In this video, the guy claims that his sociology test consisted of 38 multiple-choice questions and that he only had 15 minutes to finish it. The lady claims that her control engineering test consisted of having to derive a transfer function of a double-mass-spring-damper system and that she only had 20 minutes to solve it.

To me, as a Croatian computer engineering student, those taks sound rather... extreme.
A few days ago, I took a control engineering written exam, it was three tasks, all of which are arguably easier than deriving a transfer function of a double-mass-spring-damper system, and we had 90 minutes to solve it.
And I got a mild panic attack when solving the first task, my sight got dark and I was seeing sparks, and it took me around 15 minutes to calm down so that I could continue that test. If it were time-constrained, I would have failed that test.

So, I am asking, are tests such as ones described in the video typical of the American higher education?

  • 15 minutes is a long time for 38 multiple choice questions if you know any of the material. The other depends a lot on what the lectures and homework assignments have covered.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 14:28
  • 6
    @JonCuster: "15 minutes is a long time for 38 multiple choice questions if you know any of the material." Well, this might be true if the questions only ask for things that the students are supposed to know by heart in precisely the same form as asked. If, on the other hand, the questions are designed to require a bit of thinking before one finds out the answer, then less than half a minute per question is certainly not enough, let alone a long time - even if the students know all of the material. Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Yes, in general, tests in the US are timed. There are exceptions, but that is the norm. A 15 minute test is only mildly unusual. But I had a lot of five minute "pop quizzes" as an undergraduate.

Such a quiz might or might not be a large part of the overall grade of a course, but, collectively, a set of such things might be.

Short quizzes are sort of the "stick" that goads you to study between class sessions. If you come well prepared they are not a big issue most of the time.

Even doctoral qualifying exams, if written, will normally be timed, though in hours, not minutes.

One trick in taking such short quizzes is to do it in two passes at least. Quickly answer the questions that seem obvious to you and then make a second pass on the ones that require more work. Don't get stuck on any one problem.

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