Tag Archives: Test

Read as if You’re Presenting: A Backdoor Argument for Oral Exams

In my experience, the best way to retain the material you’re reading is to be giving a presentation on said material. That might sound a little odd, but consider it for a moment. If you have to present on a topic, when you’re reading about that topic, you (should be) reading just a little bit closer and maybe a little bit harder such that when you’re up in front of a crowd, you’ll be more inclined to remember what you read.

It turns out, this anecdotal experience has been studied:

A recent study in the journal Memory & Cognition showed the effect that reading with intention and purpose can have. Two groups were given the same material to read—one was told they’d have a test at the end, while the others were told they’d have to teach someone the material.

In the end, both groups were given the same test. Surprisingly, the group that was told they’d have to teach the material (rather than be tested on it) performed much better:

When compared to learners expecting a test, learners expecting to teach recalled more material correctly, they organized their recall more effectively and they had better memory for especially important information.

Having a clear question in mind or a topic you’re focusing on can make all the difference in helping you to remember and recall information.

Intuitively, this should make sense. When some folks read “for the test,” they’re not necessarily reading with the intention that they’re going to remember the information after the test. Put differently, they’re almost always not reading the material for an oral exam. This reminds me of something I wrote a few years ago:

Presumably, the students could get through the entire semester and finish with an “A” in the class without having to say anything. I realize that a great deal of communication in today’s world is completed online and through writing, but isn’t our ability to communicating orally important, too? At least, shouldn’t there at least be some time spent on it?

In that post, I was suggesting that there be a rebalance from written exams to oral exams — in part — because in my experience, there’s a deficit in the oratory skills of students in university. Even if we ignore the epidemic of fear of public speaking, most students don’t get nearly as much time practicing their oratory skills as they do their writing skills.

As luck (?) would have it, should there be this shift from written exams to oral exams, not only would the education system be strengthening people’s ability to communicate, but there would also be an effect in having people better remember some of the things that they’re learning.


To be honest, when I sat down to write this post, I had no idea that I was going to be strengthening my argument for having more oral exams in university and that’s — in part — one of the arguments from the article I initially referenced:

Association is a peg upon which you hang a new idea, fact, or figure. When you know where the peg is located, it’s a lot easier to find what you’ve hung upon it. As you read and come across new ideas and thoughts, you’ll want to connect and associate these with familiar memories as a means of creating a bond between old and new. There are many different ways to create associations in your mind, from pairing new thoughts with familiar objects, to creating acronyms.

So, next time you sit down to read your saved article on Pocket, catch up on a book on your Kindle, or read the Sunday Times, consider that the best way to retain some of the things you’re about to read might be if you were to pretend you were going to be giving a presentation on the material.

Musings on Improving Tests in Education: Less Writing, More Orating?

After having been in education settings for more than half of my life, I was thinking about ways to improve education. More specifically, I was thinking about ways to improve testing. Let’s take one of the classes that I’ve recently taught. In the class, there are two case assignments and two exams. The case assignments can be written at on one’s own time, so a great deal of time and effort can go into perfecting the structure, etc. The exams are taken during classtime, so there is a time limit. The students have until the end of class to finish the exam.

Presumably, the students could get through the entire semester and finish with an “A” in the class without having to say anything. I realize that a great deal of communication in today’s world is completed online and through writing, but isn’t our ability to communicating orally important, too? At least, shouldn’t there at least be some time spent on it?

I understand that some departments and professors are hampered by their ability to fidget too much with the deliverables of their courses (as certain standards and gates have to be met), but I was thinking about what it might be like to have an oral “meeting” at the end of the semester (instead of a final exam). I’d specifically call it a “meeting” to remove some of the stigma that some students place on “exam” or “test.” In this “meeting,” the student would have 3 (or maybe more, depending on the class size) minutes to convince the professor that they learned something during the semester (about the course material). The “meeting” could be recorded, in case the professor wanted to go back and watch the meeting, but presumably, they wouldn’t have to (they could just be grading as they went).

Some students would perform better as they would be used to public speaking, but the grade wouldn’t hinge on one’s ability to be a brilliant public speaker. Part of me thinks that having to convince the professor through speech, that one would have to know the material a bit better than they would for simply regurgitating answers on a test. To add another layer to this, there could be an option for students to record their “meeting” and send a link to the video. One of the stipulations would be that they couldn’t read a speech. Part of the purpose of this “meeting” would be for the students to know the material so well that they could speak about it conversationally. That is, speak about the material in a way that they could convince someone that they knew about it (or maybe teach someone something about what they know).

I’m sure that there are some professors out there who do this sort of test (especially at the graduate level), but I’d be interested to see it implemented at the undergraduate level. I think it’d be a great way to help develop the oratory skills of those who *think* they have less than stellar oratory skills. Plus, I think that the material would stay with the students a little longer than the length of the exam.

Are Grades and Tests the Best Way to Measure Learning?

