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BSCI 1511L Statistics Manual: Syllabus II. Assignments and grades

Introduction to Biological Sciences lab, second semester

A. Types of assignments

1. Reading Assessment Quizzes (RAQs):

RAQs are designed to encourage you to come to lab prepared. The RAQs will be administered via XR Cards, commonly called "clickers" (Personal Response Systems, available new and used in the bookstore) or on portable devices using the ResponseWare software.  They will cover written material in the lab manual concerning that week's lab.  The RAQ will begin at the beginning of the period (10 minutes past the hour) and the questions will be administered at a constant rate until the quiz is over.  Thus students who are late to lab will be penalized more severely the later they arrive.  It is your responsibility to make sure that you have your clicker and that it is ready to go (i.e. with a functioning battery, properly registered serial number, software downloaded, etc.)   If you have issues that may require you to be late to lab, please discuss them with Dr. Baskauf in advance. 

The RAQ will consist of five questions of which up to three correct answers will be counted.  The lowest RAQ score will be dropped before determining your average in the RAQ category.


2. Problem Sets:

                After each experiment, an assignment consisting of several short answer questions or problems will be given. These questions or problems will generally be based on the experiment performed in class that week, although occasionally questions will be designed to set the stage for the following lab.  You will be expected in many instances to incorporate the results of your experiment into the answers to these problems. The purpose of the problem sets is to help you to reflect upon and synthesize what you have learned in the lab.  You may not get the results that you expect for the experiment.  The important thing in the problem sets is to draw the appropriate conclusions from the results that you got, NOT to get particular results. 

Problem sets are printed at the end of the protocol for each lab.  The problem sets are due at the beginning of the following lab period and should be turned in to your teaching assistant.  The problem set must be turned in no later than the end of the quiz or 5 minutes after the start of the period (whichever comes first).  Late work will NOT be accepted.  The problem sets will be graded by one of the TAs in your section (see schedule below).  Each problem set is assigned a score from 0 to 10.  The lowest score will be dropped before determining your average in the problem set category.


3. Tests:

a. Format of tests

                Tests are designed to test your understanding of the concepts used in the experiments.  Questions will address thinking skills on all levels, including application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation as well as recall of information.  All tests will be scheduled in advance and will cover topics from specified labs as listed below.  All material on the tests will come from lab -- information from lecture will not be required.  The format will be multiple choice and the tests will be taken on computers in the BSCI lab during the days listed in the schedule below.  It is not acceptable to take the tests on computers outside the BSCI lab without permission.  We know which computer you are using to take the test and if it is not in the BSCI lab you will receive NO credit.   All of the computers in the lab will be available on the testing days (Tuesdays through Wednesdays) from 7:30 AM until 7 PM, except during scheduled laboratory periods (9:10 AM to 12:00 noon and 1:10 PM to 4:00 PM on Thursdays, 1:10 PM to 4:00 PM on Wednesdays).  Because of the noise level, confusion, and limited availability of computers, it is not advisable to take the test during the scheduled laboratory periods.  If this is the only time you can take the test, several computers at the front and back of the lab will be available for use on a first-come, first-served basis.  However, the test will be disabled from twenty minutes before the start of lab (i.e. 8:50 AM Tuesday and 12:50 PM Tue and Wed) until the end of the reading assessment quiz in order to prevent conflicts between the quiz administration and the testing software. 

                Except in the most extreme emergencies, you will not be allowed to make up or be excused from a test.  Except in unusual circumstances, tests will not be given after the end of the last day on which they are scheduled. 

                Each test will contain 10 multiple-choice questions worth one point each.  The lowest test score will be dropped before determining your average in the test category.  Answer keys for each test will be available on request from the lab staff.


b. Schedule of tests:

Test Number

Experiments covered

Tue to Wed


1 - 3

Feb 3-4


4 - 5

Feb 17-18


6 - 7

Mar 10-11


8 - 9

Mar 24-25


10 - 11

Apr 7-8


12 - 13

Apr 20-21*

* NOTE: this last test takes place on Monday and Tuesday.  Authorization has been obtained from the Administrative Committee to administer a laboratory test during "dead week".  See the Academic Regulations in the A&S Undergraduate catalog for additional details about "dead week".  There is no final exam in BSCI 111b.


c. Suggestions for preparing for tests

                During the lab itself.  The lab tests will contain some questions requiring knowledge and comprehension.  However, many of the questions will require thinking on higher levels.  Simply memorizing background information from the lab manual will help you with knowledge questions, but will do little to prepare you for questions requiring thinking on a higher level.  To prepare yourself for such questions, as you are in lab you should be constantly asking yourself how the tasks you are doing or data you are collecting fit into the larger scheme of things.  For example:

  • What assumptions am I making in order to apply a particular equation or statistical test?  What would be the consequences if I violated these assumptions?
  • Why does the particular experimental design we have chosen allow us to evaluate the hypothesis we are testing?
  • Why do my results vary from those of other groups?  Is this variation important, or is it just experimental "noise"?
  • Why didn't I get the results that I expected?  Could this be a result of mistakes I made in the protocol and if so, what could they have been? Or is this an unavoidable result of uncontrollable biological variation or experimental conditions?


                Studying for the tests.  Each experiment lists several learning objectives which state the skills that you should have achieved by the time you have finished the lab and problem set.  These objectives are intended to guide your thinking in a general way - they are not a list of questions I will ask you on the test.  However, each test question is designed to test a particular objective, so using the learning objectives to guide your studying for the tests will help you to focus on the ideas that are the most important and will help you to determine which of the important ideas you need to review the most. 


B. Grades

1. Grading rotation schedule

                Grading of the problem sets is rotated by the TAs in your section.  Please see the grading rotation schedule on the TA information page of this course guide to determine who graded a particular assignment.  The name of the TA can be found on the same page.

2. Dropping the lowest grade

                The lowest grade in each of the problem set, test, and RAQ categories will be dropped before the calculation of the average for that category.  The project grade will be incorporated without modification. 

3. Calculation and weights

                The weights of the four categories will be:

problem sets                           50%

tests                                       40%

RAQ                                       10%

                The final average will be a weighted average of the category averages.  The grading scale in this class is determined by applying the dropped grades and weights, rounding to the nearest whole number, then applying this scale:

93-100 A

90-92 A-

87-89 B+

83-86 B

80-82 B-

77-79 C+

73-76 C

70-72 C-

67-69 D+

63-66 D

60-62 D-

59 and below F