Improving Test Scores with the Computer
One of the burdens of attending (and teaching) school is testing. The testing situation is one that evokes anxiety, loss of memory, sweaty palms, and many things that education isn't meant to be. In truth, a written test actually tests how well a student can take a written test as much as it tests his mastery of the facts. Few teachers will tell you that written tests are the best way to evaluate a student's knowledge, but many will admit that it is the only way available in most situations.
Succeeding on tests is usually the result of knowing what to study, how to study it, remembering it when it's asked on the test, and then conveying it in a manner that is understandable and acceptable to the teacher. There is a method in preparing for this. It is by no means a short-cut method, but it can make your hours of studying more productive. The method described here will be directed towards the high school and college student, but the same general method can be used in studying for a test in sixth grade as when studying for a college exam in freshman biology.
Included in this chapter is a program listing for the QUIZ MAKER. This program is designed for making practice quizzes using your Commodore 64 and Epson printer.
LEARNING A SUBJECT
The key to success in test taking is in the preparation. Some people call test preparation "studying" while others call it "cramming." Whatever it's called, there are ways that are more beneficial than others. The key to success is to find those ways and apply them to your own studying skills.
1) Understand How You Learn-People learn in different manners. Some learn best when they are told information. Some find that the information has more of an impact if they read it. Many learn facts better if they write them out. Most people learn information better if they can apply it in an actual application.
If you aren't quite sure of your best style for learning, try answering this question: When someone is giving you directions for going to the shoe store, would you rather they tell you how to get there or draw a map? If you'd rather be told, then you are an auditory learner and learn best from listening. If you like to see a map when their explaining, then you are a visual learner and learn best when you read and see things.
Once you realize how you best learn, you can then spend more productive time concentrating on that mode of learning. Don't think that you must limit yourself to that style of learning. Use every mode of input you can. The best way to learn is through multiple forms of input.
2) Attend the Classes-This may seem like a basic assumption, but you'd be surprised at the number of students who "hangout" at the beach instead of attending class and then stay awake all night the night before a test trying to learn the information from a book.
Going to class is important for many reasons. As has already been discussed, some people learn best when they are told information. Many times the material covered in class will not be covered in the text. This means that missing class is a loss that can never be made up. This is also a chance to learn about the personality of your teacher and what he thinks is important. Knowing where your teacher places his priorities is helpful in anticipating what will be on the test.
Attending is not enough. Take notes on the lecture and participate in the discussions. Learning is an active process and means more when you listen, mentally process the information, and then immediately apply it through discussion or activity. This chance for application allows you to try out the ideas you just learned and to find where you might have misconceptions.
3) Read the Text-Another seemingly obvious point, but not one that is always followed. Many students don't read the text until the week before the test. This creates a great amount of pressure on the student to absorb all of the information and limits the value of using the text as a learning tool. The best approach is to read chapters in the text before they are discussed in class. When you read a chapter, you form your own impressions of it. When it is discussed in class, you have some frame of reference to use when comparing the presented information with what you read. This style of studying requires a bit more planning but it makes learning the material MUCH easier in the long run. Try to do additional reading if possible.
4) Retype Your Notes-Notes are usually taken at break-neck speeds and resemble chicken scratchings more than the English language. They may be somewhat legible, but they don't have the readability or organization necessary for effective studying. Retyping them requires you to review, rethink, and reorganize the information into a format that's easy for you to understand and study. This was something I always thought to be extra work until I tried it. Even if you're not much of a typist, using a word processor makes this a fairly easy task that can increase the effectiveness of your studying time by 80%.
5) Discuss the Subject with Others-Applying the information is the best way to ensure learning it. Some subjects, like computer programming, are fairly easy to apply, but other areas,
like sociology, need to be discussed with others. This provides an arena where you can test your ideas and learn from others.
6) Discuss the Subject with Your Teacher-Most students don't meet with the teacher outside of the classroom. This is a terrible waste because a teacher knows much more about the subject than he is able to cover in the limited amount of class time that is afforded to him. Taking time to meet with your teacher will provide a chance to learn more about the subject and learn more about your teacher. This may not seem important to you, but it will when it comes time for you to prepare for a test. If you know your teacher, you will have a better chance of knowing what sort of questions he might ask and what areas he might emphasize.
PREPARING FOR A TEST
You can only do well on a test if you can answer the questions that are asked on that test. It sounds naively simple, but consider what you just read. A test is made up of a finite set of questions and knowing the answers to questions that aren't on the test won't help you pass. You may thoroughly understand the symbolism in Romeo and Juliet but it will do you no good if you're asked about Othello on an English literature exam.
