The Eternal Question: 12-Page Paper of Multiple Choice Exam?

I used to prefer writing papers to taking traditional final exams. But after this semester, I’ll take a traditional two-hour, 50 question, multiple choice, short answer, essay exam any day.

The lure of replacing traditional exams with a take home paper is enticing on its face.

There is no need for frantic memorization and struggling recollection of what I “learned” months ago.

Instead, I can leisurely look over my notes and read out of open books to formulate an attractive thesis bound to intrigue my professor.

Those same open books, along with other countless resources, will be even more helpful when I am sitting in front of the computer, racking my brain for that one elusive bit of information essential to proving my thesis valid.

A head start on Christmas vacation is another alluring aspect associated with replacing exams with papers. If every class I had required a final paper instead of a final exam, I wouldn’t even have to appear on campus at all during finals week. I could effectively begin vacationing a week early.

And if, by chance, one of those papers were due during finals week, thanks to technology, I still wouldn’t have to come to campus!

Finally, I used to prefer papers because I generally get them back with helpful, informative comments. Feedback is part of the learning process.

When I take an exam on the last day of finals week, I will never see that exam again. Sure, I’ll get an idea of how well (or not) I did, as it is reflected in my final course grade. However, the mystery of question #13 will forever remain a mystery.

You know, question #13 is one of those questions that seems to have two possible answers. You go with your instincts at first, but then you second guess yourself and change it at the last minute.

Or maybe you thought about changing it, but didn’t. Those kinds of questions drive me crazy, and I never know if my instinct was correct (unless, of course, I was feeling ambitious enough to memorize the question and then look up the answer later. This never happens at the end of the semester).

I changed my mind about papers at about 2:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. I was sitting at the computer, leafing through those glorious open books, wondering how exactly to utilize their information in filling eight more pages with 12 pt. double spaced type.

More importantly, I wondered how much longer it would take me. It was then that I realized (I’d already known, I just hadn’t realized) not one of the three papers I would write in the coming week were replacing exams at all!

I would still have to do all that study review and memorizing even after spending a grueling two weeks (including a holiday weekend) researching and writing papers on less than four hours of sleep a night.

My vacation isn’t going to start earlier and, while I will get feedback on my papers, there is bound to be at least one of those pesky exam questions that will haunt me over the holidays.

At that point, I began to rethink my preference and concluded that exams, although they do require study, usually only last two hours.

Two measly hours, and it is all over.

While it is nice to have the confidence that open notes and books give, it takes time to go over all that material. If you review the material for an exam, you’re finished after your review.

To write a paper, the review is only the beginning. Then comes organizing all that information so that it makes sense, editing and revising, and second guessing yourself on whether you’ve made the right choices on what to put in and what to leave out.

If you’re like me, this can go on for hours, and only ends when you have to run to class to turn the paper in.

Yep. I’ve definitely changed my mind. I’ll take traditional final exams any day. After all, that second-guessing game can only last two hours in an exam. That’s got to be worth a day less of vacation.

[email protected]