The other week in class, I was speaking with a classmate about grades and learning. We were opining about how sometimes, getting the right answer (on an assignment) shouldn’t necessarily be the goal of the assignment. That is, shouldn’t learning be the goal? Shouldn’t improving one’s storehouse of wisdom be the goal? Shouldn’t understanding be the goal?

Of course, that is the intention with these assignments — that one will learn/understand the material. After having spent (almost) an entire semester on the other side of the classroom, I certainly have [some] empathy for teachers and their assignments. While I don’t have to report to a department chair, I understand that in order to measure students, there needs to be something measurable and I understand that tests/assignments have become the easy way of doing this. Should this be acceptable, though?

I recently came across an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that addresses this issue:

According to this view, the nature of teaching and learning should be measured instead of relying solely on an outcome like a grade or a test. Students should be exposed to courses and assignments that require them to analyze information and apply it to new contexts, reflect on what they know, identify what they still need to learn, and sort through contradictory arguments.

Such opportunities are described in research literature as “deep approaches to learning.” They figure prominently in Thursday’s release of data from the National Survey of Student Engagement. While Nessie, as the survey is known, has long sought data on those practices, this year’s report replicated and extended the previous year’s findings, which showed that participation in deep approaches tends to relate to other forms of engagement, like taking part in first-year learning communities and research projects.

This article has sparked a great deal of debate in the comments section, too. Here’s one comment that I found particularly on-point:

I do not want to be an apologist for the way things are, because it is always possible to improve our practices and in many respects we are responsible for the critical view the public have of us (honestly, it isn’t all the fault of right wing politicians with an anti-intellectual bent); however, higher ed adminstrators and the higher ed press have to stop treating each new study, each new innovation and each new utterance from some rich person suddenly interested in, but also dismissive of, higher ed (I’m looking at you Bill Gates) as the silver bullet  that is going to transform and save higher ed.  My head is not in the sand, I know higher ed (particularly public higher ed) is going through rough times but the panicked responses of the folks in charge is truly dismaying.


I once wrote about the need to shift towards Waldorf- & Montessori-like education. When I wrote this, I was thinking more about elementary and high school. I wonder — what should the model look like for college/university? Should it also be Waldorf- & Montessori-like? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a question worth asking.

What’s Your Jung Typology: The Answer May Surprise You!

After having majored in psychology during my undergrad and then specialized in transpersonal psychology during grad school, it’s fair to say that I’m curious about the make-up of humans from a psychological perspective. A few weeks back, I wrote a post about how I scored on . In light of this post, I thought I would continue to write posts about how I scored on other tests.

For today’s post, I thought I would do some tests that claim to be able to accurately assess one’s :

These tests are based on the work of Carl Jung, David Kiersey, Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs. They are similar in underlying theory to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Kiersey Temperament Sorter. They measure four bipolar factors, Introversion/Extroversion, Thinking/Feeling, Intuition/Sensing, and Judging/Perceiving.

Having been a psychology student for as long as I have, I’m familiar with the MBTI and have taken the actual test on a couple of different occasions enough to know where I usually score on the four bipolar factors. In fact, part of my interest in taking the few tests with this was to see if the assessment was accurate.

The first test I took was a . Initially, you enter your gender and then you are taken to a page with 36 pairs of words wherein you are asked to select the position between the words (5 spaces) where you exist between the words. I thought that this was rather interesting. I’d never taken a paired word test to assess my before.

At the conclusion of the test, I was a little surprised by the results. The system assessed me as an ENTJ. Extroverted, iNtuitve, Thinking, Judging. I found this surprising because I’m almost always an ENFJ when I take tests like these (Feeling instead of Thinking). The mini-description for ENTJ:

ENTJ – “Field Marshall”. The basic driving force and need is to lead. Tend to seek a position of responsibility and enjoys being an executive. 1.8% of total population.

After reading the “quick” description, I’d say that’s a fair assessment of who I am (or who I want to be). Then, I read the :

decisive, fearless, planner, thrill seeker, engaged, social, self-centered, comfortable around others, image conscious, likes to be center of attention, adventurous,outgoing, manipulative, emotionally stable, leader, ambitious, hard-working, dominant, prepared, hates to be bored, confident, opinionated, analytical, prepares for worst case scenarios, organized, orderly, clean, driven, resourceful, finishes most things they start, achieving, risk taker, desires fame/acclaim, image focused, narcissistic, arrogant, perfectionist, driven, academic, scientific, critical, avoids giving in to others, does not like to compromise, skeptical. [Emphasis added]

I’ve bold-faced the words that I do feel strongly about (in that they do describe me) and I’ve italicized some of the negative adjectives that I’ve heard used to describe some of the things I’ve done in the past. When I inquired with those who thought I was arrogant, I learned that this had more to do with the way I conveyed information. With regard to manipulative — this is a word I remember being tossed around when I was a kid. I was told that I was quite good at getting my way (I don’t remember, really!) And lastly, “avoids giving in to others” – translation: stubborn; yes, I can agree to this one. I know that I can be, at times, stubborn.

