Asking Questions During Exams Stock Photo

A new procedure in the Faculty of Social Science means BMOS students may no longer be able to ask questions during exams.

The DAN Management and Organizational Studies department is implementing a new procedure effective immediately. The procedure will forbid students from asking questions during exams.

Mitch Rothstein, chair of MOS, said this idea stems from faculty members' observations during exams. Rothstein indicates the informal procedure can be used at professors' discretion but it is encouraged.

“The reason for doing this is fairness to the students,” Rothstein said. He added the procedure is fairer to students for a number of reasons.

According to Rothstein, some students ask questions to try and get an advantage through leading questions.

“Some students, in our view, are attempting to get a leg up over others by asking questions that are intended to get a clue or a hint as to how to answer a question,” said Rothstein.

Another reason is exam disruption. Sometimes, professors stop students during an exam to clarify a question. Students can also be distracted by peers in their vicinity asking questions. Rothstein is worried some students will be interrupted and will lose time as a result.

Rothstein thinks that, by having multiple professors vet exam questions, there will be no need for further explanation. This way, vocabulary that is not found in either lecture or textbook material will not be included on exams. 

“Part of the exam is to understand the question that is being asked, and we expect all students to learn and demonstrate that during the exam,” Rothstein said.

Other faculties at Western have similar procedures, for example, the faculties of science and engineering.

However, in some disciplines, like the social sciences, questions are less black and white, according to Pradeep Shun, a second-year MOS student. In many courses, professors will ask students to identify the best answer among multiple “correct” choices. Shun is worried about the new procedure's ramifications.

“MOS exams can have confusing wording, and sometimes you need to clarify,” Shun said.

Shun thinks that this new procedure might disproportionately affect international students. 

“The problem is with international students who do not speak English as their first language,” Shun said. “It is hard enough for me to figure out what the question is asking, and I speak English fluently.”

In response to the procedure, one of Shuns' professors sent out an email with difficult vocabulary that would be on the upcoming exam so that students could prepare, which Shun believes should be implemented for all exams.

Simon Shi, a second-year MOS student, is also not fond of the new procedure.

“I don't think students expect to get the answer,” Shi said. “The professors say that they will not give out the answer, but they will try to clarify.”

Rather than banning students from asking questions, Shi believes it's up to exam proctors to not give hints to students.

Both Shi and Shun challenged why question vetting is not already happening and if it will actually prove to make exam questions more straightforward.

“I think [the procedure] will decrease fairness, and I feel like it will get revoked.” Shun said. 

Rothstein ensures that the department will work with students to make the procedure work. This procedure still allows students to ask to go to the washroom or ask to leave due to illness.

“We will be very careful in making sure that these questions are not the kind that will generate clarification questions,” Rothstein said.

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