This morning, as I was getting ready for work, the following thoughts meandered through my mind:
1) We're getting close to midterms.
2) Hey, I should talk to the Gothic class today about midterms!
3) Usual spiel: objective section, short ans--wait, I've lost ten minutes of class time.
4) Drat! How do I reorganize my exams?
For the past thirteen years or so, my midterms in the straightforward literary courses (as opposed to skills classes like intro to lit analysis) have broken down, percentage-wise, into 10-20-70. Ten points for the objective section* (a.k.a. "Did you or did you not do the reading?"), twenty for short answer identifications, and seventy for the essay. This arrangement gives the student a bit of leeway, since they can (in theory) make up for a poor showing in one spot with a strong showing in another: if they do extremely well on the first two sections, then they can still pass the exam even after suffering a momentary block on the essay, and vice-versa. (On the other hand, if they didn't do the reading and are trying to bluff their way through, the result isn't going to be an A.)
It doesn't make much sense to me to keep all three sections while abridging the first two, and I really don't want to eliminate the essay. Moreover, because I would like them to have five minutes or so of breathing space at the end, I feel a little unconfortable doing four short answer IDs; they need at least five minutes for each one, and the essay takes thirty minutes. (I have visions of a classroom full of frantic students, leading to Gothic results for yours truly.) Right now, I'm leaning toward a slightly longer objective section, while giving the essay more weight--something like 15-85.
*--My philosophy of quotation/title matching, in case you're wondering, is that being able to recognize quotations is a survival skill in literary studies, not makework. The next step is learning to recognize that something very probably is a quotation, and taking steps accordingly.