Typical Measured Progress Multiple Choice Questions
from the 2000 New Hampshire NHEIAP test
analysed by Timothy Horrigan, ex-test scorer
Most of the questions on Measured Progress's tests are old fashioned fill in the blanks questions. Click here to see a PDF file of the sample questions from the 2000 New Hampshire NHEIAP test. The PDF file includes English Language Arts and Mathematics questions for Grades 3, 6 and 10, as well as Science and Social Studies for Grades 6 and 10. It also tells you what the right answers were and what percentage of students answered them correctly.
Here is my brief analysis of the toughest sample questions. I am skipping the “English Language Arts” questions because they refer to passages which have been left out of the PDF file. I will just say that Grade 6 and Grade 10 students had trouble with questions where the two best answers were synonymous. Grade 6 students, for example, had trouble telling if the phrase “he feels himself disappearing like the prairie” is a simile (which was the right answer) or a metaphor. (A simile is a particular type of metaphor.)
Some Grade 3 students were tripped up by a question which expected them to say that you should ride your bike “against the flow of traffic.” That is not the universal opinion of all responsible adults: many tell children to ride with the flow of traffic, which is in fact what most adult bicyclists do. (56% of the respondents did give the expected answer, however.)
Of all the sample questions for all grades and all subjects, this was the hardest:
Which of the following is most closely associated with the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe?
A. the Polish labor movement called Solidarity
B. the Bamboo Curtain
C. the United Nations
D. the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty Talks
Only 14% got it right. Most likely this is a case of the kids simply failing to remember an obscure factoid which was mentioned only in passing, presumably near the end of the term. (The Solidarity movement, even though it happened several years before these students were born, is recent enough to be on the last few pages of the textbook, in one of the chapters which get rushed through at the end. On the other hand, it is not quite recent enough to be part of the students' own living memories.) Also, the 10th grade social studies curriculum is mostly about how capitalism triumphed over socialism, and labor movements are inherently socialist in nature. (Even Solidarity originally began more as an attempt to reform Polish communism than as an attempt to abolish it altogether.)
The toughest Science question was:
In watermelon plants, the allele for solid green fruit (G) is dominant over the allele for striped fruit (g). Pollen from a flower of a homozygous green watermelon plant is used to pollinate a flower from a heterozygous green watermelon plant. What percent of the offspring of this cross will produce striped watermelons?
Only 31% correctly chose A. That was simply a confusing question. I took three semesters of biology at Columbia, including a course of evolution and genetics, and I had trouble with the question. (As with a lot of questions on these tests, the student runs into problems with the wording: the question was replete with synonyms, antonyms and multiple negatives.) The basic concept is that you need two small g's (gg) to have a striped watermelon, whereas GG and Gg are both “green” (and hence stripeless.) If you crossbreed GG and Gg watermelons, the second generation of watermelons will consist of 75% Gg's and 25% GG's, both of which will be stripeless.
The toughest Grade 10 Math question was:
Thirty percent of the flute players in the band have played the flute for more than six years. Sixty percent of the band members have played a musical instrument for more than four years. Which of the following is true?
A. Thirty percent of the band members have played a musical instrument for more than six years.
B. Forty percent of the band members have just begun playing their musical instruments.
C. Forty percent of the band members have played a musical instrument for four years or less.
D. Ninety percent of the band members have played a musical instrument for more than four years.
The confusing thing about this one is that answers B and C are pretty much synonymous. 28% chose C.
The toughest social studies question was about New Hampshire history:
All of the following were among the first permanent settlements in New Hampshire except:
Only 20% guessed B for Concord, which was settled later than the other three towns, all of which are in the Seacoast region. The point of this question was presumably to see if students knew that the Seacoast was settled before the Merrimack Valley (where Concord is located.) The test developers should probably have asked a less confusing question.
The most difficult science question was:
What is produced by photosynthesis?
33% guessed D for “sugar.” The point of this question was to test student's knowledge of the details of plant biology.
The hardest Math question was:
Compute the following: 430 – 19.7 = ?
Only 39% did the computation correctly (i.e, 430-19.7=410.3)
The toughest Grade 3 math question was:
Meg lives ½ mile from school. What is the decimal name for this distance?
A. .10 mile
B. .30 mile
C. .50 mile
D. .80 mile
Only 31% chose C (.50 mile). The term “decimal name” probably confused a lot of children. And, this was a rather advanced question for this grade.
The Easiest Question:
The easiest sample question was the following Grade 6 Social Studies question, which 94% of the students got right:
Jill lives in Hawaii. She will be going away to college in New Hampshire in the fall. Which is something she will need while living in New Hampshire?
A. bathing suit
B. warm coat
C. basketball shoes
D. designer jeans
I suppose the test developers were trying to come up with some way of testing whether or not students know that the weather is warm all year round in Hawai'i. They ended up testing whether or not students know that it gets cold in New Hampshire in the winter. Even if you were testing Hawai'ian kids, this would be a ridiculously easy question! I am surprised that only 6% missed the question, given the fact that the question is written in test developer-ese (i.e., designed to meet grade-level standards rather than to be intelligible) and because some smart-alecks will normally be tempted to answer the “gimmes” wrong just for fun. On the other hand, a child doesn't have to know anything about the climatic differences between Hawai'i and New Hampshire to know that the warm coat is the only unfrivolous item on the list.
Click here to see all the sample questions (in PDF form):
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