Exams and Grading

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Each midterm exam consists of 28 questions. Approximately 20 questions use a standard multiple-choice format with 4-5 answer options. The remainder are fill-in-the-blank questions with a defined set of possible response options. In other words, there is a list of 10-25 possible options for each blank, which makes it possible to use Scantron forms (e.g., by including options, A, B, C, D, E, AB, AC, AD, AE, BC, etc.). The exams are a mix of simple factual questions (e.g., “Anterograde amnesia is a typical consequence of damage to which of the following brain areas?”), more complex conceptual questions (e.g., “Which of the following findings could be explained by the Baddeley & Hitch working memory model but not by the Modal Model?”), and questions that require applying their knowledge to new situations (e.g., “If a partial report experiment were conducted with 4 rows of 3 items each and a cue with a 0-ms delay, how many items on average would a typical participant be able to report from the cued row?”).

The final exam covers the entire course and is much like a midterm, except that all of the questions use a standard multiple-choice format.


70% of the final grade comes from the five midterms and the final exam, 20% comes from the six worksheets, and 10% comes from the SmartSite quizzes. The small proportion from the SmartSite quizzes reflects the fact that these quizzes are designed to aid the students in learning rather than to evaluate their knowledge, and it reduces incentives to cheat on these quizzes (which would be quite easy). Remarkably, the students do not seem to be aware of how little each SmartSite quiz counts toward their grades, and they rarely miss taking a SmartSite quiz (although we have no way of knowing how often they take a quiz without watching the lecture videos in hopes of guessing correctly).

Dealing with Technical Problems and Other Excuses

This course has a huge number of individual deadlines for quizzes and worksheets, and one of the most challenging aspects of running the course is dealing with excuses for missed deadlines. Students often miss a deadline by just a few minutes because of slow network connections, rebooted computers, etc., but it is usually impossible to tell the difference between a legitimate technical problem and a failure on the part of the student. We therefore stress that students should aim to complete quizzes and submit worksheets at least an hour before the deadline. We have also developed the following policies:

SmartSite Quiz Policies

Students can miss up to 10% of the questions and still receive a perfect score on this portion of the class. The points for this portion will be calculated by taking the percent correct for the SmartSite quizzes and dividing by 90%. For example, if a student gets 85% correct, the student will get 85÷90% of the points (94.4% of the points). If the student gets 90% or more correct, the student receives 100% of the points for the online quizzes (students cannot get more than 100% of the points). We do not ordinarily allow students to make up missed SmartSite quizzes for any reason (e.g., technical problems, illness). When students ask about getting a deadline extended, we tell them we cannot do this (which is largely true for technical reasons) and we remind them that we automatically drop the lowest 10% of SmartSite quiz points.

Worksheet Policies

We automatically drop the lowest worksheet score, so we are very strict about excuses for missed worksheets. Students lose 25% of the points for a worksheet if it is submitted within 1 hour of the deadline, 50% of the points if the worksheet is submitted within 11 hours of the deadline, and 100% of the points if it is submitted more than 11 hours after the deadline. However, we do allow students to turn in a worksheet late with no penalty if there is a serious, documented illness or similar significant excuse. Students must attend their regularly scheduled discussion section to receive credit for the week’s worksheet (although we make exceptions in case of serious illnesses and other significant excuses).

Of course, if there is a technical problem with the LMS or because of an error on the instructor’s part, we extend the deadlines for the students.

Up next: Evidence of Effectiveness