25 September 2010

Multiple Choice

I was surprised to find the parking lot remarkably free of vehicles when I came in today, until I remembered that the Integrated School was having its study day before tomorrow’s quarterly examinations.

Can’t say I’m overwhelmingly in favor of having these so-called study days before exams. We did not use to have these before; and we coped, alright!

In fairness, it was a different world! These days, the kids even have to do robotics, albeit just the basics. Still frightening, I daresay! I find robots amusing… But making them?

If we had robotics back in high school, I would have been perfectly happy to sit back and do the cheerleading. There are just those among us who are more mechanically and technically inclined.

If I were being honest with myself, it really was no surprise that I ended up majoring in History, this being the most viable alternative – for me – to football. For the record, I still have to hear of a university that offers a bachelor’s degree in the beautiful game.

Teaching History was one thing – I have a lively imagination and teaching it came naturally – but preparing examinations was another thing altogether. As a rule of thumb, exams that are done on the fly are remarkably difficult to check.

For instance, I once experimented giving a third year high school A-section a college-style exam with just two questions, the answers to be written either on yellow paper or an exam booklet – I honestly cannot recall which. Ayun! Six days later I was still checking the damned essays! KayĆ¢ baga!

Alternatively, I would scrape my brain for several days trying to complete a 100-question multiple choice exam. Writing the first 50 questions was always easy, particularly if the quarter was long enough to cover a wide variety of topics.

As the topics became exhausted, the questions also started to become – if I’m being honest – pettier. These were the ones that used to drive my students crazy!

Fancy this:
Richard the Lionheart was
   a) Richard I
   b) Richard II
   c) Richard III
   d) Richard IV

You get my drift!

The multiple choice, however, was unspeakably easier to correct than every any other type of test. Before the advent of computers and scanners, one took aside a mimeographed answer sheet that would then be the answer key.

One shaded the correct answers like one would when taking the exam. After this, the fun began!

In the early days, I would light a cigarette so that, with its tip, I would carefully burn holes through the paper where the correct answers had been shaded. Of course, I smoked as well…

I always had to be careful na hindi mapak’wento, because there was always the danger of burning too large a hole or, worse, the whole paper itself! Then, I would have to start all over again!

Then, somebody – Maurice, I think – had a brilliant idea! Why don’t we use a puncher instead! So the others soon caught on and lighting cigarettes became a thing of the past…

The idea was to place the answer key over each student’s paper and then count the correctly shaded circles. It was remarkably simple! Others preferred to count the wrong answers, but this would have entailed doing some Arithmetic. It was a matter of personal preference, really!

Believe me, I could do several sections within the hour, and usually had my grades computed before the end of the day. Of course, these days, checking multiple choice exams can be over in a few minutes with the proper equipment.

It is just not half as much fun…





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