"good test taker"

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by strantor, Jul 6, 2012.

  1. strantor

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    I heard that term a lot in High School and never really thought about it. I had forgotten all about it, but now that I'm in college, I'm hearing it again and it's making me think. Is there some different skill set or strong point that enables some people to do better on tests than others, with equal knowledge? As far as I can see, a test is a measure of knowledge, and if you perform poorly on it compared to your peers then that means you are less knowledgeable than your peers for whatever reason.

    The only thing I can think of is maybe the way people handle stress. Some may be very knowledgeable but due to lack of confidence they become stressed about the test and perform poorly on it. Is that what people are referring to if they say "I'm just not a good test taker"? Or might there be more to the story?
     
  2. #12

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    To the best of my knowledge, yes.
    Having always been able to hyper-focus, and a top-of-the-class kind of braniac, I never had those problems. I'm sure that someone who has had such an experience will be more able to tell you about it. My lack of experience with this problem leaves me with little understanding and no inventory of the popular theory behind why some people can't perform in a formal test setting.
     
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  3. strantor

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    I'm sort of in the same boat with you, hence why I don't get it either. In HS I barely did any homework; the A's on all my tests offset all the 0's & 20's on my homework assignments. I made A's on tests even while frequently sleeping in class or being stoned, or both. I usually ended up with a 70-75 final grade in all my classes. I was labeled a "good test taker" and I didn't think critically about, or fight the term. My reply was usually something along the lines of "Yeah I'm a good test taker; must suck to be you."

    Now that I'm putting effort into my schooling and making sacrifices to study and strive for the 4.0 GPA, the term seems almost derogatory. Like others write off my success by attributing it to some fluke ability to take a test well, and not give credit for the hours I spent neglecting my family and my sleep to earn that grade.
     
  4. #12

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    D***! Same here. When I was 7 years old and my third grade teacher wanted to hear that our planet is round, I told her that recent satellite measurements showed a 600 mile difference in circumference with the southern hemisphere being the larger one. Ten years later, on the last day of high school (which I slept through), I asked if she had verified my answer. She had not.

    When I went to college, I decided on earning just enough grades to stay on the Honor Roll. That was tough enough when you consider I was working to pay my way by riding a bicycle to school and to work. You might want to lower your standards if you prefer to stay married for the next 4 years.

    There is also the theory that employers don't want a 4.0 employee because it shows a lack of social ability. I fooled 'em. I "wasted" the time required for the difference between 3.5 and 4.0 by working to pay the rent instead of having a social life.
     
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  5. JoeJester

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    Good test taker? I don't think so. Some with great memories may not put forth the effort that some with lesser retention skills. Vocabulary skills and actually reading the questions and answers prior to selecting the best choice can also play a part.

    I've known former test writers who passed a test just based on the mechanics of test construction that they knew.

    Taking practice tests can make someone a better test taker as any anxiety they suffer can be eased.

    The reality is there may be a different definintion for "good test taker" characteristics as there are people on this planet. +"good test taker" +"characteristics" produces about 93000 results on google.

    Some that I thought were interesting include:

    Text Anxiety at http://www.wvup.edu/Academics/more_test_anxiety_tips.htm

    Dear Abby at http://www.videtteonline.com/index....-my-exams&catid=43:viewpointcolumns&Itemid=56

    Tips on what makes a successful test-taker at http://ezinearticles.com/?Tips-on-What-Makes-a-Successful-Test-Taker&id=2774191

    Training a good test taker at http://www.showandtellforparents.com/wfdata/frame156-1002/pressrel38.asp
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
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  6. magnet18

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    HAHA, strantor and #12, I'm in the same boat.
    Matter CAN be destroyed dangit, look at the atomic bomb, conversion of matter to energy. Not to mention relativity, as you approach the speed of light you shift from matter to energy
    Only my chem teacher ever believed me, I liked him

