Why proficiency exams are important and why the CWRU should tell students about them – The Observer



With Case Western Reserve University’s huge Class of 2025 (1,600 people) filling freshman dorms and even most of Clarke Tower, classes are noticeably crowded. For example, MATH 121: Calculus for Science and Engineering I has a mind-boggling 512 occupied seats, enough to completely fill the Strosacker Auditorium.

Fortunately, there is a way for freshmen to avoid these massive classes; they can use the credits earned on the high school’s advanced level (AP) tests to pass outside of them. And, best of all, if a student did not quite pass an AP exam or failed to pass it, they can take a proficiency exam instead.

Proficiency exams are fairly straightforward. Right before a course starts, you can take what is essentially the final exam, and if you pass, you don’t have to take the course. They can be beneficial for students who are confident in their abilities in math, physics, chemistry, or computer science.

However, there is a problem with the aptitude tests, which is that they only take place once per semester. If you miss the test date or didn’t know it, then, well, you’re out of luck and you have to take a course which may just be a review. It’s frustrating to hear from people who didn’t know that competency exams existed until it was too late.

Consider for a moment how many CWRU students took AP Calculus or Physics in high school, only to have to devote their precious time and classes to relearning the same subject. This time could be better used to take advanced courses earlier, thus lightening the course load for students in their later years. Not to mention that the administration of courses covering known material is an unnecessary drain on faculty, teaching assistants (TAs) and university resources. To put it simply, it is not in the best interest of the students, faculty, or administration of the CWRU that students repeat these courses.

Following this logic, the CWRU should require its students to take as many proficiency exams as possible. Even if a student cannot exit a course, it may be worth taking the exam to get an overview of the courses for the year. Despite the fall proficiency exams that take place during Discover Week, the logistics of these tests, including time and location, were only mentioned in the week’s schedule. In addition, several were in direct conflict with the orientation sessions, giving the impression that the exams are much less important than these sessions, although I would say the opposite.

Now, I’m not saying Discover Week should push proficiency exams down the throats of every incoming student. I have even spoken to students in the upper class who have expressed concerns that proficiency exams are dangerous as they can lead to people having difficulty in future lessons if they have a poor understanding of the material. prior. It may also be useful for students to take these courses again, either to integrate more easily into university life or to improve their familiarity with the subject. corresponding AP test.

It is therefore clear that this calls for common ground. I propose that in the future, CWRU’s Discovery Week itinerary highlights the proficiency exams at some point in time, not only to promote them, but also to educate students about the potential risks of exiting. a class whose content they do not fully master. There is much to be gained and little to be lost in educating students about their ability to pass prerequisite courses with proficiency exams.

Finally, if you are a first year, this is my call to action. If you are planning to take a course for which you have taken the AP equivalent (for example, PHYS 121: General Physics I – Mechanics or ENGR 131: Elementary Computer Programming), it is not too late to take a proficiency exam. They will likely take place in early January, and depending on the exam, you may need to pre-register. If you’re curious and want to either get out of a course, get a good start, or take a look at the material, go ahead and search for the proficiency exam for the course you plan to take.


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