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I'm a programmer, and in my case students need to pick from a set of exams. They get to choose which ones but they must select at least 2 and at most 3.

I've been trying to find a way to refer to such exams. I've thought of:

  • Elective Exams
  • Opt-in Exams

Given English is not my mother tongue, I was wondering if there is a better way to name these type of exams.

PS: The title of the post is a bit strange, I just couldn't explain this in another way.

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  • The latter, the exams are the ones being chosen from a list.
    – Roland Mai
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 12:57
  • It's a term used in a really long document. Also, when building user interfaces I need to keep it compact. In headers it appears as "Requirements for [adj] exams", or another one "students will be better informed to choose the right exams from the [adj] exams".
    – Roland Mai
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 13:03
  • I think you may be muddying things by juxtaposing the set of exams from which some must be chosen, and the subset actually chosen. On the other hand, I'm not convinced common parlance has standard terminology for that distinction. Or indeed, as Raku says, simple ways to distinguish whether a chosen subset can be an empty set or must contain some minimum number of elements. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 13:13

3 Answers 3

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As far as I know they're all called "electives" in English. Other languages, e.g. German, distinguish between

  • mandatory elective (you have to choose n out of m, "Wahlpflichtfach")
  • voluntary elective (you are free to choose none, some or all, "Wahlfach")
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    Interesting! "Mandatory elective exam" sounds pretty good. At first, it sounded a bit odd, but it grew on me. I think it makes a lot of sense.
    – Roland Mai
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 19:24
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A phrasing that may be of use to you in this context is elective requirements, conveying as it does that the choice of what exams to take is discretionary (elective), but there are minimum standards to be met (requirements).

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  • Or, to flip it around, required electives. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 17:38
  • @DavidSchwartz: I hesitate to use that formulation because it starts sounding a lot more oxymoronic that way.
    – chaos
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 18:01
  • Thank you. I like it; however, I would really like to keep the word "exam" in the construct.
    – Roland Mai
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 19:23
  • @Ingenu: Easy enough; speak of "elective exam requirements".
    – chaos
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 19:26
  • @chaos I thought of that too, but it didn't sit with me well. In "elective requirements", "requirements" ~ "exams", while in "elective exam requirements", "requirements" refer to something else that is different from exam, because exam is already in the construct.
    – Roland Mai
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 19:31
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You wrote in your comment: It's a term used in a really long document. Also, when building user interfaces I need to keep it compact. In headers it appears as "Requirements for [adj] exams", or another one "students will be better informed to choose the right exams from the [adj] exams".

How about referring to the exams as chosen if the students have already chosen, "Requirements for chosen exams"

And if they have not already chosen, you could say offered exams.

"Students will be better informed about choosing the right exams from those offered."

I would hope the instructions make it very clear that they have to choose 2 or 3 of the offered exams.

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