Exams aren't all papers and pencils
on their end-of-year final exam.
They won't be writing one.
Earlier this year, the fourth-year students were tasked with designing, building and
racing miniature "Segways" - two-wheeled personal transportation vehicles - operated
by remote control.
"They design them, refine them, construct them and test them," said Cassidy. "And then
at the end of the year, instead of having an exam, they race them for 40 per cent of
It's a style of examination that puts the theories learned in the classroom to practice in
the real-world - but it's not unique to engineering.
Students in music and theatre have exams based on performance, and those graduating
from art present pieces at the Museum of Art as part of the annual SUMMA exhibition of
Those in Angela Sheng's art history seminar collaborate on a conceptual design for an
art exhibit in downtown Hamilton, with group members taking on jobs in curation,
design and project management.
Teamwork is also a key part of Cassidy's final evaluation, which puts students together
in pairs to tackle the engineering project.
"They really bond together as a group, and they get to know their lab peers," he said.
"It's competitive, but people help each other out."
Commerce graduate Bryan Vanderkruk remembers the many practical exams he had
while studying at McMaster, including a performance of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a
Theme of Paganini he played on piano for a first-year elective music course.
"Practical and performance-based exams are a pure accounting of knowledge," he said.
"It's all about what you've accomplished through the year, and it's all up to you."
Vanderkruk said he was happy to have been exposed to a number of hands-on projects
during his time at McMaster.
"I had lots of finals that were based on business reports, proposals or marketing plans. I
always enjoyed working on them because they evaluated you on the skills you'd actually
be using in a career in that area."
The University's exams - practical and otherwise - end April 25.