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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Proper Assessment With detailed Feedback is missing for VLSI Candidates !

This article is mainly for VLSI aspirants, Evaluators or Developers (Assessment developer). "Assessment with detailed Feedback" is an indispensable factor missing in Education system related to Semiconductor/VLSI Industry. Assessment happens at every stage and everyone provide some type of feedback but effectiveness of both of these for VLSI industry is a topic of discussion here.

I try to highlight a common career path of a candidate before getting into job (it will help you to understand my point).

  1. Admission in XYZ Engineering college
  2. Scoring marks in different subjects like Digital electronics, VLSI Design, Microprocessor, Analog electronics, Semiconductor Theory and others
    • Remember: These scores or Marks are based on general or say all topics (not specific to any Industry)
  3. Campus Selection process.
    • Remember: In most colleges, either core companies (specially Semiconductor) don't visit or candidates don't able to meet selection criteria.
  4. If, not able to select or crack any VLSI Company interview, start thinking about other options.
  5. Other options are
    • Mtech (another 2 Year)
    • Training Institute (another 1 year and almost Rs 1Lakh)
  6. If, Opt for Mtech
    • Same process (as for Bachelor Degree: Step 2 to 4)
    • Even after Mtech, Most of the candidates again stuck at Step 4
    • Most of the Time, they opt for Training Institute.
  7. In case of Training Institute
    • Spend 1 more year
    • Spend money between Rs 50k to Rs 3lakh
    • Training Institute sometime offers you a job with a 3 year bond.


Now it's time to understand what are different types and numbers of assessments in above career path. After that, we will discuss feedback mechanism.

Assessment Type:
  • B.Tech/B.E. External assessment:
    • Also known as Semester exam.
    • Structured to pass maximum students.
    • These assessments or say Exams are not based on any Industry.
    • These are common for all Industry.
  • B.Tech/B.E Internal assessment:
    • Also known as sessional or Internal exams
    • Specific to a particular topic but prime focus is to prepare students for Semesters.
    • Again, these are common for all industry
  • Entrance Exam (Competitive Exams):
    • Either for Mtech like GATE or for Training Institute.
    • Based on the maximum rejection. In general, Lakhs of students apply for such entrance exams and seats are limited. So maximum rejection is the criteria.
    • Again there are not specific to any Industry (even though people claim this)
  • M.Tech or M.E level assessment: Same as in case of B.Tech/B.E.(Maximum students should pass; No specific Industry oriented assessment)
  • Assessment during Training Program:
    • This is the one place, I can say it's specific to concepts and as per requirement. But nowadays it's also changing it's face.
    • Institutes promised for Job assistance or sometime 100% placement to various candidates. They can't place everyone because of N number of reasons, so they have to increase the level of assessment (difficulty wise) compare to Industry requirement. It helps them in screening candidates.
    • Institutes focuses on the practical aspect, so their assessment is also based as per that. They can't assess students for fundamentals and basics.

What's Missing here? Everyone know about these assessment technique. :) If you try to look more closely, you will find ...

  1. Not a single assessment is Industry Oriented.
  2. There are different purpose for each assessment, either rejection or selection or screening candidates.
  3. Based on these assessment techniques, no one can/should claim that "I am Industry Ready".

Now the point is "How to develop Industry Oriented Assessment". As per my understanding, assessment should have following features. In case, it's not fulfilling, assessment become general and can't claim it as Industry oriented.

  1. Industry requirement based:
    • Understand the Industry requirement
    • Understand each and every profile
    • Develop the assessment as per requirement and profile
    • Should not target 2 or more Industries at a time
    • It will be good, if it's developed by Industry person or thoroughly reviewed by them
  2. Coverage should be 100%:
    • Should cover all required topics and concepts.
    • Every concept is going to be used one day or other. Before applying for a job, candidates should know their strong area. Same goes to hiring person also. They should also know the weak and strong area of a candidate.
    • No need to add unnecessary topics or concepts as a part of assessment (just to increase the length of assessment)
  3. Properly Linked with Feedback mechanism
    • Assessment should be linked with feedback mechanism.
    • If we want to improve the performance of a candidate through assessment, then assessment should be thorough and well planned. It should be very well documented and divided into sections, subsections and if required deeper level of hierarchy.
    • Should have all level of questions (easy to difficult). Remember ...
      • In the case of only difficult questions, assessment turns into rejection-based-assessment.
      • In the case of only easy questions, assessment turns into passing-based-assessment.
    • If we want to select or reject based on assessment, it should be as per Industry requirement in terms of skill sets, concepts, knowledge or even level of questions.
      • Industry always want to know strength of a candidate, so that they can utilize their strengths for productive work.
      • Industry is also interested to know weakness of a candidate, so that they don't plug him/her in wrong project.
      • Remember, Industry never select based on Strength or reject based on Weakness. They select or reject based on match/mismatch of requirements Vs strengths.


Feedback Mechanism:
  • After B.Tech/B.E External assessment:
    • Final Score (e.g B Grade or 75% Marks)
  • After B.Tech/B.E Internal assessment:
    • Score along with some remarks from Lecturer or Professor
  • Entrance Exam:
    • The only percentile or say merit list (comparative report)
  • During M.Tech/M.E:
    • Final Score (e.g B Grade or 75% Marks)
  • During Training Program:
    • Score along with remarks from Trainer or Certificate in the end

Nothing is unknown to anyone. If you see closely, few of these are not even in the category of feedback. They are part of evaluation system. But I am highlighting these as a part of feedback because there is no other system in our education (or say career path) apart of these few. You may not be able to understand my point. :) Let me first highlight the features of Ideal Feedback mechanism.

