Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

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Clumpy
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Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Clumpy » Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:07 am UTC

I've been in a few great classes with terrible test. One CS course was taught by a Taiwanese immigrant who was adept in his field but terrible at formulating tests and explaining himself to a large group.

A question in my Health and Fitness elective course is probably the worst I've ever seen:

"T/F: What we often laugh at in ads is often in reality what is tragic and is truth about the projects' use."

I guess when the class is so straightforward and worksheet-focused they need to ad a little challenge by introducing ambiguity into the exams. Does anybody else have any examples?

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Meltz » Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:36 am UTC

I can't think of any good examples, but I think i've had a few triple/quadruple negatives in T/F questions before. That can get quite frustrating

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Isotope_238 » Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:10 am UTC

I once had a science teacher whose test question were so ambiguously worded that I consistently answered an entiredly different question from the one hethought he was asking. One time I did that, answered the question I read correctly, and he counted it wrong. That same test, the answer to a certain question was something like 2/3, and half of the ditzy girls in the class answered 1/2. He counted that correct. I still resent that, even years later.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby DavidoDoom » Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:11 am UTC

I once had a multiple choice test question that read like:

Newton's Law of Gravity _____________

and the correct answer was "explains all motion in the universe". When I challenged this by waving my hand around wildly, the history teacher did not understand and claimed that she didn't know much about science, then proceeded to not give me credit, despite the fact that a correct answer was not present in the multiple choices...

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby seridos » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:56 am UTC

Random question I got on my psych final, turns out it was in the text book but was never covered in class:

"When chimpanzees learn sign language, what parts of speech do they learn first?" Nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc

not that ambiguous, but kind of a "lol wtf" moment, cause the test questions come from a test bank from the text book, and we never covered anything about it :P

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby ReverendRyan » Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:02 am UTC

in a soch class i once got

true or false: the higher a woman's education the fewer children she will have.


...she wanted "true"

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Woofsie » Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:32 pm UTC

Statistically I think that is true, though it probably doesn't just apply to women..

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby ian » Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:20 pm UTC

Sure, but the relationship isn't fixed, as the question suggests.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Allenr » Tue Apr 07, 2009 4:03 pm UTC

I can't remember the question exactly but it was something like this:
Computer Apps. 1, 9th grade fill in the blank

The ___________ controls _____________ and ______________.

I still dont know what it was.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Rakysh » Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:05 pm UTC

On a biology test, there was one question:

Explain why drinking while driving and operating machinery is dangerous.

I said drinking slows your reaction times down so it is more dangerous to do activities that require quick reactions while drunk....

The next question was something like.

Explain why it is dangerous to drive a car when there is alcohol in the blood.

I smiled to myself, and put essentially the same thing.

When I got the test back, I got 2/2 for the first one, but only 1/2 for the second, because I had not talked about the central nervous system. Not only that, I had got a B by one mark.

I raged.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Clumpy » Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:26 pm UTC

ReverendRyan wrote:in a soch class i once got

true or false: the higher a woman's education the fewer children she will have.


...she wanted "true"


Even if that were true (the upper classes are starting to have more and more children), she's totally neglecting individual experience by not including a qualifier giving some sort of average.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:25 am UTC

I'm starting to hate AP English multiple choice questions. One of them outright says in the answer key--"all answers are right, however, answer C is the preferred one because it is more important to the passage." Now, some of these kinds of questions do have a demonstrably "best" answer, and I understand that combing through the ambiguities is the skill they're trying to teach in a sense. But a lot of them are ridiculously subjective.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Dimetrodon » Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:36 am UTC

My LA teacher is famous for giving multiple-choice vocabulary tests where none of the answers really fit the question. I mean, usually one is close enough, but sometimes none of them are really appropriate. Or, worse, 2 are appropriate.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Vieto » Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:40 am UTC

I hate MC questions in this format:

a) plausible answer
b) plausible answer
c) plausible answer
d) all of the above
e) none of the above.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby TwoHeadedBoy » Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:06 pm UTC

i had an AP world history course where the teacher kept telling us to concentrate on the big picture, how everything was related and connected, and not worry about the little details, since that's what the AP exam would be like. yet every test was all about the little details.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby sikyon » Thu Apr 09, 2009 11:58 pm UTC

On a standardized physics test in grade 12 the question went something like:

"Refering to the picture below, what force is the rod applying to the shelf?"

