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Joanne Stewart, Hope College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:05am

Placement exams?

I'm seeking information on two things:

1. Recent reviews on the efficacy of various placement exams for placing incoming college students at the right level in their college chemistry curriculum. I know there are several J Chem Ed articles about this, but I wondered if anyone had summarized that information somewhere.

2. More specific or anecdotal information on your experience with placement exams.

Thanks!

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Elizabeth Jamieson, Smith College
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We have 2 intro levels for our students.  The regular intro gen chem that most (~170) students take, and a smaller (~30 students), higher level class that takes the place of 2 semesters of gen chem for them.  We don't give a placement exam.  We recommend the higher level for students with 4 or 5 on the AP exam or similar background.  We do our placement by interested students talking with the instructor during orientation.  We've thought about doing a placement exam, but were also worried about how to get an effective one.  I'd be curious to hear how other places do things.
Joanne Stewart, Hope College
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While surfing for info, I found this page: http://groups.google.com/group/csu-transform-general-chemistry-teams/web....

It provided these references:

1. Hovey, Nelson W. and Albertine Krohn. (1963). An Evaluation of the Toledo Chemistry Placement Examination.  J. Chem Ed. 40, 370–372. Link to article
2. McFate, Craig and John Olmsted III (1999). Assessing Student Preparation through Placement Tests. J. Chem Ed. 76, 562–565. Link to article
3. Pienta, Norbert J. (2003) A Placement Examination and Mathematics Tutorial for General Chemistry. J. Chem Ed. 80, 1244–1246. Link to article
4. Russell, Arlene A. (1994). A Rationally Designed General Chemistry Diagnostic Test. J. Chem Ed. 71, 314–317. Link to article

Nancy Scott Burke Williams, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College
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We've had long standing success in using our placement exam to sort out students for our Advanced GenChem course. In general, students who do well on the placement exam do well in the course. This is purely anecdotal, but the first year I taught this course, that seemed to be true. My philosophy in the second year was to try to teach a genchem course that was *totally* different from what they'd seen in high school. This caused the correlation to disappear, it seemed to me.
Chip Nataro, Lafayette College
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We developed an in-house online placement exam and have used it for two years. Does it work? Maybe. Some students do not take it very seriously. Some say they should have scored better and want to take it again. Many students seem to have issues with accessing the internet. We make all incoming chemistry students take the exam. This is for advising purposes only, students can always opt to take a lower level course than what we suggest. If an incoming student does not have AP>3, they take our Gen Chem 1 placement. If they score well enough, we recommend a special small section of Gen Chem 2 in the fall of their first year. If they don't score well, then it is our traditional Gen Chem 1. If a student has an AP>3, they take our Gen Chem 2 exam. Score well enough, they are recommended to go into orgo. Don't score so well, we suggest the fall Gen Chem 2 section.

 I don't know that it works. I don't know that it doesn't. The real test we need is work ethic. Thanks for asking the question because I am interested in it too. And there are some good looking references to dig through, that should be fun.

Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College
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we have done paper placement exams since the dawn of time (well, 1999 at least, my first year).  Recently we also switched to an in-house online placement exam.  Its a series of about 30 questions;  3 each on 10 topics we think the students should know coming in the door.  If they get 2/3 right in each section, they pass.  If they get 0/3 or 1/3 in a section, they must do an online tutorial and take a second round once they get to campus in the fall.  We use this to remove a lot of the "simple" stoichiometry and balancing equations and dimensional analysis stuff from our frosh chem course.  All HMC students are required to have a year of chem to enroll, so we use this to ensure that they remember what they took. 

We also use the test to ID students coming in the door that may be likely to have problems;  we can watch out and if they are struggling, can get them help early in the term before it is too late.

Adam

Chris Mullins, University of Kentucky
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Joined: 03/14/2008 - 3:42pm

Do you think I could learn more about your in-house placement exams? We'd like to review/revise our current system. Currently we use the Toledo Exam for recommending whther students should take General Chemistry I or the intro (remedial) course, but our main problem is that delivery of this exam doesn't occur until the first week of classes...

Thanks

 

Chip Nataro, Lafayette College
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The two tests that we use are in-house. They were written to model the ACS exam only being half as long (roughly). Students are given approximately an hour to complete the exams. Both exams are approximately 30 questions. We will allow students that score over 60% to go into the general chemistry 2 course. There is no minimum cutoff since we do not offer any kind of remedial class. So, many students that don't feel like they have a good background in chemistry don't really take this exam seriously. The students that take the general chemistry 2 exam need to score 70% before we will recommend that they take orgo (we only recommend with our placement, we don't forbid so as long as they have a 4 or 5 on the AP they can do whatever they want although we are considering changing this). The exams are all given in Moodle so they self grade and given students instant feedback as to what we think they should take. If students cheat they are only hurting themselves. Students are supposed to take the exam over the summer and we will forbid them from registering from the class until they have taken the exam. That is all I can think of for now but I will happily answer any additional questions.
Nancy Scott Burke Williams, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College
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Um, if some of your students have trouble accessing the Internet....I guess it saves you the trouble of putting any chemistry on the exam. Placement exam accomplished!