I was recently struck by the idea of writing an exam that was purposefully too long. Basically, the instructor just writes down whatever problems they come up with, related to the subject at hand, and give the complete list of questions to the students. Tell the students they aren't expected to get through everything, that they should look through the list and attack problems they know how to do. And if students finish all the problems they know how to do before time is up, they just keep trying as many problems as possibly. Students have whatever fixed amount of time to get through as many problems as they possibly can.
I was wondering if anybody out there had tried this, or what people's thoughts were about this idea. It seems like setting up an exam this (kinda lazy) way, the instructor can easily see what topics students are comfortable with. I suppose this is possibly the case for more traditionally designed exams. Perhaps we should ask students to rate how confident they are about their answers on exams?
The first question about this method probably is about grading. I'd say each problem is assigned a point value, before being distributed to students. After the exam, the instructor grades whatever work students turn in, and this gives them a point distribution for the class. The highest grade gets an A (presumably), and then you work out what to do with lower grades, perhaps based on the distribution that arises. Perhaps you set a level of minimum points you're going to allow for a... C say, to make sure the students don't conspire to all just do one problem and all get the same grade?
To give credit where credit is due I should perhaps describe the circumstances that led me to the idea. There are 5 sections of the course I am teaching this semester (Calc 2), and we have coordinated exams. This means the 5 instructors all meet sometime before the exam, and write a common exam. The setup we have adopted this semester is to split up the sections that are on the exam, and have each instructor write questions from the sections they are assigned (and whatever other fun questions they want). Then when we meet we have 5 pages of questions, one from each instructor. We meet and decide which problems to keep, and then the exam gets written.
At this last meeting we had, Katherine, one of the other instructors, joked that we should just make copies of the sheets we were looking at, and hand the set to our students as their exam. Naturally, this was the inspiration for the idea asked about above.
So... thoughts? Anybody tried it?