    Anyway, I think there IS such a thing as a good test taker (which I am)
    I passed I can't tell you how many spanish tests just by recognizing the patterns used by the company making the books and tests, and our teachers subconsious habits of stressing the same phrases
    If theres ___ word in the quesstion then the right answer contains ____ phrase, etcetera

    Thinking well under pressure helps too, I once fell asleep in a chem final (and a spanish final for that matter :p) and woke up with 40 problems left and 20 minutes... finished with 3 minutes left and got an almost perfect score (think I might have set the curve as #1...) :D
    Just graduated highschool with a 4.0 GPA never studying and doing all my homework in passing periods (excluding AP chem and a little bit in AP US history)
     
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  7. strantor

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    So maybe pattern recognition, whether it be conscious or subconscious, can give one an advantage. It's certainly likely for multiple choice tests, but on other types, like essay questions, you pretty much have to know the material.

    Aren't IQ tests largely pattern recognition? So are we saying that "being smart" equates to being "a good test taker"?
     
  8. MrChips

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    There are some strategies that can help in tests that may work for some people.
    Firstly, there is the physical and psychological preparation but I wouldn't go into that.
    (I see some folks cramming while waiting to enter the exam room. My feeling is if you haven't learned it by now then forget it.)

    During the actual test:

    1. Read the entire test paper completely first.
    2. Write down how much time you will allocate to each question. Allow about 10-15 minutes to review at the end.
    Do not spend more than your allotted time.
    3. Do the short questions first, e.g. multiple choice answers.
    4. Do the easy questions next.
    5. Tackle the difficult questions last.
    6. Review your written work, equations and calculations.
    7. Some people say do not review the multiple choice answers. Your first guess was probably the correct answer (this one is debatable).
     
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  9. magnet18

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    Pattern recognition and remembering things in chunks (like phrases) can get you through multiple choice, short answer, and sometimes free response.
    It my AP.USH (us history) class, for the essay questions, as long as you dropped a bunch of the key terms in a way that pretty much made sense,you were good to go (which I guess required knowing the key terms, but you didn't need full comprehension)

    AFAIK, no one uses those anymore, and there isn't even an official one to take, they weren't truly useful for more than a rough guess of a persons true intelligence.
    We took them (online) in school once, and I got "below average", while lots of kids who definitely weren't geniuses were getting genius level results.
    course that coulda been just a crappy test, but it does say something
     
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  10. Sparky49

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    Half the problem with tests here is that they don't ever seem to test what subject you are taking.

    Maths has a special habit atm of twisting every question so only someone who studies English at Cambridge will be able to decipher it. Kinda irritating, but that's life, I suppose.

    Physics irritates me because you must show workings to get full marks. Like I plucked the frequency of the sound wave at 314.6373 Hz (correct answer) out of the air. That irritates me too - if I got the right answer, surely I must have done the right calculations.

    Saying that, physics is easier compared to the twisted questions in maths. Just test me on the flippin' maths, if I wanted to be tested on English, I'd have taken English!
     
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  11. strantor

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    When I was homeschooled, around 7th grade, my mom ordered an IQ test for me. I took it and she scored it per the instructions and according to that test my IQ was 154. I wrote that off immediately. I figured I was above average, but definitely not in the genius column. Since then I don't have much faith in IQ tests. recently I read a little bit about what the IQ number actually means, and it's almost as convoluted as tax law. Actually I'm not sure how these online and paper tests given to a single individual are supposed to give you a number at all, as the number represents where you fall on a bell curve compared to all the other people who were a part of your sample group. In a sample group of one, where do you fall?

    I don't know what test MENSA uses, but there's definitely a test to get into that club.
     
  12. strantor

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    This was my rule in High school. On multiple choice tests, we would use a scantron card, and I would put little dots by the questions I was unsure of, and continue on with the test, hoping that something in one of the following questions would remind me of the correct answer. Then I would go back and read the question again; if I now knew the correct answer, I would change it. If I did not, I would leave it the same - no second guessing. When I changed my answer, I usually got it wrong, and when I left it the same, I usually got it right. I usually had very accurate estimate of my exam grade, by counting up all my dots and figuring that I got half of those questions wrong.
     
