The three words “Baylor Interdisciplinary Core” inspires a reaction from all kinds of students — regardless of whether they are in the program or not. From “Oh, man! You’re in that?” or “I heard that is super hard!” to “I am in BIC too, it’s killing me!” the comments run wild throughout the Baylor community. But why? Why does BIC cause such a polarizing reaction? As a BIC student, I can tell you one thing that would help alleviate the harsh reaction and make the program less daunting: Expanding test resources for BIC students.
As a BIC student, I have thoroughly invested myself in the content of the program. The core itself asks stimulating questions not only about history, but about society today. It has widened my world view and challenged my mind to travel to new, deeper places. However, it is a shame that BIC has such a harsh reputation. Come test day, I am filled with anxiety that realistically doesn’t need to happen.
A BIC test is unlike any other test I’ve taken here at the university. The tests are extremely long, complex and sometimes even random. The core itself focuses on interdisciplinary works that range from Plato to Confucius. Usually, BIC students are tasked with reading 50 pages a night and can finish most books within one to two weeks. The program is fast paced, with tests being few and far between. Therefore, the tests are covering a wide variety of difficult information.
The first problem surrounding BIC tests is the lack of resources before the exam. When studying for the exam, the professors recommend that we study all the texts we have covered in that particular unit. On my last exam, that was 16 books or readings. They also recommended that we study each lecture and know all the information packed into those presentations. However, while note-taking helps, it is virtually impossible to write down every word they say; if you miss one word, that could be at least three points lost in the exam. The professors should be more specific when they are helping us prepare for the exam. They should narrow down the information so that students do not waste their time re-studying everything. While it is unreasonable to ask for a study guide, professors could be more specific in their directions when giving us an overview for the exam. For example, giving us certain sections of each book that we should focus our attention or choosing certain concepts covered in lectures to study would help narrow down the information and make it easier to study.
The next problem surrounding BIC exams is the relevance of the complex questions on the actual tests. As said above, studying for a BIC test is sometimes a shot in the dark. There is a little to no direction despite the vast array of material covered in any unit; so, when BIC students are studying, they could be reviewing the correct information or they could be looking at information that isn’t relevant at all.
During the actual exam, there are sometimes multiple choice questions that are not applicable to the unit at all. They are usually extremely specific, asking what a specific professor said on a specific day, or asking about material briefly mentioned in a lecture that was not even on the presentation slides. In order for the exams to truly test BIC students on their knowledge, the questions need to be more relevant to the actual unit and need to be actually brought up and written in the lecture slides. Testing someone on whether or not they remember which day a lecture was does not test their actual knowledge on the subject matter. Furthermore, if the information was never even put on the presentation slides, it should not be on the test. Logistically, if the information was not significant enough to be put on the presentations, it is not important enough to be put on the test. Students who are excused from class are also taking a hit to their test grade because even with notes they will not be getting that information.
Lastly, the time allocated during the actual exam is limited and does not allow for students to actually take their time and produce high-quality content. A normal BIC test usually has 25 to 35 multiple choice questions. Then, there is usually a full essay that should incorporate at least five of the readings from the unit or there are five to ten short answers that require textual evidence. All of this has to be completed within a normal Baylor class period. Realistically, finishing a BIC exam in this time period is extremely hard to pull off. The questions are complex, require deep thought and cannot be rushed. In order to develop a strong essay or short answer, there needs to be more time. The program should give students more time or cut down the amount of questions on the exam. This would allow students to adequately complete the exam to the best of their ability.
The core should take time to revise the way they handle exams so that students can not only prepare better, but also walk into test day with an opportunity to perform to the best of their ability. This would not only help current BIC students, but also give the program a better reputation on campus which would encourage future students to want to join.