Different flavours of Exams at KTH

Last year when I arrived at the exam hall for my first ever exam at KTH, I got confused if I’m at a picnic place or an exam hall, the guy sitting next to me had a couple of packets of chips, a bottle of juice, some of sandwiches and a bag full of some more eating stuff, halfway through the 5 hour exam, when my stomach started crying out in hunger, I realised that I should also have brought something to eat.

Don’t be scared, not all exams are 5-hour long, some courses don’t even have exams, and one can pass them by completing the assignments spread over the study period.

Some Tenta-vocabulary:
Tentamen – Exam, Tentaweek – Exam week,
Tentaweek – Re-exam, Tentapub – The mega-party after exam week

What’s different

The Study Periods

For those who don’t know, KTH follows the system of Study Periods, so instead of 2 semesters in one year, we have 4 study periods in per year. Which, in my view makes it very convenient and time-saving, because we study just two subjects in one study period, getting opportunity to focus better, especially on the lab work, and then instead of wasting awfully long time in the end-of-semester exam season, the exams are finished in a week and you’re all set for the next study period. And yeah, there is a Tenta-pub at the student union after exam week of every study period, which is one of the biggest parties (Unfortunately, I’ve not been to any tentapub yet because I have a habit of running away on a trip as soon as exams end).

Freedom to Professors

At KTH, there is no fixed or predefined way of conducting exams, and the professors have complete freedom of how they want to evaluate the students; this is where all the creative ways come up to award you those 7.5 credits. In my programme, so far all of the courses had laboratory work weighing 3 credits, and rest of the 4.5 credits for the exam; but that’s not fixed.

The Grading System

The maximum points in any exam is not fixed, we have had 100 points exam, 120 points exams and even 66 points exams (Strange! right). But here is the main thing. In any exam, you need to score 50% points to pass the exam. And there are 6 Grades – A (90%+), (80%+), (70%+), (60%+), (50%+), (50%-). Moreover, if you have gotten missed the F mark by a small margin, you’ll get a Fx, which means the professor gives you another assignment, giving you a chance to pass the course with E.

Bonus Points

In many courses, you have a chance of getting bonus points if you finish lab work in time. In one of the courses, we had 10 bonus points, which gave us a jump of one grade as the final exam was 100 points. It means if you score 73 on the exam which means C on a 100 point exam, you get +10, so at 83, it becomes a B, truly a bonus.

Re-exam and grade improvement

If you wish to improve a grade you are allowed to take re-exam without risk of losing the previous grade in case you perform worse, although it’s good. But sometimes this rule tricks people into being careless in their first attempt thinking “I’ll score an A in the re-exam”, and then turns out that they have their regular exam just a day before the re-exam, and then end up spoiling two exams. So be careful, and give your best in the first attempt. If you’ve gotten a F, you don’t have to wait for a year, rather you take the re-exam in next study period.

Different flavours of Exams

The regular 4-hour exam

If there is nothing special, normally the exam would be of four hours. The thought behind 4-hour exams is that you should never fall short of time in completing your exam, and so far I have finished most of the exams in nearly 3 hours. In one course I had a 5-hour exam.

The open book exam

Some professors allow you to bring course textbook in the exam, although you cannot take any notes or any other books. Although for my course, I studied from the digital copy as the book was priced 700 SEK so I chose to rely on my memory rather than buying the book, and spent that money to book tickets for my Paris trip 😉

The Home Exam

Yeah, that also happens here. In the case of home exams, the exam paper is uploaded on the course portal and then you have around one or two days to complete and finish it. And yeah, if  you plagiarise then you don’t pass. So no cheating!

The IF-ELSE Exam

This, I guess is the toughest of all. As you need at least 50% points to pass the exam. So, some of the exams are structured into two parts of 5 questions each. If you do all the 5 questions in first half correct, that means you have passed, so your second half of questions would be checked, else try again next time. However, in such courses, if you have completed all the assignments, then there are bonus points.

The “You have already passed” exam

Some courses have intensive assignments throughout the study period, if you have completed all the assignments, then the grade from assignments becomes your course grade. Now, in this case, the role of this exam is, if you score good, you improve your course grade, otherwise you keep the grades from assignments.

The Oral Exam or presentation

In some courses, you might have viva voce with your professor to decide your grades, or you might have to give a presentation. This also happens in assignment oriented courses.

The Project-Based Courses

These are not very common, but I had taken a project based course, Sensor Based Systems. And we were required to do a couple of assignments and then work on a project throughout the study period with weekly progress presentations. I remember our professor, Prof. Mark Smith telling us, “I don’t think it is possible to evaluate anyone by making them answer some questions for 4 hours, you need to give them a chance to do something”. That course was great, and we even did a spinoff project later.

The Projects

You also have choices of working on projects, that don’t have any exams and a lot of practical work, and you get credits at every completed stage of the project.

There would be many other types of exams as well, although these are the ones I or my friends have faced so far.

That’s a lot of exam talks, relax your mind with this peaceful Guitar solo by John Butler.

Cover Image courtesy: Prasanth’s Blog, Musical footer idea inspired from Quentin.