Freshman Class FEE, Math Diagnostic, ASE Results Don’t Surprise

Freshmen in the Class of 2011 fared comparably to last year’s freshmen on the Freshman Essay Evaluation, Advanced Standing Exams, and Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement.

With the exception of Advanced Placement Biology credit which is no longer being accepted in place of the introductory biology course, this year’s freshmen also earned similar amounts of AP credit for passing out of General Institute Requirements. (See tables on pages 1 and 17.)

For the first time, math diagnostic exams were used not only as recommendations for freshmen enrollment in 8.01, 8.012, or 8.01L (Physics I) but also as a way to determine which freshmen were given spots in 8.012.

This year, the number of seats available for the 8.012 lecture limited how many students could enroll in the class to approximately 150, said Physics Academic Administrator Brian E. Canavan. The 8.012 lecture takes place in 6-120 not because of a lack of larger rooms, Canavan said, but rather because the physics department wanted to teach the class in a lecture hall close to where equipment for class demonstrations are stored.

To determine which freshmen would be given spots in 8.012, freshmen interested in the course were ordered by their math diagnostic scores, and the 17 freshmen with the lowest scores — scores in the mid 70s and below — were put on a waitlist for the class, Canavan said. All upperclassmen who had preregistered for the class were also admitted, Canavan said.

Canavan said that the students given spots in 8.012 were “probably those students who have high potential to succeed in the class.” He said he was interested in restricting enrollment in 8.012 to students with good potential for success and said that the limited enrollment this year might help reach this goal.

Beginning this year, the Biology Department no longer accepts AP Biology credit to pass out of 7.012 (Introductory Biology). As a result, many more freshmen took the Biology ASE this year. A total of 96 students took the Biology ASE this year as opposed to six last year.

Despite the jump in the number of students taking the Biology ASE, the percentage of students passing the exam remained virtually constant, with 16 percent passing this year and 17 percent passing in 2006. In previous years, about 27 percent of entering freshman classes have passed out of the biology GIR by scoring a 5 on the AP Biology test.

The only ASE with a significant change in percentage passing is the 8.01 test, with 54 percent passing this year compared to 22 percent last year. Canavan said this difference does not reflect a change in the difficulty level or content of the exam. Rather, the statistic varies widely from year to year, Canavan said, because so few students — less than 70 — opt to take the exam. Under these circumstances, a difference of a small number of students passing or failing creates a large change in the percentage passing, Canavan said.

Before classes start each year, freshmen may sit for ASEs in chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics to try to pass out of General Institute Requirements in these subjects. All freshmen who do not score a 5 on an AP English exam must take the FEE, which determines whether a writing subject is required for a student in their first year.