Fall’s Writing Proficiency Exam conducted remotely: spring will be more of the same

The Writing Proficiency Exam is NVU-Johnson’s way of measuring a VSCS-mandated graduation standard and has been conducted the same way for years with students having the option between writing their exam in a proctored setting in a computer lab or handwriting their paper in a room full of their peers.
COVID prompted a number of procedural changes for the fall semester 2020 following the exam’s cancellation last spring when the campus closed down the week it was scheduled. .
This year students took the test remotely from the comfort of their dorm rooms or from their homes.
According to exam administrator, Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw, the changes have turned out to be an improvement.
“I think it was a lot easier to administer for a couple of reasons,” Shaw said. “We didn’t have to tie up four classrooms for four days, and we didn’t have administrative issues. People just did it on Canvas and submitted it.”
Shaw also said that he believed the exam was less daunting for students. With ample time to finish their paper, the “test anxiety” that typically would go with a timed exam like this was greatly reduced.
“Instead of having three hours to complete the exam, they had no time restraints other than submitting their draft between October 12 and October 25,” Shaw said. “They could write the exam in their own time, do the research however they wanted to do it. I think all around it was much better.”
As has been the case in the past, Shaw offered seven prep sessions via Zoom, something else he said worked surprisingly well.
In an October interview with Basement Medicine, Shaw said there were initially some concerns that plagiarism could be an issue under the new delivery mode, but that fear appears to have been groundless, at least judging from the fall pass rate.
According to Shaw the average pass rate in past semesters has ranged from 80-84%. This semester the pass rate was 82%, which puts it right in the average range.
“We saw no evidence of plagiarism in this fall’s batch of exams,” Shaw said. “Coupled with a pass rate within what we consider a normal range, I think we can put that concern to rest.”
The grading for the exam is one thing that stayed the same this semester. The student’s name was detached from the exam before it was passed on to the readers. As in times past, there were six of them, and each exam was read by two readers. If the readers could not agree on a pass or fail, it went to a third reader.
According to Shaw the remote administration of the exam seems to have worked better for all of those involved, most importantly for the students.
“We’re going to deliver the exam the same way in the spring,” Shaw said, adding that it may well become the standard method of administering the exam moving forward.
“If it works better, why not?” he said.