Questions about coursework and practical exams

Apart from the fact that I will no longer answer general Chemistry questions from students, there are additional reasons why I can't or won't answer questions relating to coursework or practical exams . . .


There's a very fine line between pointing a student in the right direction over a coursework question, and giving too much help. If your coursework is to be counted as a part of your final exam result, then you should, of course, acknowledge any help you have been given. It has to be obvious to whoever is marking your coursework what is your own work and what comes from other sources.

Since I have no control over how anyone uses information that I give them, I run the risk of giving a particular student a real advantage over all the other students aiming for the same exam. That's simply not fair - in fact, I would count it as cheating.

The only way that I could give help with coursework with a clear conscience would be if I could give the same help to everyone, and that's clearly impossible. I therefore decided very early on that I would refuse all coursework-related questions.

Please don't spend ages describing your coursework problems to me! Sometimes students take a lot of trouble over an e-mail about their coursework, and I feel really guilty when I then refuse to answer them.

Practical exams

I get a steady trickle of questions asking me how to prepare for a particular practical exam, or about what sort of questions are going to come up. Even if I had the time, these would be impossible to answer.

At the time of writing, I haven't taught in a lab for 10 years, and I probably haven't been involved in practical exams for about 20 years - and today's practical exams seem to bear little resemblance to the ones that I was once familiar with. The old style practical exams were long and stressful, and I switched to internally assessed coursework as soon as it became available. I'm a completely useless person to ask about practical exams!

To make any useful comments about practical exams, you have to be involved with them all the time - and not just any old practical exam. You have to know exactly what sort of questions your particular examiners ask, and you need to practise and practise until it doesn't seem scary any more. The only people who can give you this sort of help are your teachers.

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© Jim Clark 2007 (last modified 2008)