Due to circumstances beyond my control, this year I need to give a very different kind of exam than I usually give in my Chaucer class. Ordinarily, in addition to a lot of writing over the course of the semester, I also give a translation exam in which I simply give my students large chunks of Chaucer to put into idiomatic but fairly literal Present-Day English.

So I’m not used to writing exams that involve multiple-choice, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank questions as a way of testing understanding of Middle English. If you are, might I please hear from you? What kinds of exam questions do you give? How many questions can students answer in a given amount of time?

While the pedagogical philosophy of exams vs essays vs other sorts of assessment could make for interesting discussion, at the moment my interests are purely pragmatic: I must give an exam whose purpose approximates that of the exam I advertised (the chunks of ME) but now cannot use (don’t want to explain why, sorry).

I thanke it yow, gentil readers.

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4 thoughts on “What’s on the exam?

  1. I tend to do short explication passages, not translation, but explicate, talk about themes, language, or whatever seems important in the passage (always about passages we’ve discussed in class). Several of those and then some short answer identification type questions.If you’re interested in seeing the exam format, I’d be happy to email you one.Good luck!

  2. I need to give an exam in a format that Blackboard understands/can grade: so any interpretation has to be in the form of picking the best statement about a passage, or filling in an unambiguous blank. I want to test ability to understand ME. So far, I’ve created a lot of multiple-choice entries, giving 5 possible translations of a passage that is from 2-4 lines long; some of the translations come from online sources (a source of some glee, I admit). My e-mail address is dame DOT eleanor AT yahoo DOT com. Thanks for your help!

  3. It sounds like you’re doing what I would suggest — give multiple-choice possible translations. One of the “bad” translations, by the way, should be word-for-word accurate, but in word order not acceptable in PDE. Perhaps this my particular pet peeve, but I cannot get some of my OE students to understand that “To her gave God great success” is NOT an intelligible sentence. And then, when I tell them it must be in PDE word order, they write “To her God gave great success,” which is better, but still not idiomatic in PDE. So, if it were me, I’d have similar wrong answers among my multiple choices, as well as ones that get “false friends” wrong, or replace modern connotations for ME ones in common words with a lot of lexical change: silly, harlot, quaint, etc.

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