Submitted by Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University on Wed, 12/15/2010 - 18:34

Dear Colleagues,

I was curious to know how many of you use the ACS Standardized test for your final exam. The wonderful thing about inorganic chemistry is that is a broad discipline, but the challenge with designing a course depends on your focus. As an undergrad, the course I took focused only on main group chemistry. I didn't learn about organometallics until grad school. Why can't ACS design various inorganic standardized tests? For instance one test specifically for organometallics? Perhaps another that is half organometallics and the other half coordination chemistry? Thoughts? 


Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College


I have used the ACS Inorganic Chemistry exam as a final exam in my Advanced Inorganic course periodically.  My students have had two semesters of inorganic from me at that point, and I think it is a good way for them to judge how they do on a standardized exam.  Good practice for those taking the GRE or going on to graduate school, especially as I don't ask very many multiple choice type questions on my normal exams in inorganic.  My understanding is that some graduate programs give the ACS exams as entrance exams to assess if a student needs to take any coursework in a particular field of chemistry.

I usually go through and carefully code the exam and record both their "raw score" and their score on those questions that they should know based on what I teach.  So, if we didn't talk about iron-sulfur proteins, then a random question on iron-sulfur proteins does not overly penalize them.  Their "Maggie-normalized" score is what factors into their final grade.

I have recently found it helpful when writing letters for grad schools as I can refer very specifically to how the student did on the ACS exam and compare to national norms as well as talk about how they did on other course work and on my exams.

No, it's not a perfect exam, but it sure is easy to grade!  :-)


Tue, 12/21/2010 - 00:49 Permalink
Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University

Dear Maggie,

Thanks for sharing. I believe OSU did use the ACS inorganic exam as an entrance exam. I didn't pass it because my inorganic course at the time was only main-group chemistry. I didn't know anything about solid-state chemistry, organometallics, point groups, and etc. I teach an Advanced course every other year, and it is not required. This year, I will be using more VIPEr content. Should be fun.

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 19:28 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I have done a very similar thing to what Maggie said above.  Sometimes I just blank out the questions I don't teach and only ask the ones I do teach (then their raw score is "accurate" based on their learning of the material I teach, but you can't compare to the norms.)

I really don't like the exam and haven't used it in a few years, but it is good practice for the GRE.  I usually give a problem exam in addition to the multiple choice exam too.


Fri, 12/24/2010 - 17:54 Permalink