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Hey All!

I'm the coach of Martinsville High School in Indiana and due to a change in our sponsoring organization, the amount of teams participating this year is in flux.  I want to encourage teams to return and new teams to join so I want to host a invitational competition in December.  I've never hosted a competition, so I'd be super grateful if you all could share any tips, advice or any other information you might think would help. Thanks!
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Study Topics / Re: Question on Frankenstein Book Editions
« Last post by zzzptm on September 10, 2019, 11:12:59 AM »
Those are some significant versions, just like with The Red Badge of Courage.
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Study Topics / Re: Question on Frankenstein Book Editions
« Last post by dcormier93 on August 31, 2019, 03:42:45 PM »
I looked up the differences last spring, and I made sure that we bought the 1818 edition to look at then (and ordered from USAD when they were available).  Look here for major differences:
https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Frankenstein/the-1818-and-1831-editions/
It looks significant enough that reading the wrong edition could definitely impact scores. 

For those interested in such things, you can find an ebook AND an audiobook for free in the public domain.  I think I got them both from Project Gutenberg.  Both the 1818 and 1831 editions are available, and you can quickly tell which is which by looking at the start of chapters 2 and 3.  Look for the sentence, “When I had attained the age of seventeen, my parents resolved that… .”  If that is the first sentence of chapter 2, then that is the correct edition from 1818.  However, if that is the first sentence of chapter 3, then that is the 1831 edition.
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Study Topics / Question on Frankenstein Book Editions
« Last post by rphs_coach on August 31, 2019, 01:03:48 PM »
I understand from our Lit Resource Guide this year that students are expected to be more familiar with the 1818 edition of Frankenstein than the later 1831 edition, but has anyone here issued books to their team that do use the later, revised changes and know how different the two texts are? I didn't order the books directly through USAD as we had school copies that I could provide to students for free and now that we're preparing, I am realizing that some of the narrative the students are reading seems to be different than the material covered in the resource guide (our school editions are the more commonplace 1831 Shelley novels).  Has anyone else run into this issue?
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Study Topics / Re: Writing Test Questions
« Last post by LAB on August 30, 2019, 09:21:25 PM »
GOOD 4. Don't give away an answer with "best 3 out of 5" clues. Let me explain:

37. This question is complete gibberish to the test-taker, but the answers all have common elements. Based upon the combination of common elements, which of the following answers would be correct?

a. 3 + 2x
b. 3 - 2x
c. 2 + 2x
d. 3 + 3x
e. 2 - 2x

Answer: A
Reason: 3 of the 5 answers start with a 3, 4 of 5 have a 2x term, and 3 of 5 have a +. A has all three of those common elements, so it's the best shot at being the right answer.

So how to fix that question? I would get rid of answer (d), move (e) up to that slot and then make the new (e) "None of the above". Now it's a 50-50 proposition on any one element being key to the "right" answer, other than 2x, which is 100% in the right answer... unless that "None of the above" is right. And to keep that answer in play, it's important to have at least one other question have a "None of the above" be the right answer, so the test-taker will know it's not an empty threat.

With proper answers, then the test properly assesses whether or not the student knows the material, not if the student can spot patterns in the answers. I know this works because I've used it myself to get perfect scores on tests where I had no clue about what was being asked, but had a great list of answers that telegraphed the correct response.

This is so true. Especially with math. I teach math and make some great math tests for ACDEC practice every year (see: Bevillathlon). And that is so true with math and how you can just look at the answers and choose based on common elements.

When I make my math tests, I use excel to randomize question types and answer choices but usually because I get tired of randomizing answers (especially on financial questions) I just do

$2300
$2400
$2500
$2600
$2700

These makes them at least have to actually work the problem and not look for common elements.
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Study Topics / Re: Writing Test Questions
« Last post by zzzptm on August 30, 2019, 08:42:52 AM »
BAD 4. Don't play mental games with the test-taker. I know I mentioned above about having "None of the above" be used as an answer to make it a credible deterrent on later questions, but that's not a game. It's more of a negotiating position, along with random distribution of answers. That's a good thing that tells the test-taker that *any* answer is fair game, so it's best to pay attention to the question, not the pattern in the answers.

If you *do* choose to play a game, then you're not assessing the material accurately. The test is instead an exercise in behavioral psychology. This in and of itself can be useful, but not as a valid assessment!

Let me explain... consider a test with 20 questions, all true-false. 1-19 are trivial and are all "true". 20 is very difficult, due to excessive wordiness and more than one conditional clause. Whether or not the answer is true or false, it will mess with the test-takers' minds. This is especially true if 1-19 are worth only 1 or 2 points each, and 20 is worth the other 81 or 62... that makes it high-stakes, high-pressure, and unfair as an assessment, but valid as an object lesson: "Always answer each question one at a time, and trust yourself!"

