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    #156408 - 05/12/13 12:54 PM I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing
    QT3.1414 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/09/13
    Posts: 63
    Greetings to all,

    I really need some advice here.

    I am a PG (iq of 170) 23 year-old college graduate who loves writing troubadour lyrics, reading, and researching vociferously in various topics. My interests include working out mathematics proofs, learning quantum mechanics, and studying medieval literature in the original language (namely old Occitan).

    I always got extremely bored in grade school and college amidst the tedium and busy work. I love writing papers and coming up with new ideas-which definitely got me in trouble with multiple choice tests.

    As an individual with a savant-like memory, I always have trouble on MC test questions for subjects such as neuroscience, government, or psychology because I always unwittingly argue for and against each response. I have miniature essays in the marginalia because of how much I know and scribble out for each MC response from a-d. My ability to recall tremendous amounts of information (ever since I can remember) impinges upon my ability to obtain a correct response; I am unsure of what the professor/teacher sought/seeks--two of the answers always seem correct. I don't even know what to do anymore.

    I didn't do well on the English MC section of the GRE either because I over-thought every single question--even though I managed perfect scores on the written section. As such, I need to re-take the exam.

    What in the world is wrong with me? Is this common for gifted individuals to have this much trouble taking MC tests in certain subjects? Does this happen to others as well?

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    #156410 - 05/12/13 01:03 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    HowlerKarma Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    YES-- my DD has this trouble, too.

    It's the major problem we've had with her virtual school, in fact. Some subjects just seem to be more ripe for subjectivity this way, too-- her very worst problems are in the social sciences, the arts, and literature. Anything where analysis is part of the discipline, because you kind of have to know what level to STOP at.

    She has a horrible time getting that right. It's okay if she knows the person who wrote the assessment-- presumably she knows what they were thinking about-- but on standardized/anonymous instruments, it. is. bad.

    _________________________
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

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    #156411 - 05/12/13 01:39 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    Dbat Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/12
    Posts: 353
    I have had this problem in the past, although not to the extent you have--probably because I am much less gifted and so fewer alternatives present themselves in my mind, which I guess here might be an advantage wink And I think that is kind of the trick--getting a sense of what alternatives the test (author) is looking for, and it's easier if you have a way of getting in that mind-frame. Fortunately with the GRE there are probably a number of test prep books to choose from--and you wouldn't need these to master the material, of course, but rather to get a sense of what answers they want. Some test preps are better than others in how well they represent the test itself, so I think the best thing would be if you can get actual old tests with answers and try to figure out the pattern. I did this with the LSAT and the bar exam and it really helped, although I still had a number of questions that came down to 2 good alternatives, but if you can cut that number of questions down you might do well enough. Good luck!

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    #156415 - 05/12/13 02:43 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    Mk13 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 07/20/12
    Posts: 761
    I used to really struggle with this too. I am far from your level of giftedness but I had horrible time with these at first. I did not take my first MC test until I was a Junior in high school (as an exchange student in the US). Until then I grew up with open ended questions, test questions that simply asked for the right answer and either you knew it or not, and essay type of questions. When I first started taking MC tests it was horrible. I felt like I had a ton of reasons to find almost every option a possibility under certain conditions. The more I thought about the answers, the deeper I got into it and simply ended up lost! I still remember failing my first MC test (American History) because I just couldn't find the right answers! If the test had directly asked "what year did ... happen?" or "who fought at ...?" I would had been able to spit out the answer right away! But seeing multiple choices just made me think that ALL of them were possible!

    Then I found my own strategy. I took advantage of the type of testing I grew up with where we simply had to know all the topics covered at school in and out and figured that this should be EASY! I KNOW the answers! I don't need the choices! I learned to NOT look at the choices. I read the question and without looking at the answers in my mind I fill in the blank / answer and only then I look at the choices to see if my answer is one of them. Usually it is. When it's not than I need to think about the choices. But even then you can just dismiss the most ridiculous ones and think about the ones that are left. These days when I need to take MC tests, I know that unless the question is worded poorly (which unfortunately happens quite a lot!) I will get the correct answer without having to think twice.


    Edited by Mk13 (05/12/13 02:43 PM)

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    #156418 - 05/12/13 03:09 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    HowlerKarma Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    MK13, that is the same strategy that DD finds works best for her.

    Usually one of the answers is a simplification/variant of her (mental) answer.



    She's also found that just relaxing and enjoying the amusement of the "chicken-brain" answer or two is a good strategy because it prevents her from getting in too deep. That's my hypothesis, anyway-- that doing a reality check using those really out-there wrong answers is a good idea. They wouldn't be there if some of the target test-takers didn't go for them, YK? That really helps to keep perspective on the correct "level" to be thinking about the questions.

    _________________________
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

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    #156420 - 05/12/13 04:07 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    QT3.1414 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/09/13
    Posts: 63
    Hello MK,

    Thanks so much for your advice--this does seem very effective and I will have to give it a try =] That does seem like it caters to advanced levels of analysis.