The key to passing tests is being able to anticipate test questions, studying for them, and then answering them correctly on the test. It's as simple as that.
Over the last couple of pages I have stressed the importance of understanding the subject and your teacher. The primary reason for this is to aid you in learning the information so that you may apply it in the real world. The secondary reason is to aid you in anticipating test questions by knowing what information is important and what's interesting filler.
There are two ways to anticipate test questions. The first way is the most direct. Ask the teacher. Many teachers are willing to share with you the areas they consider important. They may even provide you with study sheets. If your teacher isn't so accommodating, check your library. Many times teachers will place past tests on file so that interested students might preview the types of tests he gives. This is not cheating. It is preparing oneself for the test.
The second way is a bit less certain. Some teachers won't spend time giving "hints" about their tests. They feel that you should know everything about everything. This being the case, it's up to you to try to anticipate the contents of the test.
Consider how your teacher is going to create the test. He will set down the material covered in class or in the text and then decide what is important enough to hold you responsible for knowing. You can try to anticipate his questions by going through the same process.
Begin by reviewing your notes. Look for facts that lend themselves to test questions. Reasons for things happening like "Explain the forces that led to the start of World War I" make good questions. Lists make ideal questions because they are either right or wrong; "List the bones in the arm" or interpretations of specific incidents, "What did Patrick Henry mean when he said, "`Taxation without Representation is tyranny?"'
As you discover each of these delicious possibilities, make up a question that will use this information for its answer and type them both into your word processor. As you type these in, you're doing two things: 1) you're creating your own test-complete with answer sheet, and 2) you're reviewing the information again by reading it, thinking about it, and then writing it.
After you've created your "practice test," print it out on your Epson printer. This will give you a study sheet. Use this sheet to ask yourself questions and then check your answers for correctness.
Full-sized sheets of paper can be bulky if you're busy and want to study on the run. Try creating "flash cards" using 3 x 5-inch index cards. Write the question on one side and the answer on the other. This is exceptionally good for learning recall facts like capitals of states and authors of books.
You can print them on your printer by narrowing the margins to 40 spaces and the page length to 15 lines. Since you will have to reposition the card at the end of each "page," set the word processor for separate sheet printing instead of continuous paper. If you haven't already, you will also need to turn off the PAPER OUT sensor using the DIP switches in your Epson printer.
If you're using Atariwriter, use these commands to set your word processor for printing on 3 x 5" cards:
(B12) L15 R55 S2 T12 Y36
If you're using PaperClip, these commands will do the trick:
CTRL M T2
CTRL M B15
CTRL M L15
CTRL M R55
CTRL Z L18
CTRL M B15
CTRL M L15
CTRL M R55
CTRL Z L18
Insert enough blank vertical lines between the questions and answers in your word processor so that the questions and answers are on different "pages." This way the word processor will print out the question on one side of the card and then wait for you to turn it over before printing the answer.
Here are some hints on studying:
1) Don't involve a family member in your studying unless it's to explain something they understand. Asking someone else to give you a test is, many times, a way for your subconscious to ward off studying. You're shifting the success of your studying onto their shoulders. The responsibility for studying lies with you and you alone.
2) Review your study sheets immediately before going to bed. This freshens the facts in your mind and your subconscious will mull over them while you are asleep.
3) Study whenever possible. You don't just have to do it when you're sitting at your desk. Carry your pack of study cards with you so that you may review them anywhere.
4) Don't try cramming just before the test. Enter the testing room with two sharpened pencils, paper (if necessary) and the attitude of "If I don't know it now then I'll never know it."
5) When you're studying, try to relate some facts to your own experiences. When you study the American Revolution try relating it to your trip three years ago to Virginia.
6) When you're studying lists, try to devise some memory trick that will help you remember everything in the list, i.e., the notes on the staff lines in sheet music can be remembered with the sentence, Every Good Boy Does Fine. These notes are E, G, B, D, and F
Reviewing the answers to questions in your mind is an effective way of studying, but your preparation for the test will not be complete until you have actually written the answers on paper. The mind has a unique way of filling in blanks with "you know... " and "and so forths. . . " where you don't know the answers. This becomes a problem when you sit down to the test and you're forced to fill in those blanks with actual words.
I have included a program called "Quiz Maker" here which will produce practice tests for you to use. You begin by typing in the questions. These questions are then saved in a file for later use. When you want a practice test, you merely enter the number of questions you want to use for the test and it will select the questions at random and print them out.
