September 2002 Issue
When luck, not reading and study skills, helps students pass their tests.
By Gary K. Probst
During this summer I came to a surprising realization. Applying the reading and study skills techniques taught in college learning centers are a waste of time to students who have to take tests provided by certain textbook publishers. In order to explain my reason for this surprising realization, I will share with you three of my experiences.
I have never forgotten many years ago two students, who I had in my college reading and study skills class the prior semester, came into my office crying. They just took their first college test and failed. They showed me what they did to prepare for the test. They learned the following information that they wrote on index cards:
They wondered why they failed when they knew all of the
information in their textbook and lectures. I was at a loss because I knew of no
way of helping them improve their study techniques. The study skills taught and
applied in my class were not helpful in passing this instructor’s test. Not
knowing what to say, I told them to go and see their instructor.
A few years later I had the opportunity to analyze the
selection test, course syllabuses, and the instructor’s tests used by the
nursing faculty. This was because the college’s nursing students were not
passing the state licensing examination for nurses. While it was not possible to
examine the state licensing examination for nurses, nursing administrators and
instructors, by discussing the examination with prior students who had taken it,
felt most of the questions asked were on the principle or problem solving level.
A training program was instituted for the nursing faculty
and they were given instructions on how to write test questions and objectives
on higher cognitive levels. Also, a reading and study skills program was started
for nursing students that was taught by nursing instructors. In a few years the
nursing student were passing the state licensing examination for nurses in
This past summer I worked with a chairman in analyzing the
tests used in his department. The department uses objective tests provided by
the publishers of their textbooks. The textbooks used by the department are
widely used popular textbook used in colleges everywhere.
I wonder how many good students study effectively but lose interest and fail because of poorly constructed tests. We have all heard the student who says, “I study but it does not help passing his or her tests.” I wonder, “Does luck play an important part in passing some college tests!?”
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