A SKELETON TEST
Want to get good at playing the piano? Practice.
Want to get higher scores on tests? Practice.
Here’s a “test” my colleague Karl Staubach made up to show how you can pull out answers from a test without knowing much at all. This skeleton test has hardly any content, so you have to use test-taking experience to guess the answers. In this “test” the game itself is clearly the subject, not history or calculus.
(Time Limit 15 Minutes)
1. What is the diameter of the circle in Figure (a)?
2. Develop an equation for apparent loss of elevation due to curvature of the Earth: express unknowns in terms of feet and miles; show your work.
3. How long does it take an inchworm to go a foot?
4. This statement is false. True/False
5. Unscramble the following words, one point for each answer.
a. TUTIWHO b. GRAINDE c. PANETRAP
d. MORNWICH e. RILACTIC
6. Blah ba blah blah because . . . ?
a. blah ba blah blah. b. blah blah ba blah c. blah ba blah ba blah,
blah, blah blah. d. blah ba blah ba blah.
7. Blah ba blah no blah . . . ?
a. blah not blah ba blah. b. no blah ba blah blah.
c. blah ba blah ba blah d. ba blah isn’t ba blah
8. Blah ba never blah ba blah. . . . ? True/False
9. Blah ba blah ba blah . . . ?
a. blah ba blah. b. blah blah ba.
c. blah: ½ blah. d. ba blah blah.
10. Unknowns in equations for the Earth’s curvature are usually expressed in
a. millimeters. b. feet and inches.
c. miles and feet. d. hundredths of inches.
Most people find out a little about hopscotch or poker before getting into the game. So
Mess around until you understand the game. Then
Rack up all the points you can. Then
Do the leftovers.
Use the test to answer the test.
10. You can get 14 points on this test, and if you browsed it, you’d have nailed Number 10 — because the answer is given away in Number 2. Score: 1 point
2. Also, for me, actually figuring out Number 2 looks like it would take a while, and I don’t think I know enough, so I’ll save it for last. I’m after points.
1. You could probably figure out Number 1, but if it makes you nervous, skip it for now. (If you don’t know what a diameter is, ask the person giving the test.) If you know what a diameter is, use the line that’s 6 long as your ruler to measure the diameter.
4. No one can answer Number 4. Test questions are often poorly written. Karl put this in as an example of that. If you have time left over, you could toss a coin and put a note in the margin, pointing out that it’s ambiguous.
3. In Number 3, the test-maker left out the inchworm’s rate of speed — how fast he’s going — so you’d have to raise your hand on that one, or put a note in the margin — or put in a silly answer, and put a note in the margin.
Answer all questions. You don’t get points for blanks.
5. The answers to all five scrambled words in Number 5 are on the test itself. For example, MORNWICH unscrambles as INCHWORM, which is in Number 3. This question is worth five points, so use the test to answer the test.
6. Often clues to the wanted answer are in the wording. In Number 6, there’s no content, so see if there’s a give-away in the answers. Um, hum, answer c is longer than a, b, and d, so go with the most different-looking answer. Also, when all else fails, choose third answer. It’s not fool-proof, but the third answer does come up as “correct” more often. Remember, this is a point game.
7. Again, only one answer in Number 7 stands out as different-looking, c. Answers a, b, and d all have negatives in them and c doesn’t. If you choose any of the others, you’d end up with two negatives and a messy sentence, maybe even a frowned-on double negative.
8. As you probably have noticed, teachers are not fond of making absolute statements. So in questions like Number 8, the answer is False. If a definite statement is the wanted answer, it will have been pounded in so much you will know that and will mark it TRUE anyway.
9. The gibberish in three of the four answers in Number 9 looks pretty much the same, but Answer c, blah: ½ blah, is different. Choose it.
Here’s the deal. If you don’t know anything but if you do know something about how tests are set up, you could pass this test with 11 out of 14. Not bad! Unless I’m into math, I’d miss Number 2, but I don’t care. I’m in this for points. Numbers 3 and 4 are hopeless, but they’re poorly written. I’d still put those notes in the margin; I might get something. Don’t be snotty, though; teachers have thin skins.
Like crossword puzzles, tests are full of information you can use to figure out answers. Think of tests as puzzles, do enough of them, and they can be more fun than crossword puzzles.