ENGINEERING STUDENTS’ PERCEPTION OF DIFFICULT TESTS IN PHYSICS
Physics as a core subject in the engineering curriculum has its reputation of being a difficult subject, and this stems primarily from its dominant problem solving nature. Lecturers are faced with two possibilities, either to teach at a mediocre level and set tests at a low level and pass all students or to teach at a high level and set tests of a high standard. It is the intention of this research for the lecturer to follow the latter approach and train engineers with a strong background in physics. To determine if students are meeting the challenges imposed by the lecturer as far as difficulty of tests are concerned, we have piloted a questionnaire for this purpose. The questionnaire, which consists of 16 questions (mixed positive and negative statements), has been validated by members in the department before being administered to 41 engineering students at a South African university. Students were required to rate their levels of agreement or disagreement to each of the items in the questionnaire on a Likert-type scale of evaluation. The tests which is the focus of assessments, has been set at a high standard, and independently moderated by members of staff in the department. Despite the magnitude of the difficulty of the tests, students have revealed that they were inspired to solve problems at a high level and that they preferred difficult problems that were relevant to engineering. This is indicative of the fact that they are meeting the challenges imposed by lecturers in setting difficult tests.