Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Grad school as I expected does involve loads of reading and while I could give a long description of everything I have read thus far, that is not my intention now.

The reading I am talking about is just something basic. I am taking this stats class, and we are given homework and exams. Thus far, on my first homework assignment, I managed to skip half of a problem from not carefully reading the questions.

Then on the first exam, I managed to misread a question and give the wrong answer because of it. Fortunately, I have a kind instructor who only marked the question half wrong.

Again, on the take home exam, I did the same kind of mistake with two questions. I wrote the program correctly, but told it to do the wrong thing. Fortunately, I have a kind instructor who allowed me to correct the mistake and resubmit the work for this exam.

From this experience, I reflect on some of the work I have done in the past few years. I cannot count the number of exam where students have answered a different question from what was asked. I always wondered how they could be so stupid (now I bet they at one time wondered that exact same thing--that is, how could they have made such a stupid mistake). I also know that when I came across these kind of mistakes I was never ever tolerant of them. I just marked the answer wrong and thought why can't these students be bothered to read the darn questions.

In marking the IELTS exam, it would also often be the case that someone misinterpreted the topic or it felt from reading their response that they did not read the question. I always gave the advice to students to read the questions several times to make sure you understand what the question is asking.

In fact, there was one question on the exam where I was looking for some information to tell me the way to put my variables (which one goes in the row and which in the column). I could not figure out what to do, so I just picked one way hoping it was the right way. When I first looked at it the numbers made sense, and I put it out of my mind until the day before the exam was due when I realized my mistake and found that the information I was looking for was in the question as it should have been. I felt so stupid and wondered why I could not find that information the first time and second and third times I read that question.

I am reminded of my own advice. Read the question. Make sure the answer you gave is to the question that was asked. Now I feel it is important to add... even if you checked once, check it again.

Looking back, I realize I probably graded quite harsh while I was in China. On one hand, I could say that I wanted to have a high standard or a reasonable standard, but on the other hand, I now wonder if at times I did not have enough understanding of my students. After all, on my tests they were also using their second language.

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