Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


A silver lining, I guess

File under: Those Who Can't. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 9:49 pm.

I spent all of today grading tests and quizzes, answering student emails (Needs-a-B got a D on the test, and I broke the news to her as gently as I could, though I still anticipate she’ll be in my office crying sometime later this week) and preparing my six and a half hours of classes tomorrow. Consequently, I did not have a chance to set this week’s precalculus test. Since it needs to be at the printers’ by tomorrow in order for me to have it by test day, I’m going to cobble together questions from the tests and exam I gave in the same course last term.

In theory, this gives my former students - the ones who took the same course with me last term, and failed - an unfair advantage.

In practice, however, it doesn’t.


  1. And just as I kept using the same questions over and over on relays, and =nobody= noticed — I’d be willing to bet that none of these students recognize the questions.

    - meep — 3/29/2005 @ 2:25 am

  2. Theory is a lot like practice, in theory. In practice, it isn’t. :)

    - ThatTallGuy — 3/29/2005 @ 4:10 am

  3. I’ve considered including the answers to each question on the test itself, just to see if it makes any difference.

    - Sanctimonious Hypocrite — 3/29/2005 @ 6:04 am

  4. I’ve recycled questions in this class before - that’s why I’m confident it won’t make a difference. My former students did no better than the rest of the class on the resused questions. One even complained to me that my tests this term were harder than my tests last term. (And he would know this…how? This is a guy who failed because he skipped two of the four tests.)

    Sanctimonious Hypocrite - at my grad school, there was a prof who told us that once, when he was teaching as a grad student, he had a student miss a test and return the next day asking to write it. The prof thought, sure, what the hell - and gave the student the same test to write in class. At the same time, the prof went over the test in class, writing the solutions on the blackboard. While his student was writing the test.

    The student still failed.

    - Moebius Stripper — 3/29/2005 @ 6:34 am

  5. MS, you’re only in your second semester there, so you can get away with this, but if you stay in any place for a few years and get a reputation for recycling, students will notice. Well, except maybe freshmen, who don’t usually have a network of older students to tell them this stuff, I guess.

    - Jen — 3/29/2005 @ 8:30 am

  6. Oh, I know. Which is why I wouldn’t recycle in my other classes. And I do plan to change some numbers around, slightly…which, with this crowd, is enough for them to think that these are all brand new questions (”totally different from anything we’ve seen before! It’s not fair!”).

    - Moebius Stripper — 3/29/2005 @ 8:52 am

  7. I’m tutoring a “business calculus” student. Last Thursday we spent an hour going over three optimization problems. Monday he came in and was unable to do any of these three problems. He swore on Thursday he understood them but he lacked the ability to retain anything past the weekend. His teacher could write an exam consisting of nothing but problems that had been 100% worked out in class and this student would still fail, as close as I can tell. I don’t know why he’s wasting his money on me but I am poor and have no shame so I continue to take his beer money.

    Meep: I used to give a not-for-credit quiz to my students, and one of the questions was “What is my name?” (This was done about a week before the first exam, around six weeks into the semester.) Despite the fact that it was written at the top of the paper a number of students would sheepishly admit they had no idea.

    - KimJ — 3/29/2005 @ 2:04 pm

  8. Oops, my comment addressed to meep was meant to be addressed to SH about including the answers to the test on the test itself. My apologies; my swiss cheese memory is acting up.

    - KimJ — 3/29/2005 @ 2:06 pm

  9. Sometimes it takes ‘em two bites of the apple. Or sometimes they need an extra attempt when guessing their left from their right.

    - EdWonk — 3/29/2005 @ 2:26 pm

  10. Ah, so you do give pre-tests…

    - Independent George — 3/29/2005 @ 4:59 pm

  11. Meep: I noticed these past two years there were repeated questions, especially the stamp questions (What’s the largest amount you can’t make with five and eight cent stamps?) but not before. I’m sure a few people noticed but didn’t say anything so they could “solve” problems quickly.

    KimJ: A teacher at my school had weekly quizzes with 10 short answer questions worth one point each, with one bonus point given to the student for writing his or her name correctly. Even though the teacher told students this every week, he frequently got at least one student each week (who actually showed up to write the quiz) still get zero.

    - Nicholas — 3/29/2005 @ 7:22 pm

  12. One of the things my father does is keep a database of all the test questions he’s used for each course, and (I believe) when they were used. This way, when creating a new test he can pull some questions from previous quizzes, some from recent semesters’ tests, some that haven’t been used in years, and a few new ones that get added to the database for future re-use.

    Early in your career it will be mostly the first and last categories but as time goes on you develop a large pool of questions to work with, which greatly simplifies test preparation. This can also be useful for those (rare, apparently) students who ask for additional problems to work through while they try to understand the concepts.

    - David — 3/30/2005 @ 6:26 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.