Reading the Examination Papers of Certain Universities may be Injurious to my Health!

I have collected quite a few of the examination question papers of different courses of CS and IT conducted by some universities in India. I have read these question papers with emotions as varied as amusement, hilarity, sadness, admiration, anger and despair – just to state a few! Let me share a few of these specimens. I am refraining from sharing the absolutely hilarious ones for a future occasion.

This is from one of the large universities in the southern part of India in a course titled “Visual Programming” as part of the BE degree in Information Technology.

a) Write an overview of Windows Programming.  (16 marks)


b) (i) Write a windows program to create and modify user defined menus. (10 marks)

    (ii) How will you modify system menu using windows programming. (6 marks)

At first glance this appears perfectly legitimate and appropriate questions for an assessment. I have several problems with this sort of an examination question.

  • What does the examiner expect that the students writes in her answer to (a) above as “Overview of Windows Programming” that would fetch 16 marks?
  • What constitutes an “overview” of windows programming? If a student provides a synopsis of the set of chapter titles of the prescribed textbook with a one line explanation of what that chapter covers, would that be considered as a correct answer?
  •  Now imagine that the answer to this question evaluated by not one examiner but several dozens of them. How does one ensure the consistency of the assessment?
  • What indeed is the objective of this question (a) above?
  • Answer to (a) may elicit a long-winded description. Answer to (b) consists of programs. Do you think that questions (a) and (b) are “equivalent” that a student may be provided with a choice of answering?
  • Now read questions in (b). Why are these questions written as one-liners? Laziness? Concern for the trees? Much as I don’t like them, these questions in (b) are decidedly better than (a).

What appalls me is that the course had five other questions of the same type with all the shortcomings I have pointed out. Sample the “highly creative questions” framed with “extreme diligence” by the “experts” in a university for the course on Operating Systems.

Write short notes on the following:
a) Kernel
b) Paged memory management
c) Swapping
d) Device driver
e) File system

Enough said! Reading examination papers of certain universities may be injurious to my health! Of course, there are questions that are hilarious. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. Perhaps I must share some of these rockers with you all someday!

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