  • Detailed and Appropriate.
    • It should highlight the strength and weak area of candidate. (Just highlighting good and bad with the help of score is not a feedback)
    • General remarks and specific remarks are two different things.
    • It should be detailed enough to appropriately highlight all gaps.
  • What next?
    • Feedback should be in such a way that it give direction for Next step.
    • If I am not sure how to use this feedback, there is no point of such feedback.
  • Should be fast enough (Instant feedback is best). If you are getting feedback after few weeks or so, it loses impact.

When we are talking about VLSI Industry, instant, proper, specific feedback lacks bigtime. Think about a scenario where you get detailed feedback about your performance and also get a chance to improve on your weak areas. That will help big time before you claim to be Industry Ready.

Above figure explain about the effort Vs score in different feedback mechanism. This can help you to understand what I am talking about. If feedback is instant and to-the-point, there are chances that I can improve on my weak areas in runtime(less time). But if it takes time, I have to spend more effort, energy, time to work on provided feedback.

Let me share few figures/charts for detailed and appropriate feedback. I will also explain how to interpret these.

Feedback Type 1: Topic Wise Performance Chart
  • It helps you to identify how good you are in a particular topic.
  • Total questions Vs Correct Vs Wrong, all information is present in a single chart.
  • It will also help you to identify your weak concepts.
    • E.g. Designing a "Latch using Mux" Vs "Flip-flop using Mux" Vs "Circuit realization using MUX". All are related to MUX but these are different concepts.
    • If, I provide a feedback that "your MUX is not good", you have to study complete MUX from scratch.
    • but if, I highlight the statistic in above fashion, it helps you big time to focus on a particular concept within MUX.
  • It helps you to understand pre-requisite of VLSI Industry.
    • You may not give importance to "Flip-flop using MUX" but after such feedback you can realize the importance of this concept.
    • Also helps you in terms of weightage of different concepts from VLSI industry point of view.

Feedback Type 2: Section wise Performance Analysis
  • It helps you to identify how good you are in a particular section.
  • These sections help to identify the Job profile.
    • Like If your Timing concepts are good, you should choose STA profile.
    • Not performing in Analog Section, means not recommended for Analog Design profile.
    • If Programming skills are not good, avoid Frontend side
  • So, these section's statistic helps you to identify your focus area. And sometimes can recommend your career path also.
  • In this Analysis, there are 3 areas (Total questions, question attempted and correct answer).
    • You have attempted some questions - that means as per your understanding those are your strong areas.
    • But such analysis points out that something is missing in those areas also. It may be because of some silly mistakes, over confidence, lack of fundamental knowledge or something else.
  • Such report helps to understand the weightage of different sections in VLSI industry.
    • Helps in time management during revision.
    • Helps to identify the effort level for a particular section.

Feedback Type 3: Overall performance
  • It helps "how good you are in general".
  • It's equivalent to final score (41/100) but mentally it's impact is different.
  • If any employer see this report, they have the opportunity to see "how much is the correct % out of attempted one". :)
  • Sometime such report works as a mirror. There are possibilities that you are running behind something which is not your cup of Tea.:)

Feedback Type 4: Average Statistic
  • It helps a user to understand "how good or bad he/she is compared to other candidates".
  • 56% unattempted and if you are also in that category, means you are not unique. :). If, you learn these topic or concepts, you can be one step ahead of others.
  • Only 19% are able to solve correctly. If you are one of them, means you are on the right track.
  • Such data helps a candidate to know their current level of preparation compared to others.
  • It can also help you to visualize where you stand compare to others.

Proper Assessment & Detailed Feedback

I am sure, by now you are good and understand the Ideal Assessment and Feedback mechanism.

It's time to understand how we can integrate Assessment and Feedback in a very effective way.

Feedback and assessment both are interlinked. If we know what type of feedback analysis we have to do and of what level, only then we can prepare/develop a proper and effective Assessment. Let me summarize this article with some pointer which also answers our initial question What is "Proper Assessment with Detailed Feedback"?
  • For highlighting correct weightage of different topic/sections in VLSI field (using feedback mechanism), assessment can't have unnecessary questions.
    • Assessor or developer should have thorough knowledge about the VLSI Industry. Preference goes to Industry experts or someone who already worked in the Industry for several years.
    • Assessor or developer should know what are the perquisites of a specific profile of VLSI Industry.
    • Assessor or developer should have good understanding of different sections, subsections, topics, concepts. It's not just randomly select few questions related to different sections/topics.
  • Level of question should be as per Industry Standard
    • Assessment is not for rejecting candidates for XYZ factor. Assessment should aim to screen the right skilled candidate.
    • Difficult level should not be above the standard because it may filter out right candidates.
    • Difficult level should not be below the standard because it adds one more level of screening process.
  • Assessment and Feedback both should help candidates for improvement
    • Assessment for screening or filtering candidates are almost without any feedback
    • Assessment should be designed to first highlight improvement area and it's only possible with detailed feedback.
    • Feedback should be in such a way that "What Next" is clear. For that assessment should be designed in a very different way.

In the last, just wanted to add one thing... VLSI students are not able to understand the importance of assessment today, they think training and courses are sufficient for them to get a job. But Remember, if you don't know where you stand and how much you are capable, you can't get success in your life.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important that fear.

Franklin D Roosevelt

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