Is it unethical or illegal to grade a proof exam without reading all of the proofs? Someone I know would give students 0 points if they do not use theorems presented in lectures, or if they have one solution that solves multiple problems at once will ignore it. Also would make up criteria to fit his/her own agenda for punishing students. Then he/she would leave it up to the students to possibly argue for changes in office hours. Is there some standard criteria for grading proofs, either on a legal or professional level?

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    I think the question of whether this is legal is off-topic here, in addition to being unanswerable without knowing your jurisdiction. But in general, most legal systems don't try to get involved in the details of academia at this level. – Nate Eldredge Jul 22 '16 at 1:32
  • It is ok to agree to be convinced that one graded an exam wrongly. However, making this the default procedure for treating deviations from the "standard" solution is bad teaching. – Captain Emacs Jul 22 '16 at 3:22
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    This feels more of a rant than an honest question. – Davidmh Jul 22 '16 at 10:39
  • @Davidmh It was meant to be an honest uestion but my emotions got the better of me in the execution of the text. Grading/correcting policies are definintely on topic. – Jacob Murray Wakem Jul 22 '16 at 14:39

Based strictly on the information you have provided to me about this mystery person, I'd say the instructor engaging in these activities is highly unethical and may have some other psychological issues. That's just what I sense "prima facie". "Absolute power corrupts absolutely", but I could easily be wrong.

Then again, maybe the mystery person has explained the grading criteria, but hasn't explained it clearly enough.

Be very careful about making a formal accusation against this person. If you make an accusation, make sure it's iron-clad and infallible so that you're certain to win.

Many years ago, in an Engineering Mechanics class, I openly accused my professor of erring in his solution to an exam question. My exam question was marked as "incorrect" with very little partial credit. I stared at that problem for some time and concluded my solution was correct and the professor's was wrong. I treaded very gingerly as I described my disagreement with his solution, but I went step by step and ultimately, before the entire class, he admitted he was wrong and I was right.

I was about 18 or 19 years old at the time. Trust me. Be very careful. Professors are smart and they don't like to be proven wrong. My professor was, thankfully, a person who loved truth more than being correct.

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    "highly unethical" and "psychological issues" -- please don't go slinging such baseless accusations. The question is very incoherent and sounds exactly like every grade grubber. This "answer" is clearly just you projecting your own feelings of being slighted that you've never gotten over. – user4512 Jul 22 '16 at 5:50
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    I have heard rumors that in some countries it is standard practice to only accept answers that are exactly the same as the answer in the textbook, even if there are obviously many correct answers. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 22 '16 at 7:05
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    @ChrisWhite: not exactly, I think. It's Inquisitive interpreting what would have to be the case in order for the questioner's description to be accurate and a fair representation. There's a subtext here: "if this person isn't highly unethical, then you are not giving us the full picture". – Steve Jessop Jul 22 '16 at 10:00
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    For example, "give students 0 points if they do not use theorems presented in lectures" is presented by the questioner without context and may appear arbitrary. But if the assignment is to prove X from theorem Y, and you choose instead to prove X from some other more powerful theorem not covered in lectures, certainly you've failed the assignment, and the questioner perhaps doesn't fully understand this. Or perhaps does understand it, and is trying find justification on the interwebs for exactly the grade grubbing behaviour you accuse them of. – Steve Jessop Jul 22 '16 at 10:05
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    Likewise, "makes up criteria to fit agenda for punishing students" is bad if accurate, but the actual situation might be that the criteria are pretty common and/or a reasonable interpretation of the assignments given, but didn't go in the questioner's favour. As long as the "agenda" is to "punish students" in the sense of giving them 0 marks for garbage answers it'd be OK. Inquisitive does say the answer is a remark on the prima facie picture the questioner paints, not on whether that picture is correct. – Steve Jessop Jul 22 '16 at 10:11

It is not necessarily wrong for a proof to be marked wrong without reading the whole thing. If it sets out to prove the wrong thing, it is wrong. If it starts at the conclusion and works towards the hypothesis (a very common mistake) it is wrong. If it assumes something incorrect, or simply not shown, that makes it easier to arrive at a proof, it is wrong for the purpose of the assessment. If it proves multiple things at once, it is almost certainly wrong, in such a context. If it is illegible it could get no marks regardless of other factors. If it is correct but hard to read, it may be worth no marks if that was the assessment criterion.

And, no, there is no universal mark scheme. For anything (at university level).

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