A new kind of test


I have to give semester tests next week and I’ve come up with an idea for a test.  Throughout the first semester, I try to teach a handful of basic knowledge terms, in regards to literature.  Things like plot, character, setting, exposition, etc…  In the past, my tests have had questions that ranged from definitions to examples from stories, but I’ve been thinking of changing that.

My new idea is this:  During the testing period, I will pass out a story the students have not read before.  Along with this story will be a series of questions.  The first set of questions will be about the content of the story.  Did they read and understand it?  The next set of questions will be about breaking the story down into its parts:  Which of these terms would best describe the moment when the monkey’s paw is wished upon for the second time?  climax, rising action, character, setting.  From there, maybe I would go into more detailed questions about theme and tone that might have to be short answer, rather than multiple choice.

I like this idea rather than simply regurgitating information from earlier in the semester.  Why should they know the name of the little girl in the “American History” story?  Is that important?  It seems to me that my goal is that they can read and understand a story.  If so, they should have to prove it.  Not just remember doing it before.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.



  1. January 9, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I like this idea! You are right…if we are teaching them how to learn, then they can always find a defintion or who wrote what…but can they really analyze and synthesize? This is what you are actually now testing. A really good idea!

  2. January 9, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Thanks, Tammy. I’m putting it together and hope it works out. The tiny traditionalist in me is still screaming in the background that I have to ask questions about all of the stories we read this semester, because somehow it’s important to remember the name of the kid who swims through the tunnel in the story we read in September. Hopefully, I can keep ignoring him!

  3. January 10, 2009 at 3:26 am

    In Arkansas, this is how our students are tested at the state level…given a passage to read which has eight multiple choice questions that follow it and a constructed response over that passage.

    Your method just parallels what I should be doing…would prepare them even more for the test in March.

  4. January 11, 2009 at 3:11 am

    I’m pretty sure that one reason why people don’t make this kind of test is that it is a lot harder to create. I’ve written about 20 questions for one longer story and then groups of 10 questions for four shorter passages (about half a page long or so) and now I’m poring over them again to make sure there is no ambiguity. Matching vocab to definitions is so much easier than this. So far, though, I’m feeling good about this.

    Now, my debate is simply this: How long should the test be? I have the students for two hours. I feel like I need them to be busy for a significant portion of that time simply to keep them out of trouble and provide a quiet environment for those who are slower test-takers.

    Hmm, I have more to say…perhaps it’s time for a new post.

  5. January 12, 2009 at 1:00 am

    On our state-mandated tests, our 11th graders are given a passage (probably no more than 2 pages typed), 8 multiple choice questions, and one constructed response (the box on which to respond is about three-quarters of a page), and twenty-five minutes. All finish early…unless a really slow test-taker.

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