So far I maintain the position that an exam question for a subject that is not related to culture should not be culture-specific. By that I mean a question should not contain any "jargon" only known mostly to the Americans. But I am not sure if it is just I am too cautious about such a topic that may possibly touch some discrimination issues.

  • 1
    You are not being too cautious; academia is diverse and local culture is not part of common experience. (I've seen my share of exercises that assume the rules of soccer and baseball competitions to be well-known; I would have at the very least asked for clarification if I had encountered such an exercise on an exam.) If you want to include it, you have to explain it. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 3:06
  • 3
    @darij: Even if you explain the rules of soccer excellently, soccer fans will still be at a significant advantage because they don't need to spend exam time to understand them, and they will notice instinctively if the outcome is wrong somehow. And that's before considering the likelihood that you explained every relevant detail in a concise and easy to understand manner.
    – nengel
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


Assuming that the class is not on American culture, you are essentially asking if it is ever a good idea to evaluate students on the basis of knowledge that was not taught in class and that they could not have any reasonable expectation of needing to know.

(Example: I wouldn't expect to need to know how american football scoring works when I went to sit an electronic engineering exam. At minimum, for a question that uses the setting of a score counting machine, someone who's watched football games in the past would need much less time to understand the prerequisites, and likely notice discrepancies in the machine's behaviour more easily. For fields like sociology, a cultural context might be unavoidable. In that case, the class should also contain this cultural context, so students can know what to expect.)

If your goal is to evaluate how well students have learned the class materials, then no. It is never a good idea.

If your goal is to measure how well-integrated they are into american culture, maybe? I'm not sure what kind of exam that would be, though.

  • Thank you. Also reminds me of completing my specification of question.
    – Yes
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 3:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .