Exam blues

AAAaaarrrgghh! :O

Stage V just sat their Javascript exam and I invigilated it. Let me tell ya, it was terrible.

Warning! Rant ahead.

I tried to prepare them for anything. The proverbial anything that might befall. Anything could have come up on the exam paper. This is what the syllabus says:

Syllabus
Introduction and overview: What is JS, competing technologies.
Fundamentals of JS: The JS programming model, JS syntax
Writing client-side JS: Creating eye-catching animations and graphics, utilizing browser objects, handling browser events
Creating intelligent forms: Creating intelligent forms, client-side form validation, adding interactivity to forms
Developing server-side JS: Overview, building applications for Microsoft and Netscape web servers
Integrating databases: database fundamentals, integrating techniques provided by Microsoft and Netscape.
Complimentary technologies: Controlling Java, ActiveX plug-ins, Survey of IDE tools

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all we get from the University who run the diploma programme. No notes, no teaching materials, no recommended texts, no guidelines on what to cover and what not to bother with, no revision materials, and **no fucking idea what’s going to be on the exam!**.

Looking at past papers I’d say event handlers, form validation, comparison with competing technologies and using pop-up dialogue boxes were **in** while working with images, and server side JS were out. They came at us out of the sun with questions on GET and POST methods for submitting data (arguably not part of a JS class though necessary knowledge to work with forms), asked for **flow charts** to explain a gratuitous nested loop thing, and a load of difficult arithmetic questions that require knowledge of the precidence of operators:


y = 10 % 6 / 4 ^ 2 ^ 3 - 4

AAARRGGHH!! Nobody should ever have to learn that shit! That’s why god invented parenthesis: so that programmers can make the meaning of their programs clear, not so they can learn a load of complex and sublte rules that allow the elite to comprehend the opaque!

And here’s the rub: this exam is written, in a hurry (oh I forgot to mention all the typos and grammatical errors in the paper, incomplete, syntactically incorrect program fragments, and the like!) by someone at the university but will be marked by a bunch of other guys, who might not even know the language. The marking is subcontracted at so-many-shillings-per-paper to someone from one of the 17 colleges who offer the programme. He will then subcontract the marking to his colleagues, family and people he met in the local hotelli for considerably fewer shillings per paper. There is a marking plan, alledgedly, but if the marker doesn’t know the subject, and is in a hurry to make a bob or two, answers that don’t look like those on the plan will just get no marks.

Frankly I’m not optimistic about this. I tried to prepare them for anything, I tried to give them understanding of the principles so they could answer any question from their understanding rather than just preparing some set answers to cliche questions. But the paper was rigged with lots of nit-picking detail that needed to be remembered. Precious little that understanding the principles would helpwith. Some of the questions I myself do not know the answer to (and some I contend there is no correct answer to). What **are** the names of the two types of javascript event handler and how **do** you distinguish between them? I dunno mate, I haven’t seen your textbook.

I was looking forward to a sense of releif and relaxation after this morning, but instead I feel like workin on the revised javascript notes as a kind of pennance for not adequately preparing my girls for their exam. It could have gone better, oh so much better. If the questions had been different. I believe they really **were**/**are** prepared for questions on dynamic HTML with Javascript.

I have never had this little control over a subject I have been teachin. I have complete freedom to teach what I want, and the examiner equally free to ask any old bollocks he chooses. The content of the exam cannot even be divined from the syllabus and if we were to take an inclusive interpretation of the syllabus, then the time available is not sufficient to teach the subject. It’s catch 22.

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