Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Assessment, Assignments and Exams

I have now had half of my results for the year, thankfully all passed, and it's got me thinking about the different ways in which we are tested. Before even getting into University we all had to pass a Maths and English test and it has felt a bit like we've been constantly tested since then. So I thought I'd tell you all a bit more about the tests that we've had to do and how I have "survived" them.

Academic Skills - 2000 word assignment.
I enjoyed this assignment in some ways and in other ways it frustrated me. The assignment was, depending on our prior experience, teaching/reminding us how to write an essay and how to source references. We also had sessions on how to do Harvard Referencing  and four activities designed to help us so that by the time we came to actually write our assignment we'd done most of the work already. For the assignment itself we had to summarise our chosen article and then write about how we it links to our future role. Finally we had to talk about the academic skills we had learnt in the process. I enjoyed it from the perspective that I actually enjoy writing essays and I enjoy doing further reading. I felt frustrated because I was limited by it in so many ways. I would have enjoyed exploring the focal point of my article some more but it wasn't what the assignment was for. That said I am thoroughly enjoying researching my psycho-social assignment which is my next one due in.

Practice Assessment Document (PAD)
I have made reference to this book before. This is the book we carry everywhere with us on placement. For each placement that we do we have key areas that we have to achieve e.g. supporting women to breastfeed in challenging circumstances, recognise the onset of labour, be the initial port of contact for pregnant women, competently provide information regarding screening etc... You'll have to excuse me a little here as my book is currently with my personal tutor so I have had to rely on my memory and I couldn't recall exactly how they were written. When I first got my book and I looked through everything that we had to get signed off, it felt so overwhelming. Once on placement it almost felt even more overwhelming. The opportunity to get anything looked at let alone signed off, felt very remote. However I soon learnt you had to find the right balance of forceful, respectful and keen. However it is important to note that the balance can be different for everyone that you work with. I certainly found it far easier to get my book signed once I was into the Community part of my placement. Anyway for each section of our PAD we have to have at least one formative assessment before the summative assessment is done and a mark awarded. The mark given definitely depends on who you are working with, not just your ability and it seems that our mentors were every bit as confused as us; however in their defence it is a fairly new way of doing it so they are still learning too.

Exam - Biological Basis of Health.
A 2 hour exam consisting of 25 multiple choice questions, a midwifery specific diagram and 4 midwifery specific short answer questions. Now I am the first to admit that Biology is not my strong point. When I was at school and was choosing my options (is that showing my age or do they still call it that?) I could choose whatever I wanted. I wanted to do a science but knew it wasn't my strong point so I went to my teachers in turn to ask their advice. They each advised me not to take their subject......and this was a grammar school. looking back I think that says more about the teachers than it does me but hey that was then and this is now. So having said that I do sometimes wonder whether I was really that bad or more that I wasn't good enough. Either way it has left me with this feeling that I am no good at science. Having said that I think I have a good enough understanding of where things are in my body, and how the reproductive system works, and there are certain parts of our lectures I have found easier than others. Anyway to cut a long story short, I studied hard for my exam. Of all my assessments, exams are what I dread the most.

Other students have often asked how I revise and I can only tell you what I do and say that it works for me. During lectures I take extensive notes even if they tell me it's going to be put up on our portal system. Following the lectures, I head to the library and type up my notes (not always immediately before anyone thinks I am a complete geek, I actually tend to do big chunks at a time) and when I reach a part that I've written that I don't understand I can reach for a book and read up some more so that I do understand it. I may include flow charts so that I can see that x leads to y and so on and so forth. I won't say it leads to me remembering it all but it does help and it does mean I understand it better.

Drugs Calculation Test
We had two weeks in which we had to log in and answer 20 drugs calculation questions. We were allowed to use a calculator and perform the test wherever we liked, although they did request that we did it on our own. In the two weeks preceding we could access practice tests so that we could get used to the format and the kinds of questions we'd be asked. We did have to get 100% to pass but in all honesty, would you want me to be correct with drugs calculations anything less than 100%? I wasn't nervous about the test; I hadn't had any problems with the practice questions after all. I guess the only thing I was worried about was making a silly mistake or misreading the question. It would be too difficult to misread mg as mcg or similar. Thankfully I passed first time but I was surprised by how nervous I was when I was doing it.

So what's left for this year? My next task is my Psycho-Social assignment, then my Values assignment and then my PAD for my second placement this year. Oh and I almost forgot, we have a poster presentation as part of our Psycho-Social this Friday; although it's not graded.

My advice to current students and future students is plan early! For us, we were given all our assignment details early, so I started to think about them early. I have had to plan my study time around my children and family commitments. When we had only one lecture in a day, I didn't go home, I went to the library. This gave me time to rewrite parts I wasn't happy with. It also gave me time to look through the assessment criteria and see if I had covered all I needed to. With my revision notes for the Biology exam, starting early meant I was re-covering things rather than learning things for the first time.

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