I then proceeded to look for some other tests that were meant to assess the same measure. . This test, like the first, had the participant enter in their gender. Then, there was a page of 48 statements that the participant was to rate on a scale from very inaccurate to very accurate (5 choices). At the conclusion of this test, I was greeted by familiar results:

ENFJ – “Persuader”. Outstanding leader of groups. Can be aggressive at helping others to be the best that they can be. 2.5% of total population.

I then went onto read the long-description of the ENFJ:

outgoing, social, attention seeking, emotional, loving, organized, comfortable around othersinvolved, open, hyperactive, complimentary, punctual, considerate, altruistic, easily hurt, religious, neat, content, positive, affectionate, image conscious, good at getting people to have fun, easily excited, perfectionist, assertive, ambitious, leader, hard-working, seductive, touchy, group oriented, anti-tattoos. [Emphasis added]

With the ENTJ description, I highlighted 10 adjectives that I agreed with (and 3 adjectives that I have heard people refer to me in the past) for a total of 13. With this ENFJ description, I’ve highlighted 17 adjectives that I feel accurately describe me at the present moment.

So, I decided to take one more . This test was very different from any other Jung typology test I had seen. On this test, (you had to select your gender, of course), there were 48 adjectives. Under each adjective were two rating scales (each with 5 spaces) where the participant is asked to rate their ideal selves and their real selves. In effect, the test is trying to gauge where you are and where you wish (or want) to be. I thought that this could be interesting, so I took the test. My results: ideal type – ENTJ; real type – ENFJ.

How interesting. So, maybe the first test I took wasn’t off like I thought it was. Maybe it was just a better measure of my “ideal” self. Either way, I thought it was pretty cool to take this last test and get a result that validated my first two results. In the end, I am glad that I found this site with these tests because it gave me a different window into my Jung Typology. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always scored as an ENFJ on these sorts of tests, but it’s interesting to now have a different perspective in that maybe I really wish I were an ENTJ. If you only have time to take one test, I’d advise taking the . The results may surprise you!

StrengthsFinder 2.0: Are You Using Your Talents Effectively?

In the last couple of months, I have been reading oodles of books. One of the books that I’ve come across is . There really isn’t much to the book on the inside, except for the first 30 pages or so, but there is a tear away code that you can use to take the test online. Unfortunately, I had borrowed this book from the library, so I was at a loss. However, I did some digging around on the internet and came across , which offered an access code (for a price) without the book. While buying the code from this site is more than buying a new book from Amazon ($20 vs. $15), I wasn’t interested in keeping a copy of StrengthsFinder (and, wasting more paper in the process), so I reasoned that just buying the code was satisfactory.

I would imagine that most people inclined to take a test like this (or any test, voluntarily), are probably the kind of people who have already taken tests, so they would have some idea of where their strengths would lie. This was the case with me, but it’s always nice to have your strengths/talents validated in another survey/test. In the first 30 pages of the book, the author makes the claim with data from research, that it has been discovered that working on one’s weaknesses is actually counterproductive. He offers the formula that one’s talents plus one’s investment (time spent practicing/developing skills) equals a strength. He argues that spending time developing one’s talent into a strength is a much better usage of one’s time (where most developmental tools argue that one should work on their weaknesses). The author isn’t advocating a total write-off of one’s weaknesses, it is still important to know where one’s weaknesses are.

This online test is meant to isolate your talents, and then give you ways that you can develop these talents into your strengths. Upon taking the test, the participant is given their top 5 themes [talents], along with personalized strengths insights and potential ways to enhance these talents. After taking the test, I was not surprised with the 5 themes that were scored as my highest (I’ve included the shared theme description):


“People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome,excites them.”


“People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”


“People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”


“People who are especially talented in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.”


“People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.”

I can very much identify with the five themes that I was assessed as having. In fact, you could probably even further group these a little more. Competition and Achiever go together (people who compete also, I would think, often achieve), and then these two also fit together nicely with Learner (as you learn, you achieve, yes?).

The one thing that I think would have been cool about this that wasn’t available (or maybe it is for a fee?) is to have a readout of who else (famous or otherwise?) has a similar make-up to you. They say that they’ve polled over 10 million people, so I have to think that someone out there has had these 5 themes. In fact, I can be nearly certain using the . There are 501,942 different combinations of the 34 themes (choosing 5 each time), and if we want to take it a step farther, there are 45,435,424 different combinations (when we account for the order of the themes). So, while there may not have been someone who had the same 5 themes as me in this order, there is a very good chance that there is at least 1 other person who has had these 5 themes on their score.

I understand that supplying information like this would need permission from all of the people who have taken the test and getting permission after the fact is a difficult thing to do. And as I take a step back from this idea, I realize that I’m merely confirming one of my strengths (Ideation).