Justin Li

Good Exam Criteria


I'm done with this quarter! I'm flying out tomorrow at noon. It'll be fun.

I was talking to someone after my stats exam, and I said that it was a good exam. I realized that my definition of a good exam is not necessarily the same as other people's. In particular, my definition of a good exam has almost nothing to do with how well I did on it.

Instead, I am more interested in how well the exam addresses the course material. Does the exam do a good job of summing up what we've learned in a quarter? Does it push us to use what we know?

The stats exam did a pretty good job of that, by asking using a lot of the techniques we learned with a single example, and also including a few parts which we haven't encountered before. Another good exam I've had was for operating systems way back when. The test was on concepts, which means the answers could be extremely short as long as it was correct. It required thinking though, which is always a good thing.

I have, in fact, enjoyed exams which I did badly at, but which I thought I should do well because the questions were so otherwise simple. Like my differential equations exam last year, afterwards I felt like taking the exam again just to prove that I am better than that.