Student perceptions of curriculum-based exit exams in civil engineering education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Design of appropriate assessment tools to measure student achievement of program learning outcomes (PLOs) represents a challenge to higher education institutions. Typical outcome-based assessment tools examine student outcomes at the course level, i.e. course learning outcomes (CLOs), and are then mapped to PLOs. The validity of this approach depends on the correctness and accuracy of the mapping between CLOs and PLOs. To directly evaluate student achievement of PLOs, curriculum-based exit exams have been developed and adopted by engineering programs. Such exams play a critical role in the assessment and improvement of engineering programs. Yet, their validity as a direct measure of PLOs is uncertain. This paper aims to fill this gap by assessing the appropriateness of using curriculum-based exit exams to evaluate student attainment of PLOs at the time of graduation. A student survey was developed to obtain the perceptions of 92 senior civil engineering students over the course of three semesters. Findings revealed that students generally did not believe that the exit exam was an appropriate tool to evaluate their attainment of PLOs nor did it improve their knowledge in civil engineering disciplines. However, it helped prepare them for a job interview. Student performance in various disciplines was attributed to the level of preparedness, interest in the topics, and difficulty of exam questions. Additionally, students believed having more sample questions or increasing the contribution of the exit exam to their grade point average would help improve the overall performance. The results also showed that the majority of students prepared for the exit exam by studying and solving questions from previous exit exam samples. A continuous improvement process was proposed to enhance the overall exit exam experience. Remedial actions were also suggested to render it a more valid direct assessment tool and inspire a positive attitude in students towards it.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2021 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference, EDUCON 2021
EditorsThomas Klinger, Christian Kollmitzer, Andreas Pester
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781728184784
Publication statusPublished - Apr 21 2021
Event2021 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference, EDUCON 2021 - Vienna, Austria
Duration: Apr 21 2021Apr 23 2021

Publication series

NameIEEE Global Engineering Education Conference, EDUCON
ISSN (Print)2165-9559
ISSN (Electronic)2165-9567


Conference2021 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference, EDUCON 2021


  • Assessment tool
  • Civil engineering
  • Exit exam
  • Program learning outcomes
  • Student perception
  • Student survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems and Management
  • Education
  • General Engineering


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