There was no shelf. There was a ledge, though.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby rath358 » Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:11 am UTC

On a sixth grade spelling test, one of the words was sight. To distinguish it from the homophone site, the teacher read a sentence. "in spring, that park is a beautiful sight/site." It could go either way. Granted, one choice is better, but nevertheless, it was ambiguous. I asked for another sentence, but my teacher refused. Grr.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Why Two Kay » Fri Apr 10, 2009 6:32 am UTC

rath358 wrote:Granted, one choice is better


Honestly... I can't decide which one it is.
tl;dr - I said nothing important.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Sungura » Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:26 pm UTC

Vieto wrote:I hate MC questions in this format:

a) plausible answer
b) plausible answer
c) plausible answer
d) all of the above
e) none of the above.


Even worse multiple choice:

a) correct answer
b) correct answer
c) correct answer
d) none of the above
e) all of the above
Wait. a b and c are correct. D isn't. WHAT DO I DO?!?!? I had a professor once who would do this on purpose so we'd have to pick "the best" of a, b, or c. :evil:
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Rubby » Sat Apr 11, 2009 6:57 pm UTC

DavidoDoom wrote:I once had a multiple choice test question that read like:

Newton's Law of Gravity _____________

and the correct answer was "explains all motion in the universe". When I challenged this by waving my hand around wildly, the history teacher did not understand and claimed that she didn't know much about science, then proceeded to not give me credit, despite the fact that a correct answer was not present in the multiple choices...


This gives a whole new meaning to "Hand Waving Proof".

I Recently wrote an exam that asked "What is the largest negative integer that can be represented with 8 bits using twos complement encoding?"
I answered -1 and got it wrong.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby zombiefeynman » Sat Apr 11, 2009 7:10 pm UTC

On the AP CS practice exam:
Which of the following recommendations for testing software is NOT good advice:


I was so relieved when I saw:
Test a program with all possible values of input data.


as an answer.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Lleu » Sun Apr 12, 2009 4:36 pm UTC

During a chemistry exam, we were asked to find the molarity of a substance. It was a multiple choice. The molarity of the substance was not one of the given answers. The molality was, though.

Yes, I cross-checked that with several books and friends afterwards. It definitely wasn't me.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Mr. Freeman » Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:57 pm UTC

Seems like it should be pretty obvious that the answers aren't correct when they're in the wrong units. Molarity mol solute/L soln. vs. molality mol solute/kg solvent.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby eSOANEM » Mon Apr 13, 2009 12:21 pm UTC

In physics we were doing a revision test (we were allowed to talk to other people in the class) and I was sitting at the front with the other nerds when we came across the following question:

in what form is energy in the flash of a lightning bolt transfered?

a) by one particle hitting the one next to it.
b) a stream of particles
c) a wave
d) vibration

we spent the rest of the lesson complaining to the teacher that the GCSE paper didn't take into account the particle/wave duality.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby grapefruit1 » Sun Apr 19, 2009 12:50 am UTC

Not so much 'confusing' as much as 'stupid', but this was on our last science test:

Some Cepheid stars have been found to be up to 65 million light years away. How long does it take for the light from those stars to reach Earth?

