I failed my Internetworking Lab practical exam today and I'm not pleased. No, downright upset would be more like it, especially after the midterm exam yesterday for which I anticipate receiving a solid A. Instead of giving us the full lab period for the practical, we had to sign up for either the first or the last hour of the class.
The first half was to construct an RJ45 to 9-Pin adapter to use as part of a complex null modem setup to connect two PCs together. There were NO pin-outs or color coding of the wires provided, you had to either have memorized them (yeah, right) or have them written down on the allowed one-sided hand-written 8.5"x11" cheat sheet. I had the correct pin-outs for both the RJ45 and the 9-Pin connector, but the color coding I had was for UTP cable, not serial cable and the RJ45 end was pre-constructed. I thought "no problem" I will use the breakout box and test the cable to see which wires were associated with each pin... after all this is a networking class and networking is all about troubleshooting, building cables and using cable testers. Problem: not enough time to do that.
So the omission of the proper color codes from my cheat sheet cost me over 35 points since the cable was required for subsequent parts of the activity. That doesn't seem even remotely fair. After all, am I being tested for:  carrying the correct information with me on the limited one-sided hand-written paper, and  whether I can complete the activities in a race against the clock? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to test whether someone has the knowledge and ability to work through a given problem? The circumstances did not provide that opportunity. And I was not the only one who did poorly.
It might be worth mentioning here that I was employed with Nothnagle Home Securities for 8 years as their Systems Manager. During that time I hand-constructed no less than one hundred RS-232 cables very much like the one on the exam.
I wrote Professor Troell a letter of complaint against the format of the practical in hopes that I will be allowed to take it again without time restriction. Should I be allowed that special treatment? Absolutely! ...along with anyone else who felt they could not finish the exam in the allowed time.
I had the same issue several years ago when taking an exam with the Liberal Arts department in a class which required essay writing in an exam. I am a good writer, though not a quick writer. My complaint then was the same as it is now: no one should be tested on how fast they write or perform a certain function, but rather on their ability to deliver the requirements.