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About the Exams

The take home 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. I have included some example exam questions online so you can see what you are in for. Here are some tips for how to approach the exams.

How we grade the exams

We couldn't do take home essay exams in a class of 45 students if I didn't get some help in grading. Graders for this class are usually 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 three graders (the two assistants and I). We do this for two reasons. So that the professor gets to read your paper at least once (and likely twice) during the term, and so that if there are any differences in the graders they even out over all your papers.

We then take about 2 hours to make our outline of what we think a good answer is. First we sit down together and read about 3 papers each (for a total of nine). 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. Then we put together an outline answer and assign points to each of the items in the outline. We then look over all the different outlines (e.g. if there is more than one question) to make sure there are a reasonable number of points for each item.

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 re-read each exam counting up the points. The 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 pass out in class the grading outline we worked from.

Now comes your turn to grade your own paper. Take the grading outline 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.

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