Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The One We Left Blank

Last week, I had a test in Principles of Programming Languages. I knew I wasn't fully prepared, but I had gone through my notes and looked for ways to review the things I would have to do on the test. (The whole test was "do this" types of questions - no factual questions at all. It was nice, actually. And it was open notes.)

The last question on the test was about recursive descent parsing. We were supposed to write some code to go with some existing code to do a little piece of it, and I just...couldn't. I couldn't figure out how to access the variables I would have needed from the code block I was to write, and I wasn't sure how it was supposed to work anyway. I wrote a couple of lines and then gave up, essentially leaving it blank. Time was up anyway - I had spent most of the two-hour class period doing the first 7 problems.

So I was expecting a B.

Last night, when I got the test back, I had scored 55/56, or 98%.

"I didn't grade Question 8," the professor said. "By the time I got there I was just like ... eh. This is enough. No, not really. It's just, I looked, and most of the answers were blank. And the rest were...varying degrees of pseudocode that...yeah. So I decided not to grade it."

It seems fair. Our class has no textbook or any other kind of outside material. If basically nobody can make a decent attempt at answering a test question, it seems likely that you didn't actually teach the material.

And, of course, I was personally pleased to be one of many fuck-ups rather than an individual unique fuck-up.


Sally said...

Yeah, when the correlation of the item to the overall test is basically zero, it's probably a good idea to throw it out. Glad this one worked out in your favor.

Tam said...

Me too. Had I nailed that one and been completely stuck on a different one I'd have been pissed. (We did have the option of asking him to grade the question for us in case it would help our grade, but I probably would have asked him if I could drop the other question instead.)