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Wed, 13 Aug 2008

Making tests harder - 14:32
Last week at work I was thinking about some of the exams run here and wondering if we could make jokes about making them harder. For example in the computer networking class. Hand the student a cage with a few pigeons and a copy of rfc1149 and to pass they have to communicate some message stored at the place the pigeons call home.

Another possibility for that class was to hand them some computer equipment, such as an Altair 8800 (I think we have one in the computer museum here at work), a few components that may be able to read the outputs of that and communicate to a modern network and ask them to write the contents of a web site on a ipv6 only web server.

I am sure there are many other interesting concepts for making the assessment harder, heck in reality a few years ago I was arguing for the final assignment in the computer networking class to be an exercise in exploiting a planted hole in some software. This would involve telling them some basic details about the hole. They would then have to understand network capture (wireshark), c coding (writing the exploit), manipulating network calls and sockets and data from code to get a meaningful result, layout of the system they are exploiting (we would give them references and details) and be able to analyse and collate data well. We could give each student something slightly different (we can generate each problem with some code generation mechanism) so they can not easily copy each other. Their task could be to gain some form of access through this hole and place a defined piece of data on the system they are exploiting with their implementation.

At the time (and probably still) it was deemed too difficult for the class and also somewhat off focus as it had more than just computer networks topics involved. All of the initial silly ideas I was having last week though of course reminded me of the rather amusing GRADUATION EXAM - AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT I recall seeing a printout of in the 90s sometime, a common Internet jokes item. Lets see you pass that exam in 4 hours.

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