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Testing, 1, 2, 3, Testing

JAPAN | Saturday, 5 March 2016 | Views [334] | Comments [1]

Thursday, we had our first full test in Japanese class. So instead of just asking about grammar or vocabulary, every aspect of the past three textbook chapters were potential questions. And, because we only have them every three chapters, it was a rather large portion of our grade. So we had review sessions on Wednesday (on the schedule it looked like it was the majority of the classes.  In reality, it was 10-15 minutes at the end of each hour) and one hour on Thursday to take the test. And then we were expected to have an hour of conversation class.

When it comes to tests and timing, there are several different approaches.

The first is the “take all the time you need” approach. The test should be able to be finished in the hour or so time period that’s allotted in class, but if that’s not enough time, it’s perfectly all right to stay longer. This is most common in tests where there’s not an immediate advantage to having more time, since it’s not really fair to force students to stay longer.

The next kind of test is a “there should be more than enough time” test. With this kind of test, the better prepared students will typically finish early, and the other students will finish near the end of the allotted time. This is probably the most common kind of test.

Then there are the tests that is nearly enough time to complete. The main problem with this is that the teachers believe that there is enough time to complete it, and are confused as to why the students seem to be having problems. (Tip: If even the best students are clinging to their papers when you announce “five minutes left,” it’s probably your fault…)

Finally, there are tests where there is deliberately not enough time to finish it. Interestingly enough, these tend to be much better than “nearly enough time.” Because the person who wrote the test knows that people won’t finish it, and the people grading it won’t hold that against you. Instead, you have the hour to hour and a half to prove what you can do with the questions you can answer during the time given. They tend to focus on some more creative problems.

All of these are theoretically fine approaches. You just need to know the differences, because the amount of time that students have in proportion to the amount of time the test should take will change the kind of responses you get.

After we took the test, Yamaguchi-sensei and Suzuki-sensei both asked “how was it” and seemed dissatisfied with the answer “it was too long.” Basically, we were third year students, and we’d had the review sheet, so we shouldn’t have had any problem.

Yes, we’d had the review sheets, yes, we’d done them, but that hadn’t been enough to deal with the pure length. The test was seven pages, with five pages from the grammar class and two pages from the conversation class. The review sheets had been five pages in total, and I’d been under the impression that the conversation part of the test would be less than it was in the review. Clearly this was not the case.

And while I get the argument that we’re third year students and need to learn skills like skim-reading and being able to give quick responses that are 80% accurate… they are only going to be 80% accurate. When you give students more questions than they can comfortably answer, they are going to rush and they are going to make stupid mistakes. And some of them it’s reasonable to count them off for, but others should have gotten some slack.

For example, I missed two points when I didn’t use a new grammar. I knew the grammar I should have used, I knew how to use it, but my mind had already moved on to the next question and I completed the sentence automatically without using the new grammar. It’s not a mistake I would have made if I’d had more time, but it’s definitely a mistake I deserved to miss points on. Elsewhere on the test (and not in the kanji section) I missed half a point because I miswrote a kanji. On one hand, this was wrong, and it was a kanji I should have known. (Travel.) On the other, that kanji was not an important part of the answer. And given how many important parts of the kanji there were, it was just irritating. And then there was this:

Question: “Sand Onsen” is what kind of onsen?

My response: “Sand onsen” means a thing where you lie on the sand.

Correct response: “Sand onsen” means an onsen where you lie on the sand.

I used a new grammar. I demonstrated knowledge of the reading on the previous page to answer the question. I had it in casual speak, since it was supposed to be a conversation between two friends. But I hadn’t paid sufficient attention to the fact that they were asking what kind of onsen it was instead of what it was, so I missed half a point.

Paradoxically, the thing that annoys me most about this is the same reason I can’t really complain about it: I did better than anyone else in the class. I got a mid-B and the impression that it was my own fault that there hadn’t been enough time for the test, because they’d shortened it from what it had been last semester.

I have to say, I really miss American universities where it’s typically seen as bad teaching if no one gets an A or half the class fails a test.

Tags: class, grammar, japanese, test



There is a fifth kind of test. This is the 'This test will probably take you three to four hours. I know we only have two scheduled for the final, but you weren't doing anything important afterwards I'm sure' type.

"I have to say, I really miss American universities where it’s typically seen as bad teaching if no one gets an A or half the class fails a test." Sometimes it's just called 'yeah this stuff is hard' or 'this is a weed-out class and maybe you all deserve to be weeded out'

  Elishabet Mar 8, 2016 12:38 PM

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