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The purpose of testing is for mentors to evaluate student progress in meaningful ways, and for students to evaluate themselves. Through testing, mentors challenge students to connect everything they know on a given subject, and to make new discoveries in the process.
Since tests are written and administered for the benefit of students, mentors highly discourage cramming and taking tests simply for a grade or credit. Mentors trust students to be honest during examinations and teach students that cheating denigrates not only their education, but their character.
With freedom to succeed comes freedom to fail, and learning to apply and manage this freedom responsibly is a key part of a liberal arts education.
Mentors use three main types of tests; written examinations, oral examinations and oral defense.
A rigorous, essay-based, comprehensive examination is designed to test the student’s breadth and depth of knowledge and ability to expound it in writing. Written examinations usually contain five to ten questions, each of which are treated extensively by the student.
Written examinations are normally closed-book. Students are usually given their final and midterm examinations well ahead of testing dates so they have ample time to prepare. Mentors avoid dropping hints in class about examination content. They are transparent, letting students know the full scope of what they will be tested on, why they are tested, and how to best prepare. Tests are graded individually on quality of presentation, demonstrated understanding, clarity and accuracy.
For take-home examinations, students are given 12-72 hours for off-campus completion. These can range from 10-50 pages in length.
Students tend to keep and file their graded tests as they would an original scholarly work. They feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction by pouring their energy into a course of study during a semester, and then capping it off with a written work that contains many essentials of their cumulative learning. They are often surprised at how much they have learned and the quality and breadth of ideas they were able to communicate.
If a liberal arts education is to be applied, then the ability to think on one’s feet, speak confidently and persuade others to a course of action is essential. Oral examinations test a student’s ability to do these things. They are an opportunity for mentors to see how the students have incorporated their studies into their lives, molding character and heart, as well as mind.
Students are tested orally once or twice each semester. Oral examinations are administered by a board of one to three mentors, and in the presence of classmates and visitors. Students dress professionally and practice their best oratory and diplomatic presentation during these examinations. Any question is fair game during an oral exam, but nearly all questions are within the scope of the present semester.
Typically, an oral exam lasts 15-30 minutes. There are generally three types of questions: 1) Rapid fire—a quick succession of facts, dates and specific content; 2) Conjecture—a complex, debatable or unusual question that requires reasoning, thinking and application of concepts and principles; 3) Breadth & Depth—broad questions that explore the range and extent of knowledge, and specific questions that explore depth in distinct areas of study.
Oral Defense & Senior Thesis/Project
This defense is a comprehensive oral examination that tests a student in all of the disciplines in the curriculum over the course of their entire education at George Wythe University. Students at all levels (B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.) must pass this oral defense as well as a thesis/project before graduating.
The thesis/project expresses the essence of a student’s degree program and the depth and breadth of scholarship attained. At the graduate level it is also challenged during the oral examination.
The oral defense lasts typically an hour or more at the bachelor’s level and up to 8 hours at the doctoral level.
The public is invited to attend all oral defenses.