Objective Exams

Objective Exams

Objective exams began years ago as easy-to-grade, true-false types; they went through the matching and short-answer (one- and two-word) types, and then blossomed out unbelievably. Now it is possible to construct objective exams which will do amazing things, even testing your ability to think!

  1. The major features of all types of objective exams are:
    1. To cover a lot of ground quickly.
    2. To test many things at one time — reading speed, accuracy, vocabulary, comparisons, contrasts, factual knowledge and, into higher levels, your ability to think clearly and critically, even about new material.
    3. To identify soft spots in a course so it can be improved.
    4. To obtain a series of grades from high to low, along a “continuum”—the well-known distribution curve, bell-shaped, with many C’s in the middle, B’s and D’s to the sides of the C’s, and A’s and Fs at the tapering ends. A typical bell-curve has 50 % C’s, 20% B’s, 20% D’s, 5% A’s, and 5% Fs. There are variations, such as 10% A’s, 25% B’s, 40% C’s, 18% D’s, and 7% Fs. The exact duplication of a typical curve is seldom found in practical cases. »As the student moves into advanced courses over the years, the typical distribution curve is usually left behind.
  2. What are the reasons for objective exams being so common?
    1. They are easy to grade.
    2. They can be employed widely and used year after year to establish a standard.
    3. They are fair, because the grader is not biased or vacillating.
    4. With a time limit, they can identify the too-slow examinee.
  3. How does one prepare for objective exams?
    1. Thorough knowledge of all parts of an assignment is necessary,
      since an objective exam can cover so much territory.
    2. Cross-filed information is very helpful; knowing a subject by rote memory is not enough — each thing should have several connecting relationships (several flags set up on the field, to the use the previous analogy).
    3. A rested mind is probably more precious than a bonus of 10% free answers!
    4. Timing in advance study was important, and now timing in the objective exam is important, too. You cannot read over all the questions before starting, as you can in the essay exam. But you can time yourself so you are neither left far behind at the end nor finished too early.
  4. Here are some practical “tricks” in dealing with objective exams:
    1. Find out exactly how much time you have, in minutes. Calculate the time you should spend on each question, or each five questions. Take all the time you are entitled to.
    2. Put off answering the hard ones, but mark them in the margin. It is far better to go slowly and get the right answers, than to answer all questions. This is especially true if the examiner plans to take double off for “wrongs.”
    3. Where a paragraph is first given to be read, read it through. Do not try to jump down to the questions and back-track each question to the paragraph above; this would mean reading the same paragraph too many times.
    4. If there are 5 “foils” (choices), read each one down the line. Cross out the number in front of every definitely wrong foil. This narrows the field of choice. If in doubt, you stand a better chance of guessing from among 2 or 3 than among 5!
    5. Read all 5 foils, even when an early one of them seems to be a pretty logical answer: Sometimes the fifth foil says, “Two of the above,” or “All of the above.” Taking the first “right” answer may be wrong.
    6. Where one portion of an exam (a diagram or a long question to be analyzed) involves 8 or 10 numbered answers, it is almost vital that you go very slowly in examining the “situation” dealing with the eight or ten items. If you should make a bad blunder, due to haste, you might miss every single one.
    7. There is a popular notion that one’s first guess is bound to be his best. This does not always hold. true. That it generally holds true is not good enough if you need all the points you can get. Where you were a little hesitant, mark the margin of the paper and come back if you have time.
    8. Compulsive behavior sometimes runs away with a student. Compulsions are urges to do something — anything! — rather than plod thoughtfully through. One has to reach a decision some time, of course, but there are no prizes for finishing early! Your physical condition may tip you toward compulsive behavior and away from calm, rational behavior due to fatigue, hunger, discomfort, etc. Prevent these compulsions by thinking ahead.
    9. While the objective type of exam does not allow enough time, as a rule, to read through the whole exam twice, you might glance through it, and find one section that is obviously going to be time-consuming. Allow for it; all questions are not exactly the same in the time they require.
    10. Probably it will steady you down to realize this: Everyone is going to miss questions. The persons who keep from getting jittery over a number of missed ones, and go on with a confident spirit probably will come out on top. Do not “blow the exam” by imagining that all is lost, just because you missed what seems to be a large number. The others may be missing the same hard ones with you. The sliding scale, used in dividing up the curve into A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s, may help you if you work in harmony with it. Each question obviously has an answer; the answer is obviously one of those given.

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