Exams and grading, TAM 2030, Spring 2011

The prelims and final exam are closed book, no notes, no calculators and inclusive (all material in all pre-requisite courses and all material up to the exam). Prelims are designed for completion in 90 minutes but will allow extra time to eliminate time pressure. No extra time on the final exam (University policy). All material from the lecture, sections, text, homework and labs can be on the prelims. Generally, Matlab commands that would give the desired solution will get full credit. Some categories below will be represented on the prelims and the final exam.

1) A problem like a problem already on a prelim.
2) A problem like a homework problem.
3) A text problemfrom the book that was not assigned.
4) A sample problem from the book.
5) Conceptual material from the book.
6) Something related to one of the labs, possibly not in the homework.

Exam tips
Here are some tips that are on the homework page and also mostly on the exam directions. There is no need to lose credit for not following these directions. So, after doing a problem check all of these things.

Free body diagrams.
1) DRAW THEM!
2) Cut them FREE, don't show things that aren't in the system (e.g., walls, floors). Check.
3) When making cuts get the right forces.
For every motion that is caused or prevented there is a force or moment.
If the motion is free there is no force or moment.

For EVERY equation in every problem follow this check list every time:

4) If its force or moment balance, the equation must be associated with a FBD you have drawn.

5) In any one equation every term that is added to or equated with another is either vector or scalar. The whole equation is either exactly and precisely only a scalar equation or only a vector equation. If you intend something to be a vector it needs a hat or arrow on top, if you don't it shouldn't have one.

a) A scalar equation is made up of a sum of scalars on both sides of the equation (thus every added term has no hats or arrows on top, or it has dot products of two things that have arrows or hats on top).

b) A vector equation has sums of vectors on both side. Its all vectors thus with every additive term on both sides of the equation having exactly one term with an arrow or hat on top (or three, where two of them are made scalar by a dot product).

c) If you are going back through equations and putting hats and arrows on top to satisfy the rules above, you are probably doing it wrong!  (It should be part of your thought process as you work.)

6) In any one equation every term that is added or equated on both sides of the equation has exactly the same units as all the others (you can't add apples and hammers). Use dimensional consistency to help you find errors! (e.g., if your answer has an expression like "L + 7" and L is a length then you know your answer is wrong).

7) Have variables and directions been defined? You need a clear sketch showing lengths, angles, directions, distances. Similarly scalars with dimensions of force or moment need to be defined in terms of the unit vectors they multiply (shown, say, as a clear arrow on a free body diagram).

8) A variable cannot change meaning in the middle of a calculation! (F cannot be both the force to the right and the force to the left at point A on one object).

Make sketches large and neat (don't crowd your confusion into a small space).

Homework exam: If you can do all the homework you are guaranteed a grade of at least C via the optional homework exam on Saturday May 7, 1 pm - 5 PM, Thurston 2nd floor. On it will be 4 problems which will be homework problems, or parts of homework problems, with slight changes so that memorizing answers won't help. If you can do 3 of them correctly (good work, correct answer) in 4 hours you are guaranteed a grade of at least C for the whole course. Otherwise this exam does not help nor hurt your course grade. Prior email permission, requested after Prelim 3 and before May 5, required to take this exam.

Warning: In the past, very few students who said "I can do the homework, I just can't do the exams" could actually do the homework. This might follow from not following the advice in the first 3 sentences of the "study advice" on the homework page and in the preface ("To the student") of the online book.

Prelim Schedule

Prelim 1: 3 problems. March 1 Tuesday, 7:30 - 9PM+.     Prelim1    Solution (matlab code from exam)

Prelim 2:
3 problems. March 29 Tuesday 7:30 - 9PM+, Ohlin 155.    Prelim2   Solution   (matlab code from exam)

Prelim 3: 3 problems. April 19 Tuesday 7:30 - 9PM+, Ohlin 155. Prelim 3 and solutions.

Early makeup prelims for those with conflicts:
4:30 PM, same day, with prior email permission from the head TA.You must stay in the exam room from 4:30 until 7:30, bring food (we will give you a note excusing you for lateness to your next test). 2nd floor of Thurston.

Makeup prelim: For students who missed both a prelim and its early makeup, there will be a comprehensive makeup exam on Saturday May 7, 9:00-10:30am+, Thurston 2nd floor.. This one exam (same exam for those who missed prelim 1 as for those who missed prelim 2 or 3) covers all the material in the course through to the lecture of Thursday Apri 28. Makeup exam and solutions.

Regrades: If you think one of your prelims was graded inappropriately:  1) Don't write anything on your exam booklet. 2) Make sure you know how to do the problem correctly. 3) Show your issue to a TA or Prof in the course to see if they think you might have a point.  4) Write an essay about why you should get more points, if it helps mark up a photocopy of your work.  5) Give your book with the essay to your TA.

Final Exam (comprehensive): 5 problems. Thu, May 12 2:00 PM, Uris G01. No extra time. On average the questons will be no longer than the problems on the prelims. No makeup or early makeup is planned. Exam and Solutions.

Extra-credit projects. It could be an experiment that you make up, perform and analyze or a calculation or something else related to this course. It could be an improvement on the course homework solutions (or filling in missing ones). You may work alone or in a small group. One great project report can count for as much as one prelim/exam question. Two reports maximum. Earlier reports may be improved based on feedback. Make a proposal and discuss it with Andy Ruina. Final reports due as pdf files by May 7 in email to Andy Ruina.

Final grade: The course grade is made of a collection of roughly equal-value numbers.
9 prelim scores (25 points each, rescaled to have similar medians)
5 final exam problems (30 points each, rescaled to have similar medians, higher than the prelim medians),
the i-clicker score (lowest 4 dropped, scaled to 25, all students could have perfect scores),
the lab score         (scaled to 25, not median adjusted),
the problem session score (scaled to 25, not median adjusted),
the homework score (lowest 2 dropped, scaled to 25 with later ones possibly counting more, not median adjusted),
project scores (up to two of them).
Of these 18 numbers (19 if you did a project, 20 if you did two) the best 14 determine your grade.
That is, if you are a perfect participant in all aspects of the class you get the equivalent of 6 perfect prelim scores.
On the other hand if you are a brilliant slacker and do perfectly on all exam questions you still get A+.
And then one bonus point for doing the online final course evaluation run by the registrar.

In rare cases, and only up until grades are assigned, a TA can add a few points for unusually good section or problem-session performance.
One bonus point (1%) for completing the course evaluation form. Students can get a guaranteed grade of at least C by passing the homework exam (see above). The median student will get a low or high B depending on overall class performance.

IMPORTANT STATISTICS: In the past, essentially no-one who sincerely participated in lecture, section, labs and HW ended up getting below a C. Presumably this extends to the problem sessions. This is a statistical fact. Why does it work out like this? It's not just because of the points for clickers and so on. It's because people learn by participating. The people who end up getting below a C have almost inevitably skipped a good portion of one or another of the course activities. Yes, some people who skip this or that do fine. They are smart or they learn on their own. More power to them. But some people who skip this or that get C- or D. If you are worried, just drag yourself through all parts of the course and you have an extremely high probability of getting at least a C, no matter how il-prepared or mis-fit you think you are (which you probably aren't, anyway).