Thursday, 21 August 2008

Multiple choice questions with all options wrong!

(This entry revised following discussions with an examiner, whose opinions I respect. )

I originally protested here about there being a multiple choice question in one exam paper which did not have a correct option to choose; whatever you put would not be correct because air law had changed, while the exam paper had not been updated. The question was worth 5% of the paper in which 70% is a pass. It seemed to me that any student who got 65% would have a very legitimate cause for complaint if he had been unable to get the passmark, whatever he put for that question.

An examiner who read the posting took my point but says that while the CAA is always months behind in approving BMAA draft questions (modified to take into account new laws), and while there is always the potential for students to have difficulties in exams as a result, he has never known a student to fail an exam as a direct consequence of such a conflict. He would go in to bat on behalf of any such student if such an occasion arose.

None the less, the problem exists. Exams do contain questions which are out of date and which require a student to be as aware of past law as they are of current law and will worry over a question for too long and then worry about their other answers. The students' problems are compounded by text books being out of date (even, I am told, some instructors apparently being out of date)...and it just seems to me that as it takes months and even sometimes years for laws to change, it ought to be possible for the CAA to anticipate an exam change and to approve questions which take account of these changes before candidates sit the papers, especially when it ought to be possible for exams to be taken online, avoiding the need to mail-out to all flying schools every time there is a change.

It can't be reasonable to expect students of a subject which is new to them to know law which is not very readily available to them and to take exams where it is impossible to get the answer right, except by pure fluke, especially when a re-take will cost them £25.

I cannot be the only student who has seen this as an issue. Students really must not be expected to carry the can for a system that cannot keep pace with change.

I was asked by one examiner to take account of the fact that raising this point online might panic other students, but is that really my responsibility? If the potential exists for students to be worried by this issue, surely it highlights the need for action to be taken?

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