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Are you a good or bad test taker?

March 1, 2020

Genius Blog Post: Test Prep

February 29, 2020

Test Prep

Are You a Good or Bad Test Taker?

Find out now?

Unfortunately, taking tests are a part of life. Whether it is at school, college entrance or at our job, they are inevitable. But one thing is for sure,  being good at test taking or scoring well on a test doesn’t necessarily indicate what someone really knows. And assessment formats, like multiple choice and true/false, make it easier for good test takers to “game” the system, using test taking tricks and strategies to make better guesses.

What makes a Good Test Taker?

We’ve all known someone who’s a good test taker – someone who seems to have a supernatural ability to only study a little but still ace the multiple choice exam or advance through the training. Ask that person to recall some information a few months later, however, and they’ll likely draw a blank.  That’s because that information only resided in short term memory. Research shows that what makes these people so good at taking tests is likely a mix of:

  •  Low test-taking anxiety which allows them to perform better in the moment
  • Well-informed schemas that provide greater context and allow them to make more educated assumptions (guesses) especially when the test is multiple choice.
  • Brain-science based study habits – like retrieval practice, repetition, spacing the learning out, etc. – that help them learn, remember and retrieve knowledge more effectively

For example, think of all the companies that make millions of dollars preparing high school students for the SAT or ACT each year. These prep programs certainly teach knowledge and skills, but perhaps more importantly, they teach test taking strategies that help students “game” these types of tests. And they work, however, it’s a short-term retention strategy and the majority of this information will never be retained for the long term . A report in the Washington Post last year noted that coaching can improve SAT scores by anywhere from 30 to 115 points.  

And as we mentioned above, some tests are more susceptible to guesswork strategies than others. For example, multiple choice tests, make it easy to “narrow the choices to two” and make an educated guess.

All this makes it hard to verify the subject-matter mastery of good test takers. Did they really know the answers or just make good guesses? Do they have hidden knowledge gaps that are glossed over by a good test performance? Unfortunately, many eLearning solutions on the market aren’t sophisticated enough to make the distinction between accurate guesswork and real knowledge.

How A.I. and Machine Learning Change the Guesswork Game?

Enter learning platforms powered by AI and machine learning. They can make real time adaptations and help verify application-level mastery, making it nearly impossible for good test takers to “game” the system without truly mastering skills. For example, the Fulcrum Labs platform evaluates a variety of real-time variables like:

The Fulcrum Labs platform challenges application-level mastery by delivering multiple assessments on each learning objective beyond the simplistic multiple choice question type.They have to demonstrate that they’re progressing toward mastery and confidence, gradually and consistently improving, not just randomly answering questions correctly. And, because we use a competency-based approach, subsequent Sections of material are made available only after the learner is able to correctly answer the more complex and abstract assessment items.  Additionally, Fulcrum can import an organization’s on-the-job Performance data and overlay it on top of the Fulcrum learning data to verify whether the person’s training indeed correlates with the on-the-job performance.

Behavior (aka – Confidence)
Our platform monitors how a user behaves throughout the learning to help determine mastery and predict application. Unlike other platforms, we don’t ask learners whether they “feel” confident or not every time they answer a question.  This technique generates a huge amount of false-positives let alone decision fatigue. Instead, Fulcrum deploys its  proprietary Behavioral & Knowledge Mapping (BKM) technology, which evaluates variables including: how quickly a learner answers questions, hesitation when selecting one answer and then switching to another, referencing source information to better inform answers, and even how a learner engages with hints and coaching prompts to determine mastery and engagement in the learning. 

Patterns naturally-intuitive
Intro-Proficiency-Mastery (Consistency). Mastery is all about consistency with confidence. In our platform learners can only advance once they demonstrate mastery across questions of different difficulties and complexities, that are tied to relational learning objectives. It’s not just a one-and-done process. We require learners to prove that they can consistently answer questions accurately and we periodically surface 

Bad test-takers
We’ve talked a lot about good test takers, but what about bad test takers? Our system helps them as well. For example, our platform provides lots of opportunities for “low stakes” retrieval practice (a key brain-science based study tactic). This not only helps users learn more deeply, but it also builds their confidence so they have less test anxiety (a key factor in poor test performance). Additionally, our system gives users targeted, personalized hints and “Good to Knows” that improve their schemas and build the scaffolding necessary to make informed assumptions in the future.

All this is why we say that there is no such thing as a bad or good test taker in our system. Our technology cuts through to the underlying behaviors, motivations and competencies of each user to verify their mastery and predict future application. And because our system leverages many different assessment types that encourage active learning and measure deep thinking skills (e.g. drag phrase or fill-in-the-blank), organizations can assess employee knowledge on the application and analysis levels.

CPG Founder | Author

Jean Burk is the author of the award-winning College Prep Genius program and has written numerous articles about the SAT and PSAT tests, high school prep, college prep, and how to get free college. She is a Fox News Contributor and has been featured as an SAT and Educational expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, TXA21, CW33, WE, Forbes, UShop TV and The Homeschool Channel.

She currently travels and speaks about the importance of college preparation at conventions, book fairs, schools, libraries, etc. She has taught her revolutionary, award-winning “Master the SAT” Prep Class all over the United States, mainland China, India, Hong Kong and Thailand. Her program is now also online at www.collegeprepgenius.com . 

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