2.2 How University-Level Exams Work

Exam Content is Your Professor’s Decision

Some professors prefer to give multiple-choice exams, while others prefer to give essay exams. Some deliver a final exam meant to test your knowledge of the entire course, while for others, the final exam focuses mostly on content learned in the last part of the course. In high school, teachers must follow a specific curriculum, and many of the final exams that high school students write in their last year are standardized across the province, state, or region, but this is no longer the case in university. Professors update and make substantial changes to their course content and exams from semester-to-semester, and professors teach their courses in unique ways such that classes vary from professor to professor. Therefore, it is important to consult your syllabus and your professor if you have questions about your exams. Do not rely on information you get from someone who is in a different course section or who had the same professor in a previous year.

Anything Assigned Over the Semester is Fair Game

Again, this marks another difference between writing exams in high school and writing exams in university. In high school, your teachers made sure to use class time to cover everything that would be on the exam. In university, there is an expectation that students will be responsible for more of their own learning, so if it is part of your assigned reading or viewing but is not covered in a class lecture, you might still be responsible for knowing it. Some professors provide students with detailed information about what to study for exams, such as providing learning objectives or practice quizzes, but this is likely to be the exception, not the rule.


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Navigating an Undergraduate Degree in the Social Sciences by Diane Symbaluk, Robyn Hall, and Geneve Champoux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.