December 19, 2005

· Sociology

All over the U.S. at the moment, academics like me are complaining about end-of-semester woes like administering exams and grading papers. Cheer up! It could be worse. For instance, take this despairing page put up by the economist John Hey, who spends some of his time teaching in England, and the rest as Professore Ordinario at a University in Italy. Pretty nice gig, you might think—except when it comes to exams:

The intention of this web page is to draw attention to large differences in the number of examinations in different countries of the world, with the particular intention of revealing Italy as an outlier. I also want to draw attention to an associated bureaucratic procedure called verbalizzazione, which I do not think exists anywhere else in the world other than in Italy. … Here is a broad summary of the number of examinations in different countries of the world. …

  • ONE exam per course each year with no right to resit: Canada, United States
  • ONE exam per course per year with at most one resit: Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
  • ONE exam per course per year with at most two resits: Austria, The Netherlands
  • (Up to) TEN exams per course per year with the right to resit as often as you wish: Italy.

His page summarizing the verbalizzazione business (what it takes, once you administer all those exams, to actually get the grade recorded) is enough to give a public choice theorist an aneurysm.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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