Mastery Quizzes FAQ

What is Mastery-Based Grading?

Description from a recent session at the national meetings of the Mathematical Association of America:

“Mastery grading” refers to a suite of assessment techniques that encourage students to pursue deep understanding of course content. Techniques include standards-based grading, specifications grading, and mastery testing. Grades are based on mastery of objectives rather than accumulation of partial credit. Students have multiple attempts to attain this high standard for each objective, teaching them to persevere through the course.

What are Mastery Quizzes in this course?

There are 18 Mastery Quizzes in this course, and your grade will be determined by your high scores on each quiz, after retakes. The Mastery Quizzes take the place of all evaluations in this course, including homework, quizzes, tests, and even the Final Exam. Your goal in this course is to acheive as much mastery as possible for each section of the course, and to show that knowledge and skill on each of the 18 Mastery Quizzes by the end of the semester. 

When do I take the Mastery Quizzes?

Mastery Quizzes and Retakes will take place during the first 15 minutes of each class period. The schedule of Mastery Quizzes can be found on the Homework Calendar.

What is on the Mastery Quizzes?

Each Mastery Quiz is based on a homework section from the textbook. You can see the homework sets for each section on the Homework Calendar. Mastery Quizzes typically have three multiple-choice or selection-type problems that are randomly generated from a large bank of problems that are based on the material in the homework sets.

Because the Mastery Quiz questions are multiple choice, they are not identical to the problems in the homework; however, they test the same concepts and skills, sometimes breaking down problems into strategies or steps that can be tested in a choice-based format. When I write the test bank for each section I’m looking right at the assigned homework problems and breaking them into multiple choice format.

How should I study for Mastery Quizzes?

Do the assigned homework problems for the corresponding homework section, read the section, take notes, and/or get help as needed to acheive mastery of the section. When you feel like you could answer any of the questions from the homework set, then you’re ready for the Mastery Quiz.

Keep in mind that some people need to do more exercises than others in order to understand the material. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that some of you will have to set aside more time in your schedule than others. Give yourself the time and support network that you need in order to master the material in each section.

Help!? Help help help

The Science and Math Learning Center is a highly recommended resource for free walk-in tutoring and help. You can sit there as long as you like and do homework problems in an environment where someone is always ready to help you, and where there are other students you might be able to work with on problems. If you find yourself struggling, don’t just sit in your room alone with the book; get out to the SMLC or find a study group. Or try posting your questions to the Slack group.

How should I study for Retakes?

Mastery Quiz Retakes are randomly generated from a large bank of questions that are based on the set of homework problems for the corresponding section. This means that studying for a Retake requires more than just figuring out the problems you missed on the first Mastery Quiz, because the Retake might include completely different questions from the homework set. Be sure to master the entire homework set to prepare for Retakes.

How many Retake opportunities are there?

You will have at least 10 opportunities for Retakes during the semester, plus an additional 8 Retake opportunities of your choice on the Final Exam. You can retake any Mastery Quiz you like, even if you’ve retaken it before, during those Retake opportunities. Please keep in mind that the only Retake opportunities will be the ones scheduled on the Homework Calendar, and plan accordingly by working hard to acheive mastery before attemping any Mastery Quiz!

Can I make up Mastery Quizzes?

In general, no. It is expected that most students will probably miss one or two classes for various reasons throughout the semester. If/when this happens to you, just be sure to take any missed Mastery Quizzes on future Retake days. However, if you miss a lot of classes due to illness or other extenuating circumstances, then please talk to me about it so we can try to make arrangments.

What should I worry about?

You will only have about ten opportunities to retake Mastery Quizzes during the semester (plus eight more on the Final Exam). This means that you have enough retakes to take each Mastery Quiz twice, on average… but that’s less than you think. Don’t waste your retakes on easy quizzes! To make sure you have enough opportunities to retake the more challenging quizzes multiple times, make sure you are as prepared as possible for each Mastery Quiz the first time it is offered.

If you fall behind on your homework and tank a bunch of first-time Mastery Quizzes, it won’t hurt you at first — but by the end of the semester you’ll be counting your retake opportunities and really needing all the space you can get. Those early mistakes can catch up to you at the end of the semester, so be careful and plan your time well from the start.  🙂