Every time I teach one class (outside my major field but not outside my minor field) I think I am not going to have such a big final exam.
This year I took it to one of my colleagues. She said it was too hard. I told her I had used the same exam (different questions, but same level of difficulty) at two different CCs. (We are at a SLAC.) After having said that, I was like, well, shoot. If the CCs can do it, the SLACers ought to be able to, too.
I want the students to at least have some basic idea about the readings we do in the semester. And I can’t ask synthesis questions about all of the reading we’ve done (plus two of the six big essays require synthesis of the works). So I use two different kinds of questions, which makes for a significant two hour exam and usually means I can find out if the student knows what I said but doesn’t know what it means or understands the major ideas and at least read the major works but promptly forgot the minor ones.
So, I guess, if I don’t care whether or not they remember basic ideas in most the works or if they don’t understand big concepts for a few of the works, I could grade less. But I really want them to know both.
After I gave the exam I remembered that the last time I gave it I decided I wasn’t going to give both parts again, as it was too much grading. But the last time I gave it I also graded both parts and then recorded the total as the percentage of whichever part they did better on. (The two halves are designed to be about the same level of difficulty, but one is short answer and one requires complete paragraphs.) So I did that again for this bunch.
The two parts grade two different kinds of information (one is synthesis, the other is recall/understanding), which is why I always end up using both.