  13. steveb

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    It is more than a measure of knowledge, just as a sports game is more than a measure of skill. It is a competition, whether we want to acknowledge it, or not. A test measures your knowledge, you confidence, your preparedness and your mental state at the time. In addition, it measures your ranking among your peers.

    Even good test takers have good days and bad, just like good athletes have on days and off days.

    Maybe another person would want to make comparisons to performance art, like dance or music, and I think that would apply well also. However, I have more experience with sports and academics, so I make that comparison.

    When people are under stress (or have any sort of fear), there is the well known flight/fight response. A person with confidence and a firm sense of preparedness, will turn forward and fight, and will actually perform better under the adrenaline boost. A person without the confidence will turn away and run, and go into a panic mode. A good test taker is one would is able to do the former more often, and avoids the latter most of the time.

    If you have the knowledge, feel that you have prepared as well as you can and feel that you deserve to do well, then you will test well. It's pretty much as simple as that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2012
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  14. WBahn

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    Like some of the others that have responded, I would have to say that I have always been a "good test taker", but for me that basically consists of the following:

    1) I have never walked into a test stressed over the test itself, even on the handful of occasions when I knew I was ill prepared. My attitude was always, "I either know it or I don't and all I can do is the best I can do."

    2) I always try, where possible, to demonstrate what I do know rather than try to outguess the person that wrote the test (and there is certainly risk involved here). But I figure that the person that wrote the exam did so in an effort to discover what concepts and skills you have acquired more so than just can you get a particular answer to a particular problem. Thus, even if I have no idea what is actually being asked for, I will state assumptions that will let me tackle, or at least set up, the problem as best I can. I generally find that this gets significant partial credit because I was able to demonstrate many of the skills and knowledge being sought, just not enough to put it altogether for the problem as given -- and sometimes that isn't so much a knowledge/skills deficiency but rather just not interpretting the question from the same perspective as the person that wrote it.

    3) If the answer isn't obvious to me (or at least what the problem is asking for isn't obvious), then I will ask for clarification if I can and write notes in the margin if I can't. I had one occasion where the point of the problem was to see if I understood that a particular issue was actually an issue in that problem. But I was running out of time and so I simply stated that I was assuming a particular thing and proceeded to solve the problem, with a note saying that the answer needed to be checked to verify that such-and-such wasn't an issue. Well, the assumption I made was not valid, but the verification would have shown it had I had time to do it. I got full credit on the problem (not sure I would have given full marks, but I didn't complain).

    4) As far as specific test strategies, mine are pretty much along the lines of what others have mentioned. Skim the entire test quickly (no more than a minute or two) to get a feel for how long it is and the kinds of things you will need to do. Then pick the lowest hangind fruit - high-value problems that you know how to solve efficiently and then any questions you are confident you can get right immediately. The go for high-value problems that you are pretty sure you can at least set up correctly and, if time is getting tight, set them up and move on. Getting three problems well set up will usually garner you more credit than solving one completely and leaving two completely blank -- but sometimes that's not true; take whatever you know about how that instructor tends to grade tests into account.

    5) On multiple guess questions, I answer the ones I know immediately and cross out answers that I immediately know are wrong on the others. Then I go back and try to eliminate more of the distractors. In the case of numerical answers, sometimes the distractors are far enough apart that doing a quick mental estimate will get you an answer that is good enough to let you confidently choose the final answer or, if nothing else, at least nominate the most-likely guess.