10 REM SAVE"D1:QUIZMKR"
20 REM * * PRINTS PRACTICE QUIZZES * *
30 DIM A$(1),B$(80),C$(15),NME$(12),Q$(80),QT$(2000),R$(1),TTLE$(40),Z$(40)
40 DIM BL$(1),Z(25)
100 PRINT CHR$(125)
110 Z$="QUIZ MAKER":GOSUB 1110
120 POSITION 5,4:PRINT "DO YOU WISH TO:"
130 POSITION 10,6:PRINT "C) CREATE A QUIZ"
140 POSITION 10,8:PRINT "P) PRINT A QUIZ"
150 POSITION 10,10:PRINT "Q) QUIT"
160 POSITION 19,12:INPUT A$
170 IF A$="C " THEN GOSUB 210
180 IF A$="P" THEN GOSUB 760
190 IF A$="Q" THEN PRINT :PRINT " B E S T O F L U C K ! ! !":END
200 GOTO 100
210 REM * * CREATE A QUIZ * *
220 PRINT CHR$(125)
230 Z$="CREATE A QUIZ":GOSUB 1120
240 PRINT :PRINT " THIS PROGRAM ENABLES YOU TO WRITE A"
250 PRINT "SET OF QUESTIONS FOR PRACTICE QUIZZES"
260 PRINT :PRINT " ANOTHER PART OF THIS PROGRAM ALLOWS"
270 PRINT "YOU TO PRINT QUIZZES WHICH CONTAIN A"
280 PRINT "RANDOM SELECTION OF THESE QUESTIONS."
290 PRINT :PRINT " BEFORE YOU BEGIN, YOU WILL BE ASKED"
300 PRINT "TO INPUT A SUBJECT TITLE, THE NUMBER"
310 PRINT "OF QUESTIONS, AND A TITLE FOR THE "
315 PRINT "FILE FOR STORING YOUR QUESTIONS."
320 PRINT :PRINT " INPUT EACH QUESTION ONE AT A TIME."
330 PRINT "WHEN ALL OF THE QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN"
340 PRINT "INPUT, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PRINT"
350 PRINT "YOUR QUIZ. "
370 GOSUB 1070
380 REM * * INPUT QUIZ INFORMATION * *
390 PRINT CHR$(125)
400 Z$="QUIZ INFORMATION":PRINT :GOSUB 1120
410 PRINT :PRINT :PRINT "WHAT IS THE TOPIC OF YOUR QUIZ ";:INPUT TTLES
420 PRINT :PRINT "HOW MANY QUESTIONS WILL YOU USE?"
430 PRINT "(25 QUESTIONS MAX) ";:INPUT N
440 PRINT :PRINT "WHAT FILE NAME DO YOU WISH TO USE? "
450 POSITION 5,12:INPUT NME$
460 GOSUB 1260
470 IF A=2 THEN 390
480 GOSUB 1300
490 OPEN #2,8,0,NME$
500 PRINT #2;TTLE$
510 PRINT #2,N
520 CLOSE #2
530 REM * * INPUT QUESTIONS * *
535 OPEN #2,9,0,NME$
540 FOR P=1 TO N
550 PRINT CHR$(125)
560 Z$=TTLE$:GOSUB 1120
570 PRINT :PRINT "QUESTION #";P;" OF ";N
580 PRINT :PRINT "QUESTION: ";
590 INPUT Q$
600 IF LEN(Q$)>80 THEN PRINT :PRINT " TOO LONG - 80-CHARACTERS MAX:":GOSUB 1070
610 IF LEN(Q$)>80 THEN GOTO 470
620 GOSUB 1260
630 IF A=2 THEN 470
650 PRINT #2;Q$
660 NEXT P
670 CLOSE #2
750 REM * * PRINT QUIZ * *
760 PRINT CHR#(125)
770 Z$="PRINT A QUIZ":GOSUB 1110
780 PRINT :PRINT :PRINT " THIS PROGRAM WILL PRINT A RANDOM"
790 PRINT "SELECTION QUESTIONS FROM A PREVIOUSLY"
800 PRINT "CREATED QUIZ FILE."
810 PRINT :PRINT "WHICH FILE DO YOU WISH ",
820 INPUT NME$
830 GOSUB 1300
840 OPEN #3,4,0,NME$
850 INPUT #3;TTLE$
855 INPUT #3;N
856 CLOSE #3
870 PRINT :PRINT " HOW MANY QUESTIONS DO YOUR WANT?"
880 PRINT " ";N;"= MAX # OF QUESTIONS. ";:INPUT T
890 IF T>N THEN 870
900 PRINT :Z$="PREPARE YOUR PRINTER":GOSUB 1120:GOSUB 1070
910 OPEN #1,8,0,"P:"
920 PRINT #1;:PRINT #I;CHR$(14);"PRACTICE QUIZ ON ";CHR$(20);TTLES
925 PRINT #1;:PRINT #1;:PRINT #1
928 REM * * RANDOMIZER * *
930 FOR R=1 TO T
943 IF R=1 THEN 950
945 FOR S=1 TO R-1
947 IF Z(R)=Z(S) THEN 940
948 NEXT S
950 OPEN #3,4,0,NME$
951 INPUT #3:TTLE$
952 INPUT #3;N
955 FOR P=1 TO Z(R)
960 INPUT #3;Q$
965 NEXT P
970 PRINT #1;Q$
975 FOR V=1 TO 6:LPRINT :NEXT V
980 CLOSE #3
985 NEXT R
999 REM * * GET AN ANSWER * *
1000 PRINT " (Y/N)";
1010 INPUT A$
1020 IF A$="Y" THEN A=1:GOTO 1050
1030 IF A$="N" THEN A=2:GOTO 1050
1040 GOTO 1010
1060 REM * * CONTINUE PROMPT * *
1070 PRINT :PRINT " PRESS RETURN TO CONTINUE";
1080 INPUT A$
1110 REM * * CENTER A STRING * *
1120 FOR V=1 TO ((39-LEN(Z$))/2):PRINT " ;.NEXT V:PRINT Z$
1250 REM * * CORRECT QUESTION * *
1260 PRINT :PRINT :PRINT " IS EVERYTHING CORRECT";:GOSUB 1000
1299 REM * * CONCATENATE D1: & NME$
Figure 9.1 Program Listing for the Quiz Maker
TAKING THE TEST
Now that you've prepared, it's time to take your test. You've done everything you could to anticipate the questions, studied the necessary information ... and now it's time to see if it will pay off.
