Behold my mountain of digital papers!

All the final exams have been turned in, so now it’s time to sit my butt down and read them all. I’ve got two classes with about 25 students each, so here’s what I am to complete this weekend. These were all due on Friday, yesterday.

Comprehensive Final Exam for Fundamentals of Genetics, Evolution, and Development. This is the monster, 7 pages of questions in different formats that cover the topics in the title of the course and also a bit of the history and philosophy of science. FunGenEvoDevo is a first year overview course that doesn’t dig too deeply, but prepares them with the general background (there is also another intro course, Evolution of Biodiversity, that hits them with evolution again and also basics of ecology and systematics). I started on this one yesterday, and am a bit more than halfway through; I plan to finish it by this afternoon.

Lab Final for Cell Biology. Another longish exam, this one emphasizes basic quantitative skills they should have learned in the lab. So lots of questions about unit conversions, calculating concentrations, interpreting data, etc. For instance, they get some measurements of reaction rates, and they then have to calculate enzymatic Km and Vmax. There are a lot of parts to this one, too, but most of the answers are short, specific, and numeric, which are relatively easy to grade.

Required Final Essay for Cell Biology. Oh boy, this will be challenging. I gave them a paper to read (“How energy flow shapes cell evolution” by Nick Lane) and asked them to summarize it and relate it all to the content of the course. On this one, I demand high writing standards and coherence in addressing the subject, so we’ll see how that goes.

Optional Final Exam for Cell Biology. Another big ol’ comprehensive exam, but this one is optional for the students: whatever score they get on the final will replace their lowest midterm score. Everyone has a bad day, so this is their opportunity to vindicate themselves. It’s a long exam, but grading it might not be too bad — only about a third of the class has opted to do it.

So that’s my weekend! This is all I’m doing for a few days. I hope to get it all done by Sunday evening and get all those grades submitted to the registrar early.

Then on Monday I have one more class to grade, Biological Communications II, in which students spend the semester writing a 10+ page review paper under my tutelage, so I already have a good idea of what they’ve done — I just have to go over what is supposed to be the final polished draft of the paper. And then I’m ALL DONE!

I guess I better buckle down and get to work now.

10:45 Saturday: FunGenEvoDevo done! Grades submitted! Students mostly did OK, but a few of them may have learned that skipping an exam or two is a good way to fail a course.

3:45 Saturday: Lab final done! Starting on the required final essay.

1pm Sunday: Required lab final done! Now to polish off the optional final.


  1. hillaryrettig1 says

    PZ – I know a lot of people procrastinate on doing their grading, so If you have any tips can you post them? Do you chunk it – do an hour at a time? Any other techniques?

  2. garnetstar says

    I also have a variety of question formats on my exams. Some are short-answer and short (a paragraph) essays. Last year, the students complained about having written answers–they said that grading them was “subjective” and wanted all multiple choice!

    They took the complaint to my department head, who sucked up to them about how dreadful it was, and assured them that he’d “speak to me”, and none of the students would. He spoke, and I continued doing exactly the same, ignored them. Grading is subjective: subject to my expert judgment. Suck it up.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    Hmm. I recognise the pile of paperwork from a mid-1960s episode of Carl Bark’s Donald Duck.
    You should trade it in for the giant vault of money instead.

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