Third-year students at the Avans School of International Studies (ASIS) are wondering whether the board of examiners was asleep on the job when reviewing the interim exams in advance. The reason for their bewilderment is the International Law resit exam, in which sixteen out of the forty questions were either identical or virtually identical to the initial exam.
The students in question were not amused when they received an email from the exam board stating that sixteen out of the forty questions would not be taken into account. The reason? These questions were already part of the initial interim exam. The question many students are now asking is: ‘Interim exams are reviewed in advance, so did the examination board actually do a proper job?’.
‘Making multiple-choice tests is quite a labour-intensive task’, teacher and member of the board of examiners Joost Frencken told us. ‘Most teachers build an interim exam database over time, and reuse part of these when making new exams. As a member of the board of examiners you will get to see a great many different exams, and some of them can seem very similar.’
Dean Nies Rijnders admits that something went wrong with this particular exam. ‘The examination board should have looked at the initial exam and didn’t. We’ve certainly learned from the experience. From now on teachers will have to submit the regular exam and the re-examination to the board of examiners simultaneously.’
‘If you look at the number of interim exams taken at ASIS every year, and then at how many things go wrong, you could easily say this is a negligible risk; if a manufacturing company had our error margin, they’d be proud’, Rijnders said. ‘In addition, we have had a highly efficient examination and screening policy in place for a number of years that has given a significant boost as regards the quality of the tests. Having said that, any mistake is one too many and we should learn from this experience to prevent this from ever happening again.’
A second aspect a group of students took exception to was the businesslike tone of the examination board’s email. ‘Generally speaking this is not the way our academy communicates, and we made sure to rectify this in a follow-up letter’, Rijnders stated.
Another subject that various students who were affected raised, was the fact that they do not know who to turn to when they have complaints on matters such as exams. Rijnders: ‘Our academy board consists of teachers and students who students can approach with a variety of complaints. On matters regarding education there is the degree programme committee that can also handle complaints of this kind.’
The dean does, however, realise that students experience a lack of transparency where these boards and committees are concerned. ‘The role of the students in the committees is to keep in touch with the students they represent. That, too, can be tricky for an academy such as ours. Following their first year in Breda, a lot of students go abroad. In that respect, there is little continuity’, according to Rijnders.
In the end, despite the recalculation 80 per cent of the students passed the exam, and a number of them also had a talk with Rijnders and Frencken. The exam board will give students who did not pass the exam a third chance.