17.269 | Spring 2017 | Undergraduate

Race, Ethnicity, and American Politics


Preparing for the Final Exam


The final exam will be held a week after the last class. This will be a closed-book and closed-note exam, completed without collaboration.

The final exam will be worth 35% of the final grade.


Here are the things I am trying to test with this exam:

  • Your familiarity with the questions scholars have been asking about race, and the ways they’ve tried to answer them (including the broad strokes of their research designs and findings).
  • Your awareness of some stylized facts about race in the US and some concepts covered in the course.
  • Your ability to apply theories we learned to new contexts and make coherent arguments supported by prior research.
  • Your ability to critically read research and discuss what it can teach us.
  • Mostly your understanding of the final module of the class, though there will be some questions that draw on earlier material as well.

Here are the things I am not trying to test:

  • Your recall of authors’ exact names or publication dates.
  • Your memory of authors’ exact language or weird little details about their research designs.


There will be three sections, graded as follows:

  1. Multiple choice (10%)
  2. Identification (25%)
  3. Two short essays (65%)

I’d recommend allocating your time in approximately these proportions, and I’ve tried to write questions that will accomplish this breakdown. I should note that I intend for this exam to take most test takers about 1.5–2.5 hours, so there shouldn’t be too much time pressure.


Multiple Choice - There will be some (not more than ten) multiple-choice questions. These will generally ask about a single reading or a single week’s readings and will ask you to answer something about what they did or what they found. All of these questions will be required.

Identification - There will be some (not more than ten) identification questions. For each of these, you’ll be given a word or phrase that we discussed in the course (for example, “minority influence districts”, or “one-drop rule”) and be asked to write one to two sentences explaining what it means in the context of this course. There will be one or two more choices than there are required answers (so you might answer 8 / 10, or 10 / 12).

Short Essays - There will be two short essays: There will be two sets of prompts, and you will write one essay for each prompt.

The first set of prompts will measure your ability to draw on the theories and research we’ve discussed in class, and apply them to new settings. I will give you a scenario with a hypothetical event, and you will choose an outcome that could change as a result of this event, tell me how it will change, and explain why you think this would happen (drawing on class readings to support your claims). There will be at least two scenarios to choose from for this essay. Note that I expect you to draw on the readings from the class, but I understand you may not remember exactly the author’s name and the title of the piece-it will be fine if you describe the piece in enough detail that I can identify what reading you’re talking about.

The second set of prompts will measure your ability to read research critically and think about what it teaches us. I will give several hypothetical research designs, where I describe the question researchers are trying to answer and how they are going about trying to answer it. I will then ask you to choose one and assess: Is this design answering the researcher’s question as intended? (And if not, what question is it actually answering?). Are there alternative stories we should be worried about when evaluating the researcher’s findings?

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights