Exams in Vietnam

Exams: The final exam will be 70% of the student’s final grade. The midterm exam will be 20% and then there is another exam that is worth 10%. The 10% exam floats around the calendar and the teacher gives it when it is appropriate. The final and the midterm are given during weeks set aside for the whole university as exam weeks.

The final exam is one hour long and the midterm is 40 minutes.

Here is how the exam is prepared and given.

First, the teachers write the exams. For the midterm, you have to ask two or three questions. The teacher has to write out what the answers are.

This is because the exams are not graded by the teachers. They are graded by a separate department called the Department of Evaluation. The people in the Department of Evaluation do not attend the class, read the book, or know anything about the subject. Therefore they can only grade the exam by matching what the student writes against the answers that the teacher provides.

The questions have to have answers that can be found in the textbook or in the class handouts or power points. The Department of Evaluation may ask you to show them where the answers are.

The teacher has to write two exams, each one with answers. This is because, should the electricity go out during an exam, they will have to start all over again and unless there is a second backup exam, students will have already seen the exam and it will not be a fair test.

So the teacher writes the two exams, writes out the answers to the exams, and puts the whole thing into a format in which each answer is given a point value. The total point value for the midterm exam is 10. So if there are three questions, each question might be worth 2 to 4 points. Each question will have small sub-questions – for example, if a question worth 2 points asks students to list four different characteristics of a certain type of leadership –then the answer to each sub-question would be worth .5 points.

After the teacher has written the two exams, they get passed to the Dean for his or her approval. In our case, there have been many back and forths at this level, with Vinh doing a great deal of revising and discussing with us.

Once the Dean has given approval to the exam, the exam is passed over to the Department of Evaluation. They may have some opinions about the exam, too. For example, if I include a question that is related to the research project, the people at the Department of Evaluation may notice that nothing in that question seems to have anything to do with “leadership” which is the name of the course. To prevent this, I added a sentence to the question linking the research project and the study of leadership.

The Department of Evaluation will administer the test, grade it blind by masking the student’s names, and report a grade. The goal is to produce a bell curve slightly to the right of passing, which is 5. Ideally, the biggest group of students would get 7s. This is what you try to do, “so that the students will succeed.”

I do not know where to begin on this. Poor Vinh has to implement this and is negotiating between me and this Department of Evaluation. It makes me want to cry.

On the other hand, some of the students seem to think there is something to learn here. This morning we did our collective bargaining simulation. Twenty students showed up. We had only 2 hours. But we did our best and the students, for the first time, seemed to be excited to actually be doing something. They caucused, prepared a proposal, and came to the table. It was extremely hard to follow the bargaining through translation, and in fact I missed the moment when management just told the workers to go ahead and strike – which should have caused the union team to call a caucus and walk out. I could see that there was no concept of discipline, and they were carrying on like a bunch of fussy siblings at a dinner table. But when we stopped them and gave them some criticism, they listened seriously as if they were aware that there was a huge problem here and it was time to do some learning.

I suggested that we try it again. They asked for more time – starting at 9 instead of 9:30, and they asked if we could do one that was more closely related to the Vietnam experience. I realized we could do one based on the kinds of stuff that their research projects are producing. I said, “How about Lotte Mart?” and a bunch of them nodded their heads. One guy gave me his email address.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

2 thoughts on “Exams in Vietnam

  1. wow, Helena; never heard of such a process. Sounds like the negotiations produced some real important aspects, esp. the students grasping the need for group process and self-discipline w/in that. good for you (all), Earl


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