Posted by: CJ | April 15, 2010

Two Different Views on Tests

Two different views on tests.

My adviser doesn’t like it if no student gets a perfect score on a test he gives. He wants the upper bound to be achievable. He trusts that the class itself provided enough difficult material for the students to know that high performance on the test doesn’t mean you know everything. Because of large class sizes, the test scores are important for assigning even semi-meaningful grades. As a result, the test questions may require some creativity, but ultimately are fairly close to material seen in class. If the students can figure out how to apply it.

It’s all a stark contrast to one of my favorite undergrad professors. He didn’t like it when a student scored a perfect score on a test he created. He wanted them to be stretched to their limits, and to be reminded that the material in the course was only the beginning. Put that way, it sounds more harsh than it was. Everything on the test was based on course material, but it would be combined in new ways, or applied to a new application. Since class sizes were smaller, he could give hard tests to challenge the students without the tests utterly dominating the final grades. So the tests could be soul-crushing in the sense of testing your knowledge, but the judgment rendered was more personal and less grades.

I liked the second approach. Low pressure tests to challenge my creativity and show me new things. But it’s interesting to learn about an alternative viewpoint.

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