Standardized testing.


A few weeks ago I registered to take the online qualifying test for Jeopardy.

Maybe like you, I have watched Jeopardy for years.

Maybe like you, members of my family have said, “You should be on this show.”

I was foolish enough to believe them.

I was scheduled for last night at 6PM.

I had written the entry password down somewhere, so the first job was to remember where I had put that slip of paper from two weeks ago. I went looking frantically around the house until Anne reminded me that I had put the number in my iCalendar. You would have thought my lack of memory about this would be a warning to me of what was to come.

Excited, I logged on at exactly 5:30, the earliest I could for my 6PM test. On the screen of my computer popped a timer counting down. With a half hour to go I went to check my email and Facebook and returned with about 4 minutes left on the clock.

With about 30 seconds left, the Jeopardy song began to play.

My heart started beating faster. Sweat erupted on my palms in spite of the Polar Vortex outside.

With five seconds left, the timer started jumping out at me for each second: Five – four – three – two – ONE!

My heart was pounding out of my chest.

I had 15 seconds to answer each question. NOT in the form of a question. 

Each new question was labeled with a category, but took me about five questions to realize this.

There were 50 questions. I absolutely had no idea what the answers were to ten. On about ten more, I knew I knew, but went completely blank.

To read the category, recall the answer and keyboard it in took almost the entire 15 seconds. There was no time to think about it.

At question 25 the phone rang. “Ahhhh!” I wasn’t going to answer it, but it was a total distraction for about three questions.

I can only recall two questions.  I was able to rearrange letters to spell “flounder,” and I knew that “this is the winter of our discontent” was from Shakespeare, but I had no idea which play. I guessed Macbeth.

Richard III.

I Googled later.

When I was done, the screen said that I would not be told how I did or what the correct answers were. In fact, it was likely that I would never hear from them again, unless I qualified. Which was highly unlikely.

A timed test of disconnected facts that require nothing more than quick recall and no immediate feedback.

Plus when I was done I felt completely stupid.

It brought back all my memories of being a student in school.

One thought on “Standardized testing.

  1. Fred.
    You are probably tired of hearing from me, but I had to share this with you given the topic of testing.

    The following is an actual question given on a University of Arizona chemistry midterm, and an actual answer turned in by a student.

    The answer by one student was so ‘profound’ that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well :
    Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

    One student, however, wrote the following:
    First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving, which is unlikely.. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different religions that exist in the world today.
    Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

    This gives two possibilities:
    1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
    2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

    So which is it?
    If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, ‘It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,’ and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

    The corollary of this theory is; that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct…. …leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting…
    ‘Oh my God.’

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