Is it covered by the syllabus?

The syllabus for a BOHS module is an important document. For course providers, it’s the only thing that tells us what we need to cover during the course. So in order to be credible it needs to be clear and unambiguous and nothing should appear on the exam which isn’t mentioned  in the syllabus.

Unfortunately the Faculty exam committee are not very good at setting syllabi.  That for M103 is a particularly poor example. It’s not realistic to cover everything  on the syllabus in the time available – at least not properly, and certainly not to the depth that some questions that can appear on the exam require.

We also get some problems with M103 where the syllabus makes a brief mention of a particular topic, but the exam goes on to ask detailed questions beyond the scope set out.  For example, with respect to fans, the wording of the syllabus is as follows:

“Fan types and their applications”

My interpretation of this is that we should provide a brief overview of the different types of fans and the situations where they may be used, possibly discussing their relative advantages and disadvantages. And I also think that this is probably all a Certificate level occupational hygienist needs to know about them.  However, we have had questions on the exam that require knowledge of

  • how noise is created by fans
  • fan and system curves – including the shape of the fan curve for different types of fans
  • how to use fan curves to select a fan
  • the fan laws, including calculations
  • the effect of installing fans in series and in parallel

None of these topics are mentioned in the syllabus and, to me, are not implied by the statement “Fan types and their applications”. The exam requires knowledge not required by the syllabus.

Not only that, I’d contend that a Certificate level hygienist does not need this knowledge – and if they did, well we’d need more than a day and a half to get someone starting with no knowledge of ventilation principles to the point where they can answer questions on such advanced topics.

Knowing that this type of question can appear on the exam, we do our best (that includes us, as the course provider, and the candidates).  Fortunately only a few questions on fans should be included on the exam and it is possible to pass even where the candidates only know what the syllabus requires – providing they have understood enough of the other topics covered by the course.

I hope that when the Faculty get round to reviewing this syllabus they’ll think about making sure the syllabus is credible and reasonable in what it requires. They need to ensure that it is possible for someone new to the topic to learn what the syllabus requires from scratch in one week. And, hopefully, they’ll make sure that the bank of exam questions properly reflects the content of the syllabus.

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