Exercise(s) or Problem(s)?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by VicentGiner, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. VicentGiner

    VicentGiner Member

    Valencia (Spain)
    Spanish (Spain) and Valencian
    These are two questions in one.

    First question:

    Is it more appropriate and/or common in (UK) English to say "problems" or to say "exercises", when referring to kind of questions to be solved by students using Mathematics or similar?

    I think "problem" is more appropriate, but I would like to know your point of view as native speakers.

    Second question:

    Is it correct to say "problems class" or "problems session", or should I say "problem session"??

    I would say the first one is acceptable and more appropriate, but I am not sure. The second one seems to be referring to a one-problem class (a class where we deal with just one single problem during all the session).

    Looking forward to learning from you,
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Both are in common use; an exercise shouldn't be too difficult, but a problem could range from a simple exercise to a very difficult or even unsolvable one.

    Noun + noun combinations generally use singular for the first noun: problem session. (Not 'problem class', which sounds like a class full of disruptive or stupid children.)
  3. VicentGiner

    VicentGiner Member

    Valencia (Spain)
    Spanish (Spain) and Valencian
    OK, thank you,entagledbank. :)

    But... would it be wrong or strange to say (and to write) "problems session"? Or, how would you call (any different way) a session in which you are going to solve some exercises together with the students?
  4. VicentGiner

    VicentGiner Member

    Valencia (Spain)
    Spanish (Spain) and Valencian
    By the way, I am planning to use also the term "exercises exam" (in contrast to "lab exam" or "computer exam").

    Would it be gramatically wrong?? Would it be uncommon or strange, from the point of view of native speakers?
  5. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I agree with entangledbank. Problems session woud be wrong. I suppose you could say problem-solving lesson/session - a lesson in which the teacher gives the class one or more problems to solve. I've never heard the term before, however.
    Exercises exam would also be wrong. As entangledbank implies, exercises would probably be too easy for an exam. A teacher might teach the class some simple arithmetic and them give them some simple exercises to make sure they'd learnt it. Whenever I sat a maths exam, I didn't regard the questions as exercises. You could say e.g. maths exam. I personally tend to associate the word exercise(s) with primary schools.
  6. VicentGiner

    VicentGiner Member

    Valencia (Spain)
    Spanish (Spain) and Valencian
    So, how would you call an exam about exercises or problems?
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I simply cannot understand "an exam about exercises or problems?" Do you mean, "an exam with/that has exercises or problems"?
  8. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    Regarding problem session: The word problem functions as an adjective, answering the question "What kind of session?" In English, adjectives are not modified to match the nouns they describe. Therefore, it must be problem session, not problems session. I understand that might sound strange to someone whose native language modifies adjectives to match nouns, but that's how it works in English.

    (Maths, as in maths exam mentioned above, is not an exception. The word mathematics, like physics, is singular despite ending in the letter s. Its short form is usually maths in the UK, math in North America. Both are singular.)
  9. VicentGiner

    VicentGiner Member

    Valencia (Spain)
    Spanish (Spain) and Valencian
    @PaulQ, yes, I meant an exam that has or consisting of exercises or problems.

    So, as far as I understand "problem exam" and "computer exam" (or "lab exam") would be OK, wouldn't they?

    @Egmont, thank you. I already knew that rule, but I've seen several expressions that made me think that sometimes it's allowed to break it. For example, Operations Research.
  10. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I don't think operations research breaks the rule. You're thinking of operations as one concept (how people go about carrying out operations) and not as a number of individual operations. The difference is a subtle one and may not be easy for a learner of English to grasp.
    IT exam or computing exam would be better than computer exam. Computer exam suggests to me that it may be an exam about an individual computer. But other people may have other ideas.
    I suppose you could make out a case for lab exam if, for example, you mean a physics exam which you take in a laboratory and not sitting at a desk. But the usual term - at least it was in my young days - is practical exam or simply practical: putting theory into practice. How did you do in your chemistry practical?
    Problem exam
    is definitely wrong. You can have a history exam because history is a subject. But problem isn't. I'd just say, for example, maths exam. The listener knows a maths exam entails problem solving.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  11. VicentGiner

    VicentGiner Member

    Valencia (Spain)
    Spanish (Spain) and Valencian
    OK, @rhitagawr.

    My context is the following: Students have to take two different kinds of exam. One of them is with problems or exercises that they have to solve "by hand" (pencil and calculator). The other one takes place in a lab with computers. The second exam is also with problems or exercises but students have to solve them by using a given software.

    I think I understand what you say. Lets see if this could be acceptable (UK) English:

    For the first exam: Theory (exercises) exam.
    For the second exam: Practical (computers) exam.

    I use "computers" instead of "lab" because in this case it may be confusing for my students, as the lab is the place where both problem (by hand) sessions and computer sessions take place.

    Please, could you tell me if this is OK...? Thank you for your patience.
  12. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    A practical (exam) suggests to me an exam where people set up equipment and carry out experiments. I suppose you could extend it to computers and say it's also an exam where people use computers to show they know how to use the software and operate the computer generally.
    If, say, people do sums and write the answers down on a piece of paper, I'd call that a written exam.
    If people do the same sums on a computer using the software, I'd call that a computer-based exam.

Share This Page