Interestingly enough, taking a test can be almost anticlimatic. You've spent days-even weeks-studying ... memorizing ... learning everything possible about the subject. Now, within the next ninety minutes it will all come to an end.
Look into the eyes of many test takers and you'll see outright fear. This is the sign of poor preparation and potential failure. The only winning attitude for this sort of situation is confident resignation. Confident resignation is the feeling you have when you realize you've done everything possible to master the material and there is nothing more to do except answer the questions.
The tests are passed out. You receive yours and begin looking it over. The first couple of questions aren't too difficult. There's one that's questionable. "Didn't think that next one would be on the test. What the heck does he mean in question five?"
Feel your blood pressure beginning to rise?
Stop! These first few minutes are where many tests are won or lost. Calm down and review the complete test. Whenever you're certain of a quick answer, write it down. When you come to ones that will take a little more time, quickly write down all of the pertinent points that come to mind. If you discover one that is way out of the ballpark, ignore it for now or write down a couple of thoughts that might be helpful later on.
When you've reviewed the test once, look at the allotted time limit and mentally decide on a schedule for answering the questions. Start with the easy ones. Answer them quickly and get them out of the way. These are where you accumulate your easy points.
Now go back to those longer answers that you knew but realized would take some thinking. Read the question again and then write down as many relevant facts as you can. Don't worry about the order, just use free association.
When you have completed writing down your thoughts, stop for a moment and reread the question. It's easy to go off on a tangent that is totally unrelated to the question. You must re-orient yourself to ensure that you will really answer the question that is being asked.
With the question in mind, begin organizing your ideas into groups. Then arrange these groups into logical order. You don't have to use all of the ideas or all of the groups. Throw them out if they don't fit. The most important about writing this answer is to answer the question in an understandable, logical sequence. Rambling answers appear as if the writer doesn't know what he's talking about. Even if you don't know what you're talking about, don't ramble.
Now it's time to tackle those questions you're not too sure about. Surprisingly, the work you've just done with those other questions may have sparked some ideas. If the questions are multiple choice or short answers, make some educated guesses. Use the process of elimination to answer the multiple choices and use some imagination to answer the others.
When trying to answer an essay question for which you really don't have an answer, use the same process of free association and organization to construct an answer. Maybe your answer will be totally fabricated, but what do you have to lose? If you left it blank you wouldn't get any points anyway. If you try to answer the question you might receive a couple of points for being creative.
It's important to leave enough time at the end of the session for reviewing your answers. Read your answers for spelling, grammar and logic. When you reread your answer you may find that you didn't actually say what you thought you did.
Give your teacher a big smile when you turn in your test and then forget about it. It's over. Worrying and fretting won't change the terrific effort you just expended. Consider it a job well done and move onto the next challenge.
You've worked hard and studied well. Now it's time to let some of your creative juices flow. The next chapter teaches you how to make your Epson into an electronic easel for your creations. Your printer provides many graphic possibilities that are both fun and challenging.
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