junior and senior psychology students, and are
selected from among the best students in the major. These folks
sometimes know more about a particular theorist than I do. Thus the
student assistants for this class are among the "best and brightest"
of the major.
When all the exams are turned in, we divide the
papers up among the graders.
We then, as a group, take about 2 hours to make
our outline of what we think a good answer is for each question.
First we sit down together and read about 3 papers each. This, plus
our conversations with folks in the class, gives us a good idea of
what people in the class think a good answer is. We then modify the
proposed grading scheme accordingly. We then grade together about 3
exams. This helps us to see places where we are disagreeing on the
point values for particular items in the grading rubric.
Finally, we each go grade our exams. Usually we
each read all our exams once, making comments as we go and assigning
points. We then skim each exam counting up the points. This
re-reading is designed to help us stay consistent in our grading over
the many papers we look at. If a student grader has any questions
about a particular paper we resolve those at a final meeting. When we
are finished with the grading, we then make a plot of each grader's
grades, again to check for inconsistencies in grading between
graders. Finally, we put the marked exams in students' boxes and make
public any changeswe made in the grading scheme.
Now comes your turn to grade your own paper. Take
the grading scheme and grade your paper, looking for where you would
assign points. If you think we missed something, please let me know,
I will be glad to look at your paper again (but I do reserve the
right to move your grade either up or down, depending on what we
find). Sometimes your brilliant essay won't match what we were
looking for in the grading outline. If you are convinced your essay
was a good answer, I'll be happy to talk with you about it. This is
what is good about essay exams. We can regrade your exam based on the
criteria you and I agree are important.