I gave two such tests, one after the other, with 20 being false the first time and 20 being true the second time. For those who confessed on the second try that they guessed I would go all true and that's why they did that on the last question, I said they got it wrong: the reason was part of the test!

They cried foul, and rightly so, so I said it wasn't a test for the gradebook, but for their minds. And also a warning that the reason for the right answer was more important than a good guess. Object lesson complete, I went back to normal tests and the students focused on learning the material carefully, so that they could get a good grade for explaining a question in the class participation session after the quiz.
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Study Topics / Re: Writing Test Questions
« Last post by zzzptm on August 30, 2019, 08:27:12 AM »
GOOD 4. Don't give away an answer with "best 3 out of 5" clues. Let me explain:

37. This question is complete gibberish to the test-taker, but the answers all have common elements. Based upon the combination of common elements, which of the following answers would be correct?

a. 3 + 2x
b. 3 - 2x
c. 2 + 2x
d. 3 + 3x
e. 2 - 2x

Answer: A
Reason: 3 of the 5 answers start with a 3, 4 of 5 have a 2x term, and 3 of 5 have a +. A has all three of those common elements, so it's the best shot at being the right answer.

So how to fix that question? I would get rid of answer (d), move (e) up to that slot and then make the new (e) "None of the above". Now it's a 50-50 proposition on any one element being key to the "right" answer, other than 2x, which is 100% in the right answer... unless that "None of the above" is right. And to keep that answer in play, it's important to have at least one other question have a "None of the above" be the right answer, so the test-taker will know it's not an empty threat.

With proper answers, then the test properly assesses whether or not the student knows the material, not if the student can spot patterns in the answers. I know this works because I've used it myself to get perfect scores on tests where I had no clue about what was being asked, but had a great list of answers that telegraphed the correct response.
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Study Topics / Writing Test Questions
« Last post by zzzptm on August 26, 2019, 09:42:33 AM »
If this is good, we'll sticky it.  :smug:

OK, so let's say you're tasked with writing some multiple-choice questions based upon material in a reading selection. How do you do it best? That's what this discussion will be about.

Part of what's best is avoiding what's bad. So, what's bad?

BAD 1. Do not have questions with "shock" value in them. That includes charged language, harsh words, clever jokes, graphic scenes, and even adverse scenarios. For example, I wrote some questions for a TOEFL study guide that involved a conversation in which a professor was informing a student that he was in danger of failing his course. That got rejected because the test-takers are under enough stress already, they don't need to be thinking about how *they* might be failing something.

Keep the questions to the facts at hand. Don't express opinions through the question. Students can evaluate conditions in the questions in answering them, but not in reading them.

BAD 2. Don't write questions or answers that are overly wordy. Your test-takers have reading levels, and we must not exceed those levels. If there are repetitive words in every answer, build them into the question and cut them from the answers. If the question goes over two lines of text, tighten it up. If an answer goes over one line of text, tighten it up.

BAD 3. Don't use words like not, except, or best. Use NOT, EXCEPT, and BEST. See the difference, there? You do not want a student to miss seeing one of those key words and then be tested on a faulty question.

With those out of the way, we're ready for the GOOD rules:

GOOD 1. The test question must correctly convey the evaluation to be performed on the information that is in scope for the test.

GOOD 2. Answers must be free of patterns. In other words, do not fall into a pattern where a student could surmise, "If all answers are short, take the longest one. If all answers are long, take the shortest one." I bring that one up because it is the most frequent patterns I've seen in answers. Keep the answers mixed in terms of length and which ones are correct. Be random - sometimes, the longest short answer is right and sometimes, it's not. If you need to keep a set of 20-sided dice handy in order to generate proper randomness, so be it.

GOOD 3. Keep the right answers random. Don't favor one letter over the others and don't exclude a letter relative to the others. Keep that 20-sided die handy and roll with every question: 1-4, the answer is A. 5-8, it's B, and so on up to 17-20 being E.

I'll add more later...
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General Discussion / Re: First Day of School 2019-2020
« Last post by zzzptm on August 26, 2019, 09:01:46 AM »
My youngest daughter just started her first day of senior year at Richland College High School. That means, if all goes well, we'll be driving her on up to college next summer. :smug:

Ironically, although I do not teach AcDec, I nevertheless have a packet in front of me and am writing multiple-choice questions for it. It's for internal company training, but still brings back those econometric skillz.
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General Discussion / Re: First Day of School 2019-2020
« Last post by stanleytree on August 23, 2019, 01:58:30 PM »
The first week was real tough on most of them, trying to get back into the swing of things.  Juniors especially struggling with the workload.
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