Out-of-class or evening common exams have been a fixture of large-format introductory courses at Mines for many years. Recently (FA 2021), campus has started discussing whether or not Mines should re-think policies on common exams.

This topic is complex and nuanced. Here are just a few pros/cons of common exams that have been noted in conversations so far:

Benefits of out-of-class Common Exams at Mines  Challenges of Common Exams at Mines 
‘Equivalent’ measures of performance across sections 

  • Similar evaluative exercises 
  • Similar grading schemes (CUPFA 2015) 
Inter-section factors still exist, but may be minimal with out-of-class common exams. 

Time of day may still influence student performance on tests (I.e. Evening exams unlikely to affect all students equivalently) 

More instructional time in class? 

*note: Many universities (e.g. GA Tech) that allow requests for common exams require that for each common exam, one regular lecture must be omitted to balance contact time. Others strongly discourage evening common exams and limit them to 60 min. (C., Purdue) 

Students (and faculty) required to give/take common exams at night (pushed back later in 2021) 

  • Scheduling conflicts with evening courses 
  • Student commitments to important non‐academic opportunities such as intramural and intercollegiate sports and student programs, and the increasing prominence of student financial and family evening responsibilities (e.g., working on‐ or off‐ campus to subsidize the cost of education) 
  • Cognitive fatigue effects on performance (e.g., Sievertsen et al. 2016). Students may be expected to perform at a high level until 11PM on weekdays and then be ready to learn again by 8AM the next morning. 
Less exam versioning Multiple versions of exams still necessary due to accommodation and make-up exams.  
Some resource benefits including space for students to spread out and set numbers of proctors.  Resources limited 

  • Hard to schedule rooms for common exams 
  • Hard to schedule accommodations for common exams (testing center limitations) 
  • Hard to find proctors/support for evening exams 
Potentially less opportunity for student misconduct on exams Cheating still occurs at an indeterminate level.


















What are your thoughts? Should they common exams stay, or should they go? What other considerations would you add to this table?

If a shift were to be made to using less out-of-class common exams, what resources would be needed to accomplish this well? Some idea so far from discussion.

  • Develop programs/initiatives to improve culture of academic integrity
  • Develop programs/initiatives to improve culture of learning at Mines, not just making the grade
  • Consider qualifications for common exams requests, i.e. only 4 or more sections and/or 800+ students
  • Consider student policies that elevate sharing of exam material with other students to misconduct infractions.

Multiple Mines departments are discussing this issue internally, but there is also a cross-department discussion group happening in our ‘Large Class Brainstorming Meetings’ the first Thurs. of every month. If you are interested in joining these conversations, please locate the session times and connection details on our Events page, or contact Sarah at bodbylATmines.edu