PHYS 398, Junior Seminar
Spring 2010
Western Kentucky University
Department of Physics and Astronomy

The requirements of Phys 398 "Junior Seminar" are to attend the departmental seminars scheduled during the semester, to participate in the question/discussion period of the seminars, to study for the Physics Major Field Test, and to achieve an acceptable score for the Physics Major Field Test.

WKU's Physics and Astronomy Department uses the ETS Major Field Test to measure the academic achievement of its physics majors, to evaluate the physics curriculum at WKU, and to assess the educational outcomes of its degree program. The Major Field Tests also provide an opportunity for students to experience testing conditions similar to the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Subject Test in Physics. At WKU, the tests are paid for by the Physics and Astronomy Department and the scores are reported to the instructor of the Junior Seminar. Only anonymous, group-level achievement data is provided to the faculty for use in the assessment of the physics program.

The Major Field Test is a two-hour 70 question multiple choice test modeled on the development of the GRE Subject Test. ETS has designed the Major Field Test in Physics to measure the basic knowledge and understanding achieved by students near the completion of their undergraduate study of physics. Most of the questions can be answered on the basis of a mastery of the first three years of the physics curriculum. Calculators are not needed, the questions are constructed to simplify mathematical manipulations. A handful of useful constants and conversion values are included in a table with the test, minimizing the need to memorize information. With respect to the cognitive level of the test, ETS claims that 21 percent of the questions are limited to recall of information, 48 percent involve interpretation, translation, or application of a single concept, and 31 percent involve application of two or more physical concepts in some combination. Topically, the questions on the Major Field Test have been divided into five subfields: Classical Kinematics and Dynamics, Electricity and Magnetism, Thermodynamics, Fundamental Concepts of Quantum Mechanics, and Special Topics. Respectively, the percentage distribution of questions per topic is 19, 17, 18, 23, and 23.

The final grade for the course will be determined by the points accumulated in three different components of the course requirements. Letter grades will be assigned based on the following scheme:
A  -  9 or 10 points accumulated
B  -  8 points accumulated
C  -  7 points accumulated
D  -  6 points accumulated
F  -  5 or fewer points accumulated

Points earned for attendance at departmental seminars
3 points -    zero absences at seminars scheduled during the semester
2 points -    one absence at seminars scheduled during the semester
1 point -     two absences at seminars scheduled during the semester
0 points -    three or more absences at seminars scheduled during the semester

Points earned for participation at departmental seminars
3 points -    at four or more seminars during the semester, the student asked an appropriate question of the speaker
2 points -    at three seminars during the semester, the student asked an appropriate question of the speaker
1 points -    at two seminars during the semester the student asked an appropriate question of the speaker
0 points -     the student asked one or no appropriate questions of any speaker during seminars scheduled this semester

Points earned via Major Field Assessment Test, scheduled for 15 March, 2010.
4 points -    MFT score above established minimum
   and students made serious effort to achieve a score which reflects his/her abilities
   and student actively participated in preparing for the exam
2 points -    two of the above three criteria were met
1 point -     one of the above criteria were met
0 points -    student did not sit for MFT exam