Laptop Exam Report

I took my first laptop exam today. As I mentioned a few times earlier, BU seems to be a little behind the curve in allowing exams to be taken on laptops. First year students were allowed to use laptops last year, and I think today was the first day that laptop use was open to anyone that could manage to obtain possession of a laptop and floppy drive (laptops are not provided, but the school is happy to increase a student budget to allow laptop financing).
A couple points:

  • Examsoft sucks. It’s not really that it’s bad software, but it’s just a burden to have to use. I’m used to Word and I’m used to not worrying about my computer crashing. Examsoft made me pretty nervous for a few minutes today when it wouldn’t start up correctly. My use of the software single-handedly delayed three exams from starting on time. One of the exam administrators tried to get the software working while I started working on a multiple choice section of my exam. Thankfully, my computer was ready by the time I wanted to start typing.
    I later learned that part of the problem might have been that I didn’t install an update from Examsoft that I had received an email about a couple weeks ago. D-oh! I guess I’m not used to updating software that I never use either.
  • Despite the fact that I don’t like using, installing, worrying about, or paying (indirectly) for the Examsoft software, using my own laptop to take an exam was worth all the headaches. In the past I’ve either handwritten my exams or typed them on a typewriter. My handwriting is horrible and my written exams become a huge mess by the time I cross things out, add stars, and attempt to correct spelling mistakes. My typewritten exams are clearer, but I think some of the keys on my roommate’s typewriter are a little sticky. There are lots of missing “n” letters and a number of pen cross-outs.
    The laptop is miles above in these respects. I could type fast, move things around, write and outline and then fill it in with text, and keep materials close (my laptop is much smaller than the bulky typewriter. It’s footprint is about the size of a bluebook. Best of all, my professor will actually be able to read my exam.
    Finally, in addition to the many physical benefits of laptop typing, I think using my own laptop gave me an emotional benefit. I’ve spent a lot of hours hitting these keys to input notes and thoughts to this little machine. My classroom experience and much of my home studying has involved this computer, and I think there’s a psychological benefit to using taking an exam in the same format that I type my notes and revise my outlines.