    6) If the exam has multiple-guess and other types of questions, I leave the multiple-guess ones where I still have multiple possible answers to choose from until the very end, particularly if, as is usually the case, each individual multiple-guess question counts for a small amount compared to the other types. Then, faced with a "time's up" call, I go through and mark 'B' for any question for which it is still first among equals and then down the line from there. In other words, if I only have A, C and D left, I'll choose C. Most exam writers don't pay a lot of attention to the distribution of correct responses and so tend to have distractors as the first and last answer more often than expected from a truly random distribution. Similarly, then tend to make B the correct answer more so than C and on down the line. Even if the person pays attention to their distribution and takes steps to randomly distribute the correct answers, this strategy will not hurt you. If the writer knows that most tests have this skew, then of course they can skew theirs the other way to punish people following this type of strategy, but my guess is that very few would bother.


    On a side note, my high school class valedictorian, who got straight A's taking almost every AP course the school offered and then went on to get straight A's in the Physics program at a tough college, was anything but a stress-free test taker. She would literally leave a test as soon as it was over and run to the bathroom to throw up as often as not, even though she usually aced the test. She could perform under pressure, but she had problems coping with it emotionally.
     
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  15. magnet18

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    wbahn, well written, and #2 brings up a good point. There is more to a test than the person taking it and the material covered, the person writing each question and the correct answer, and the person grading it, have a huge impact. For example, there have been many times when I know the ACTUAL right answer, but know that I have to put the answer that they're LOOKING FOR
    i've always hated it
    Hopefully college is different :p

    (as for your side note, women are interesting in this aspect. From my experience, men usually have a stress induced fight or flight response, and if it ain't one of those two, we ain't doing it. Women are more likely to look for another way out or a different solution. Sometimes this works well, though I can't think of an example. IMO, it usually dosent, like if you're fighting a bear or taking a test. There are no other ways out in tests, you either attach the test or you stare at it, as a result many women panic and bomb tests (not all, but a large portion) then they get all stressed afterword and worry about their weight or hair or something like that and try to fix it with icecream and chocolate
    A girlfriend has definitely taught me that women have emotional issues in general *shrug*
     
  16. #12

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    Women function in ways that I just don't undertand.
    Sure, age and wisdom have taught me a lot. Some ploys, I can see right through. Some reactions, I actually understand, even some that are purely emotion driven.
    But there are always things going on with females that I simply can't understand.
    I talked to two females tonight (both of them married to friends of mine). One, I respect. Seriously, I've known her for 30 years and she is among the 3 sanest people I have ever known. The other is a complete mystery to me. I don't refuse to talk to women but I know there will be things they do that I will just have to pretend to understand. Nod, say, "Uh-huh", and let her imagine that I care.

    Self-defeating (in a test situation) by emotional distress is one of those things that will never make sense to me, especially if she is well prepared, like that test acer at the end of post#14. The closest I can come to understanding is to know that a female always has an emotional factor in the equation. No matter if I think it's stupid or irrelevant. It's important to her. She will respond to it.
     
  17. magnet18

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    Yea, they usually put emotions in things that are unnecessary.
    (they usually put unnecessary emotions in EVERYTHING)
    women are emotional
    *shrug*
     
  18. THE_RB

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    I think "good test taker" is something of an insult. It looks like the implication is that they know the work better than you, but you beat them on the test just because you are a "good test taker".

    Like the guy that came last at the Olympics mouthing off at the Gold Medal winner; "Well, he's just a good test taker". ;)
     
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  19. BSomer

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    Kind of along this train of thought... I was once told in an interview "Good grades only mean you know how to take a test". I felt a little insulted by that comment. I feel that I put a lot of effort in maintaining my grades while working two jobs. I do believe that my efforts have paid off though, graduating with a GPA of 3.95 and Valedictorian.
     
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  20. Sparky49

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    I must say that there certainly is a 'knack' to doing some tests. Especially subjects which are more geared towards humanities, than the sciences.

    I found Geography, history, English, German really very easy because there's a definite structure and way the examiners want you to answer. Don't get me wrong, I did well in maths and science, but the other subjects were just so easy for me, because I knew what the examiners wanted, and dished it out to them.
     
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