As something to do while waiting for new advisees at our first summer registration event, I attempted to turn a typical precalculus exam into an essay test – no calculations, just words. Actually also diagrams. You can see it at the end of this post.
What I found out:
- Students would have to read too much.
- The exercise helped me clarify what I really wanted them to know and is therefore recommended.
- Sometimes just doing the problem is sufficient evidence of understanding.
- I am dependent on the unit circle model for explaining and understanding trig functions. Many of the problems were really to see if the students really knew it.
- The questions were somewhat labored since I was converting a standard test rather than starting from zero.
- The questions demanded precise language – never a bad discipline.
- Students have to be primed and practiced for such an exam.
- The test will be hard to grade. I would need explicit rubrics for each problem – something I do naturally on the standard tests.