Are tutor-students capable of writing good biochemistry exams?

Sé Alexandre B., Renato M. Passos, Marcelo Hermes-Lima


In a previous article we described the relevance of student seminars for the learning process of appliedbiochemistry for medical and nutrition students (Hermes-Lima et al., Biochem. Mol.Biol.Educ. 30:30-34,2002). First semester students of a basic biochemistry course (BioBio) are divided in 10 groupsof 5 members, and each group is assigned to a specic topic (diabetes, cholesterol, etc) under thesupervision of a tutor-student. The tutors have already coursed BioBio and are currently undertakingan advanced biochemistry course. In order to evaluate the learning of applied biochemistry for BioBiostudents a true or false exam (TFE) is performed. This exam is made of 50 questions (5 on eachtopic) elaborated by the tutors under the supervision of the teacher. The TFE corresponds to 10percent of the grade of BioBio and focus on clinical and/or applied biochemistry situations. At theend of the exam, BioBio students were asked to share their opinions about TFEs (n = 401, from2001/1 to 2003/2). When asked to give a 0-to-4 score regarding (a) the diculty level of the test,(b) the technical quality and (c) if the exam makes an appropriate evaluation of applied biochemistryknowledge, the scores were 2.9, 3.4 and 2.9, respectively. BioBio students were also asked if they ndvalid to be evaluated by a tutor-made exam and if they would like to participate in the making ofTFEs; 96 and 58 percent answered yes, respectively.In another survey, we interviewed former BioBio students from the 2nd to the 7th semesters (n=95)about TFEs (since 1999-1) regarding technical aspects, which included (1) clarity of questions, (2) levelof diculty, (3) clinical application and (4) thinking (as opposed to memorizing) abilities demanded;the 0-to-4 scores were 3.1, 2.9, 2.6, and 2.5, respectively. Other four questions were on the validityof tutors writing TFEs and their capacity to perform such a task; the average score was 3.2. Oursurveys show the students good acceptance of the seminar system (Hermes-Lima et al. 2002), of theTFEs-based evaluation system, and students interest in TFEs writing (tutors also enjoy the process).These positive aspects constitute a motivation on the learning of basic biochemistry.


tutor-students, biochemistry exams

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