Friday, September 25, 2009

Test Taking Strategies

I am in the process of grading some tests and I was struck by how many people are having problems not only with the material (this always happens), but also how many are just not answering questions.

Here are some things that I can offer as suggestions:
  • Read the instructions! For example, if I am giving short answer type questions, I always include the words "using complete sentences" in the instructions. Many professors will take off points if they ask for sentences and get fragments. Likewise, for true/false questions, I always ask for people to write out "true" or "false". This way I don't get a letter that is a combination of a T and an F.
  • Answer the questions as asked. When a question asks "Discuss xxxxxxx", what the professor is looking for is NOT a list. For example, if I asked "Discuss three sandwiches", I wouldn't expect the answer would be "peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, eggplant". If I simply wanted three answers, I would likely say something like "List three sandwiches" or "Name three sandwiches". When a professor asks a student to "discuss" or "describe", they are looking for more information.When a professor asks "compare and contrast X and Y", this is going to require two separate parts to your answer. First should be a comparison of X and Y (how they are similar) and second should be contrasting of X and Y (how they are different). If I asked you to compare and contrast baseball and football, the correct answer would not be a definition of baseball, followed by a definition of football. Instead, a correct answer would include a comparison (for example, baseball and football are both team sports, both are played in stadiums, etc), followed by contrasting (while baseball has nine players on the field at a time from one team, football has eleven, baseball uses a circular ball that is struck with a bat while football uses an oblong ball that is thrown and kicked).

  • Be on time and ready to go! If you get there on time, you will get your choice of seat and have the chance to relax before the test starts. I remember I was 45 minutes late for a final once, and I was overly stressed for that reason. I personally also schedule tests to have a set time frame, for example, one hour. If a student shows up 30 minutes late, they now have only 30 minutes to complete the test. Also, take care of any bathroom-type business before the test starts. Many professors do not allow bathroom breaks during tests, because there is potential for cheating.
Going to head back to do some more grading, but I wanted to put this information out there.

No comments: