Author Topic: Should you look at questions to pass an exam?  (Read 7205 times)

Offline Joseph

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Should you look at questions to pass an exam?
« on: Feb 04, 2016, 08:40 »
A few days ago I put a post in the Power Engineers Annonymous form on Facebook. I would like to repost it here on our website because it received some good feedback.

I recommend that if you're going for an exam, then study. Of course. Put the hours in, review the material, take notes, watch videos, and do all the long answer questions in Pan Global material. Again, of course.

And then, after you've studied, done the work, and feel like you're genuinely qualified to answer questions on Power Engineering equipment (you know, things that blow up) *then* look at the all the questions you can, hopefully with the intention to test your abilities and remind you of some of the ways examiners will phrase questions, and give you a possible different approach as to how questions can be asked. It's good practice, and an effective study method. When you can't answer a question, great, now you know an area of weakness - go back to the material and review it, and then do some more questions to cement the knowledge.

That is the intention with integrity that we'd all like to see future in power engineers when they get a hold of question banks.
What I think we all struggle with is that small but significant percentage of people who will avidly review questions with the hope that they can pass by memorization without knowing the material. These people are just not trained to handle conditions that they have to figure things out to do (like an emergency, when things get crazy). They have only 'trained' themselves to handle miscellaneous material that they memorized, like a list for how to start something up. After all, who has started up a plant and hasn't had something go wrong that required you to really know that plant in order to figure it out?

The people that memorized answers and got their 'pass' by a half a percentage point... I don't want to work with them. They didn't internalize the studying, and they certainly haven't internalized the work they are required to do.

Those are the people that, through incompetence, blow things up.
« Last Edit: Feb 10, 2016, 12:25 by Jason R »
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Offline Colin Farquhar

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Re: Should you look at questions to pass an exam?
« Reply #1 on: Feb 08, 2016, 16:00 »
I'll expand upon your title slightly...  Should you look at practice questions, as a method of checking your study habits, identifying where you're weak, and getting yourself into "exam mode"?  Certainly.  As a sure-fire way to pass?  I hope not. 


All of the post-secondary study I've taken (in this field and others) has included some form of pre-exam test questions for this purpose. 
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Offline Jason R

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Re: Should you look at questions to pass an exam?
« Reply #2 on: Feb 10, 2016, 12:41 »
Word got out a few years ago that Power Engineering can be a lucrative career where one doesn't have to do much heavy lifting. This has created long wait lists at a bunch of schools and those who want to get their certification as quickly as possible.

Why study when you can just memorize the question banks?

People are also less inclined to study material that, according to other power engineers, they will never use in industry. For example, do you think a company, in today's times, will let a third-class power engineer make the final call on the required thickness of a boiler's steam drum? Probably not.

Hell, I've seen a company that doesn't seek the chief engineer's input on a new boiler, nor a new plant design. But I digress from the question.

I've seen other groups where question and question banks are traded and discussed frequently. These groups see a lot of activity with mostly power engineering students. In contrast, these forums have an explicit no-exam-question-trading policy and we don't have much activity.

If the safety authorities and schools want to reduce question bank trading and memorization, they should revert back to written exams. For example, the written version of 3B1 would knock most question memorizers on their asses and only allowed those who really knew their stuff to progress on. That's changed with the new multiple choice 3B1; a lot of people put off writing their 3B1 exam until the change was made.

Now, we're starting to see people ask when the second-class exams will be multiple choice. If you think operational incompetence is high now, just wait until that happens.

 

 
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Offline AndyS

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Re: Should you look at questions to pass an exam?
« Reply #3 on: Feb 11, 2016, 09:07 »
Couldn't agree more, Jason. I don't get the dark cloud over  written exams, I found it was quite a nice change, and allowed you to express your own views a lot better. It was also great to be forced into having to draw and memorize many differing items.
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Offline JonathanB

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Re: Should you look at questions to pass an exam?
« Reply #4 on: Feb 12, 2016, 06:04 »
For my 4th class exams, I ended up reading and taking notes on 2 chapters per evening. Once I finished a section, I utilized test banks to find my weak points. Once those were noted, I came back to them upon finishing the books and went over that material. While I don't expect to have anything like that at a 2nd class level , I admit that it was a great way to focus my attention. Will I utilize the test banks available for 3rd class to assist me in the same process? Yes, in the same manner as above only.


Sadly I know that not everyone follows a similar process. They're cheating themselves, and putting future co-workers in danger. For that reason, I can understand why the loss of the 3B1 essay exam is a bit of a blow to competency.:-/
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Offline Joseph

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Re: Should you look at questions to pass an exam?
« Reply #5 on: Feb 12, 2016, 09:34 »
I'm all for written tests. Any good examiner can see through a written answer if the student is bluffing. A good answer shows up. Frankly, writing a good multiple choice question is challenging - it's not coming up with the correct answer, it's coming up with the wrong answers that still look good... that is the challenge. Is it fair to say that a significant amount of multiple choice (multiple guess) questions have at least one or two options that are easy to guess as being the wrong answers? That leaves a 50-50 chance of getting the right answer even if you don't know what it is.


So why do examiners want to use multiple choice questions?


Because they are very very easy to mark. If you have a big question bank to draw from on a computer, you can have a student take a test and then as soon as they are done, they press <enter> and get their mark in seconds. Easy. No effort required. Done.
This is not like a long answer question, where the reviewer has to read the info, understand it, put at least a few minutes into every question, and run into all the biases that might show up that you have to watch out for. If you have 50 exams to mark, this can be a lot of time consuming work.
What's more, multiple choice questions are hard to complain about, whereas a written answer is an easy target to hit up the reviewer for at least a couple more marks on a re-examination of the test. If you give a mark of 57 - 64, and the pass is a 65, you can almost guarantee the student will ask for a remark - which means setting up an appointment and going over an exam for another half an hour with the student when you decided he had already failed. It can feel like a waste of time for the examiner and on the darker side even feel like an insult as someone can be perceived as questioning their integrity or competence. Are they trying (or even begging) for a higher mark by talking you into it? Arrggghh. As an instructor I am familiar with the process and recognize that to mark a long answer question you had better know what you are doing, and just accept that low marks will probably be questioned, and to not be offended that someone is "questioning" your ability. After all, you may have made a mistake, or the student is just trying to get a better mark that they think they earned, or even just wants to know where they went wrong.
But, it's time consuming as heck and multiple choice starts to look really good. I'm just saying. Even though the BCSA exams for Fourth Class are multiple choice, I still have some long answer questions in my plant training exams,and the truth is it's more work. The results however are worth it, as I feel the marks are more reflective of the knowledge. Not all examiners would agree, this is just my opinion. I hope second and first class questions stay as long answer in the future, or if multiple choice questions are used, make them about 40% with the rest as long answer. And, even better, let the student use a computer (with restricted access, of course) so you can read the odd hieroglyphic hand writing. 
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