    DBat,

    thanks for your input as well; I will certainly give this a shot. I am so glad to hear this from other intelligent individuals with similar experiences =]

    HowlerKarma,

    I really appreciate your feedback as well. For the longest time I imagined I was unintelligent or simply lacking in critical thinking because I could not "perform" as well as I desired on tests like the SAT,ACT, or GRE.

    As a teenager and young adult, I could speak three languages, switch from 13th century lexicon to 19th whilst attempting to recreate facsimiles,and learn Quantum Mechanics, yet I felt incompetent because of how I fared on standardized tests like the aforesaid ones. I felt "stupid" by these measurements in that colleges would view me as lacking. I never took AP tests because of my fear of these examinations and my overall lack of self-worth.

    Again, it means a lot to me to have other competent individuals--such as yourselves--to indicate that I am not alone in overcoming this dilemma.
    Thanks for your feedback!




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    #156430 - 05/12/13 05:42 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3290
    Loc: California
    I've thought a lot about standardized tests. I'm glad that you opened up this thread.

    One aspect of multiple choice (MC) tests that drives me demented is that they can't measure sophisticated thinking. This is because students typically have an average of 60-90 seconds to answer a question. With this approach, there is simply no room for asking students to think about ideas, be creative/make connections, and solve something. They can't; there's not enough time. So they measure trivial stuff instead.

    One thing I've observed is that the tests appear to compensate for the triviality by writing questions and answers in weird ways. This is especially the case on the verbal sections, and is more problematic now that analogies are gone from the SAT and GRE.

    As an example, getting the right answer will hinge on noticing that a single word in the question or answer choice has a specific meaning, yet could be read in a general way. They accomplish this by using weasel words, synonyms, and vagueness. In other words, they try to trick you. This where one can get into trouble: if you don't recognize what's happening, it's easy to start analyzing and over-analyzing. In the MC test world of thinking, this approach is foundational (IMO) because there isn't time to ask you to write a meaningful essay or prove that something is equal to something else. If you can't grade it by running an answer sheet through a Scantron machine, it won't appear on an American standardized test. This is due to our love of industrial solutions to non-industrial problems.

    Another point is that some of the questions in the verbal sections don't actually have bona fide correct answers. confused confused confused This explains why some of passages can be clearly understood, yet the questions can be very difficult. It also explains why the directions say select the BEST answer, not select the RIGHT answer. As a concrete example, see the notorious question 7 in the hare and pineapple passage.

    Some years back, the testing companies came under fire for writing ambiguous questions. Rather than writing questions with answers that were clearly correct, their solution was to change the wording of the directions to "select the BEST answer."

    You presumably know that the testing companies write questions and then test them on live tests (these are the unscored questions or sections). I don't know if this is true or not, but a commenter on the pineapple/hare debacle wrote that the "correct" answer for the ambiguous questions is the one that the most high-scoring students pick. Again, I don't know if this is true or not, but I've spent some time in the education area, and it certainly wouldn't surprise me if it were.

    Compare with these exams: Paper 1 and paper 2 of the Honours level Irish Leaving Certificate in 2012. Here's an English paper. These exams are graded by humans, not Scantrons, and the humans are typically academics (not low-wage people frantically reading SAT essays in two minutes or less with explicit instructions not to mark down for factual mistakes). Read this. It will make you feel better.



    Edited by Val (05/12/13 05:48 PM)
    Edit Reason: More detail added

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    #156442 - 05/12/13 07:18 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    QT3.1414 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/09/13
    Posts: 63
    Val thank you so much!

    This really made my entire night. The essays are hilarious!
    You are awesome! We as a society have much to learn about what encapsulates "learning."


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    #156447 - 05/12/13 08:18 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    HowlerKarma Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/05/11
    Posts: 5181
    Nah. I think that we just had much to 'forget' and we've made a good start on that.

    cry

    ETA: I just showed DD the most outrageous of those "perfect" SAT essays. She thought it was... awesome. A thing of amazing... well, something. Kind of like a bonfire of immense size. Or a black hole.

    And I quote;

    "I... can.. spout B.S. like a FIRE HYDRANT... and clearly, they. will. LOVE. IT."



    Edited by HowlerKarma (05/12/13 08:26 PM)
    _________________________
    Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't.

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    #156448 - 05/12/13 08:37 PM Re: I Really Need Advice on Multiple Choice Testing [Re: QT3.1414]
    QT3.1414 Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/09/13
    Posts: 63
    Howler Karma:
    i feel that the more knowledge you have and the more mental artillery you have in your cerebral armory the worse things are on the SAT.

    Has your daughter taken these tests before? What about you?

    I attended the Lycee Francois Mauriac my junior year in high school when I wanted to drop out of HS due to boredom.
    My parents thought the education system might keep me "in line" over there due to my slowly declining motivation for anything. It really was interesting and required an impressive knowledge base where gifted and academically inspired students can thrive if they so choose. There is no such thing as a MC test there.

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