June 1st, 2008

I pass the test

Oh BOY, am I glad I am out of school.

The venerable London Times has an article about the dumbest questions ever asked of students taking any number of British qualifications, from high school to tech qualifications or the graduating exams for hoity-toity Oxford colleges. I'm not sure how long that link is going to stay up, but here a handful of favourites:

National Curriculum Shakespeare tests for 14-year-olds, 2003.

“In Twelfth Night, Malvolio does not like people to have fun and enjoy themselves. Imagine you are a modern-day Malvolio, in charge of preventing any sort of fun or enjoyment at your school.

You are going to talk in assembly about why three of the following things should not be allowed in school: chips in the canteen, jokes, smiling, pupils enjoying their work, singing/music, games/sports.

Write what you are going to say in assembly.”

[What moron thought this one up? Write a treatise on why you would ban pupils from enjoying their work? I mean... what?!?]

Leeds University first year French exams, late 1980s to early 1990s.

“Set, write and mark your own question on any aspect of the course.”

[If you can do this, why bother sitting the damned exam? Aren't you, um, QUALIFIED already?...]

GCSE Information Computer Technology, 2008

Last week, a disgruntled GCSE pupil tipped off PC Pro magazine to some apparently ridiculous exam questions. The magazine had a go and were left stumped by vague questions and multiple choices with numerous correct answers. AQA, who set the test, insisted it was up to scratch.

But PC Pro thought otherwise, noting that one question displays five records from a database and asks "How many records are shown in this database table?".

"It's a test of whether you can count to five," quipped a staff member taking the test.

[No kidding. Count to five and you can write your very own database from scratch. No, REALLY.]

They asked readers to contribute their own weird and wonderful exam questions. This one (from someone named Laura in Washington DC) is my favourite, hands down:

On a final exam for a Buddhist theology class: "I am sitting at my desk. In front of me, I see a pad of paper and a pen. To my left is a desklamp, and to my right is a cup of coffee. I finish my coffee and upend the cup to trap a fly that has been bothering me. Explain the nature of the coffee cup."

carl_allery, were they channelling that damned story you read at Wiscon this year?