Live-blogging Grading Test 1

Thought you might like a progress report: Finished page 1!

The hardest question on the page, apparently, was

  1. The Egyptian Pharaohs were
    1. kings who claimed to be the children and descendants of gods
    2. priest-kings who claimed to speak for the gods
    3. kings who worshipped ancestors who could intervene with the gods
    4. kings elected by aristocratic peers to lead religious rituals

There was also some Chinese philosophy guessing and Varna-Veda confusion.

Test Prep #1


  • The study terms for the test can be found here
  • A selection of the question submitted as part of the review can be found through Angel.
  • I will provide all necessary test papers.
  • The test will consist of 50 multiple choice questions, and the essay question provided in the study guide.
  • The tests will be proctored by Graduate Assistants from History.

Reminder: Test Review Assignment Due Midnight, Tuesday

As the syllabus says, your review assignment, which must be emailed to me no later than Tuesday midnight, is at least five multiple choice questions – based on the study guide terms – for each chapter covered in that section of the course. There are three chapters in this section – 15, 16 and 17 – so you need to do at least (I’m always happy to have more, if you want to do more) fifteen questions.

The questions should be multiple choice, though if you want to throw in a true/false or fill-in-the-blank now and then, that’s OK, but only a couple. You should clearly mark which chapter the question comes from, and indicate which answer you intend to be the correct one. If it’s not obvious which study term the question is based on, make sure you tell me that, too. The answers can and should be based on both the textbook, readings (de Busbeq is fair game), and lectures including powerpoints and resources.

The questions shouldn’t be about trivia: I don’t care about the precise date of Columbus’ voyage, or Zheng He’s religion as much as I care about what they did and why it matters. Don’t copy the language of the textbook or a powerpoint and expect students to remember the exact words used: the significance of events and people is about the connections and changes they were part of. For a brief tutorial on using multiple choice questions to test more advanced learning, read this overview of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning by a professor at the Other PSU

Multiple choice questions are tricky. The traditional question has:  one clearly right answer, one clearly wrong answer (if you know the material), and two answers that are appear possibly right but which are actually clearly wrong.  My problem writing questions is that I tend to assume that people know too much, so my ‘wrong’ answers are sometimes too close to actually correct. You may also use “all of the above” – including an item which looks wrong but is actually true makes it a challenging question – or “none of the above” as options, if you’re inspired.

I will make a selection of your questions available for review and may use, or modify, your questions on the test itself.

The 50-minute test will consist of 50 multiple choice (or other) questions. “Other” may include a short definition or two, as well as true/false, fill-in-the-blank questions. There may be extra credit opportunities: they will be clearly marked.

Test 3 Results

The most popular terms were 9/11, Holocaust, Great Depression and Cuban Missile Crisis; this really is a depressing section of the course! The high score in the class was 36 out of a possible 40, not counting extra credit, which made calculating the grades much easier for me. The median score was a B- meaning that about as many people got above a B- or above as a B- or below. There was a very even distribution across the B and C grades. Here’s how the grade scale worked out:

Grade minimum points distribution
A+ 36
A 34 11%
A- 32.4
B+ 29.4
B 26.4 43%
B- 23.4
C+ 20.4
C 17.4 38%
C- 14.4
D+ 11.4
D 8.4 8%
D- 5.4
F 0 0%

As you can see, nobody who took the test failed, and the average was noticeably higher than previous tests, even though the top score was a little higher than last time: most people did better than previously, or held steady.

Test 2 Results

The most popular terms were Lincoln, Napoleon, Newton and the Declaration of Independence. The high score in the class was 35.5 out of a possible 40, not counting extra credit — a bit weaker than the first test. The median and modal score was a C, meaning that C was the most common grade and that about as many people got above a C as below. Here’s how the grade scale worked out:

Grade minimum points distribution
A+ 35.5
A 33.5 8%
A- 32
B+ 29
B 26.125 19%
B- 23.125
C+ 20.125
C 17.25 52%
C- 14.25
D+ 11.25
D 8.375 17%
D- 5.375
F 0 4%

It seemed to me that a lot more answers were ‘by the book’ rather than taking account of the connections and context that should come from the lectures. It also seemed the average answers were a lot shorter, which  means less definition, less context, less clarity.

Markings: When looking at your papers, you can ignore the little diagonal I put in the upper-left and lower-right corners of pages: that’s a note to me that there’s nothing before or after (respectively) that page which isn’t graded (just keeps me from having to flip more pages than necessary). If I underlined or circled something in one of your answers, though, it almost certainly means something you got wrong. “X” always marks an error. If I put an “approximately” sign in the margin (and I do this on essays, too) — it looks like this: ≈ — that means something which is almost right, or nearly wrong; questionable, in other words.

Study Tips

This NYT article gives you the current state of research into study habits and learning: steady study at intervals, not cramming; vary material and environment . Also, forget what you’ve been told about “visual learners” and “right-brained people”: it’s all bunk. My favorite bit: that being tested on the material helps you remember it!

Reminder: Pop Quiz Wednesday

As we discussed on Monday, we’ll have a pop quiz — really, just a dry run on a pop quiz — on Wednesday, which will be based on the study terms for Hansen&Curtis Chapter 16. Just bring paper and something to write with – which you really should have for notetaking, anyway – and you’ll get a chance to see what the tests are going to be like.

Review Date Change and Final Details

  • Looking at the schedule I decided that there was no particular reason why the second article review needed to be handed in on Friday rather than Monday. So I’m pushing the due date back to the 26th. Anyone who wishes to use that extra time to get feedback on their assignments, drafts, etc., is entirely welcome.
  • As I mentioned in class, the final exam will be in two parts. The in-class portion will be the same as the midterm: a set of terms taken from the study term list from which you will choose twelve to answer. I will not, however, be limiting you to the same fifty minutes as the midterm: you may use as much as you wish of the full two hours scheduled. There will also be a take-home essay portion, which will be due on the day of the final, consisting of two essays that answer questions which cover a substantial portion of the course, especially issues which span the two halves of the course. I will distribute the questions and instructions shortly, so you will have several weeks to consider and work on these essays.