Monday, November 05, 2007

At a loss

My students had their final exam today. As I faced the rows of pale, tragic-looking faces at the start, I noticed something very odd: a student who I had never seen before in my life. I went and inspected her ID and she is indeed enrolled in the course. But she hasn't completed any of the course work. Hasn't attended a single class. And had the wrong textbook sitting in front of her (for an open-book exam).

I have absolutely no idea why she was taking the exam, since it was only worth 30% of the grade, and she hasn't got any of the other 70% at all. It can't be that she didn't know there was other assessment. She is a third-year student, and there are few, if any, courses at this university where the exam is even worth more than 50%, let alone the full grade. She can't be expecting useful feedback, since they don't get their papers returned, and she won't even get a grade, just an NCN on her transcript for "incomplete". So I don't even have to look at her answers (although I did, and it looks like she probably would have scraped a pass).

The mystery isn't why a student would enrol in the course and not attend classes or do the work. We get that all the time, from students who need to be enrolled (but not pass) in order to keep their student visas. The mystery is why she bothered with the exam.

Any theories?

13 Comments:

saxifraga said...

Strange indeed. My best guess is that she somehow thinks the exam is going to count on its own, but how she can believe that if it never happens is a mystery. Here it wouldn't be uncommon at all to show up for an exam and not the course if you failed the year before, but then students here are typically evaluated on the exam alone.

luckybuzz said...

That's exactly like all my anxiety dreams. Why would anyone live that nightmare on purpose? :)

Miss M. said...

She's not a PhB student with interesting course requirements is she? There always seem to be a few of them floating around.

And incidentally, was this the exam in JD101 this morning? I was coughing and sneezing my way through general micro across the hallway.

Badaunt said...

You get them too? I guess they're not an exclusively Japanese univerity phenomenon, then . . .

StyleyGeek said...

Yes, Miss M, it was. Did you see me?

I don't see how being a PhB student would explain it, though. They still have to actually do enough of the assessment to pass their courses!

Miss M. said...

I think so - were you off to the side at the bottom of the stairs just as people were going in? I remember saying to myself "oh.. she looks familiar from somewhere" but couldn't think where, probably because I was busy trying to remember if I was going to need a calculator or not, and there was someone else I knew just about to walk into the linguistics exam so I was wishing her good luck. I find it incredibly amusing, in hindsight.

Miss M. said...

And re PhB's, they always seem to have bizaar course requirements that somehow differ from mere mortals. Not too sure about the Arts ones (there are quite a few at my Hall, but I don't ask them much about their courses for fear they'll tell me) but the Science ones seem to have a lot of alternative assignments. Not sure why you wouldn't have been the one assigning those though, so I guess that's where my theory breaks down.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she thought she knew the material, and she just wanted to know how she would do on the test. So, maybe she's expecting the grade (even if its just to her peace of mind).

Anonymous said...

maybe she just wanted to check out what the test was like for next year?

StyleyGeek said...

The second anonymous suggest sounds most plausible to me.

And Miss M, yes, that was me.

As for PhB students, their alternative assessment is usually assigned either by their advisor, or by their course lecturer (i.e. me), and either way, the lecturer has to be informed of it all so that s/he doesn't fail them for not doing what everyone else is doing!

Miss M. said...

Aha! Now I can say "I know what you look like" in a creepy voice with chilling music playing in the background. I'm sure had I been less stressed at the time I would have figured out where I recognised you from and said Hi.

WhatLadder said...

... so she can tell her parents that she did the exam, but it was too tough? I have a friend who went to a law exam and read a novel, because her QC father refused to believe the law was not for her, so her only option was to fail all her law exams...

(Or you can attribute it to modern education where no one is really allowed to fail, and/or poor math skills.)

Anonymous said...

strange! I have a student who signed up late and has only done a couple of small things this semester. I've sent out frinedly, consoling emails, which ahve become increasingly firm, telling him to DROP THE CLASS. But, he continues to hang in there! I think I'm going to have my first failing grade in three years of teaching. Drat.