...actually, now that i think about it...there were several kids who missed that one. :shock:
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Zeroignite » Sun Apr 19, 2009 1:07 am UTC

Got a nice on on my last Environmental Science test.
On the subject of radioisotope dating:

During Beta Decay, the nucleus:
a. loses an electron
b. gains an electron
c. loses two protons and two neutrons
d. gains two protons and two neutrons
e. none of the above

Professor's "correct" answer was a. I wrote e, seeing as, in beta decay, the nucleus gains a proton. A neutron decays into one proton and one electron, and the electron just goes flying off into space! It might be OK if it had asked "what is produced during beta decay", but is specifically refers to the state of the nucleus and the proton gain is what's really relevant in terms of dating.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby lemmings » Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:02 am UTC

Zeroignite wrote:Got a nice on on my last Environmental Science test.
On the subject of radioisotope dating:

During Beta Decay, the nucleus:
a. loses an electron
b. gains an electron
c. loses two protons and two neutrons
d. gains two protons and two neutrons
e. none of the above

Professor's "correct" answer was a. I wrote e, seeing as, in beta decay, the nucleus gains a proton. A neutron decays into one proton and one electron, and the electron just goes flying off into space! It might be OK if it had asked "what is produced during beta decay", but is specifically refers to the state of the nucleus and the proton gain is what's really relevant in terms of dating.

I hope your professor is aware that the nucleus doesn't even contain electrons.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Terpsichore » Sun Apr 19, 2009 7:35 pm UTC

Last year on my GCSE Science exam, there was a multiple choice question with four answers- none of which was strictly biologically correct.
Myself and three other friends all put different answers, our head of department hit the roof and complained to the exam board. Come results time, we all got 100/100 UMS. Hey, we didn't complain...

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Zalzidrax » Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:44 am UTC

Any of those questions on standardized tests which ask you to find the one that doesn't belong.

I don't care if a frog is an amphibian and all the rest are mammals, the lion will eat you. Even if you are trying to classify animals scientifically, not getting eaten is still very relevant.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Vicariously-Kaiser » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:33 pm UTC

On a biology paper
"So an so then published the results in a scientific journal. What is meant by the term 'scientific journal'? "

And only the other day on a maths paper
"How could you find out how old somebody is without causing offence?"

I suggested asking them when they last took a stupid GCSE maths test.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby joek » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:39 pm UTC

Whatever the question was.

Put ticks next to the best answers.

a - correct answer.
b - correct answer
c - kind of correct answer.
d - obviously wrong.

I lost a mark for ticking both the correct answers.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Brooklynxman » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:51 pm UTC

Vicariously-Kaiser wrote:On a biology paper
"So an so then published the results in a scientific journal. What is meant by the term 'scientific journal'? "

And only the other day on a maths paper
"How could you find out how old somebody is without causing offence?"

I suggested asking them when they last took a stupid GCSE maths test.


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My English professor gave us a quiz on Oliver Twist. There is a part where they meet someone on or under a bridge. Question was

"What was one feature so and so said marked the mans appearance"

She wanted if I recall something about his jaw. However, in the book it says "his eyes were so sunken into his head one could almost mark him by them alone"

I put his eyes. I showed her the passage. She still marked me wrong. How?
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Zeroignite » Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:01 am UTC

lemmings wrote:
Zeroignite wrote:Got a nice on on my last Environmental Science test.
On the subject of radioisotope dating:

During Beta Decay, the nucleus:
a. loses an electron
b. gains an electron
c. loses two protons and two neutrons
d. gains two protons and two neutrons
e. none of the above

Professor's "correct" answer was a. I wrote e, seeing as, in beta decay, the nucleus gains a proton. A neutron decays into one proton and one electron, and the electron just goes flying off into space! It might be OK if it had asked "what is produced during beta decay", but is specifically refers to the state of the nucleus and the proton gain is what's really relevant in terms of dating.

I hope your professor is aware that the nucleus doesn't even contain electrons.
...aaaand today, when explaining photovoltaics, he referred to photons as "the tiny charged particles that light is made of." Bold mine.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Poochy » Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:09 am UTC

I had a Biology teacher who once put one question on a test as follows:

Which of these statements is false?
A. <true statement>
B. <true statement>
C. <true statement>
D. All three statements are false.

The correct answer was D. All three statements are true, so therefore "All three statements are false" is a false statement. I think he said after the fact that he counted that one as an extra-credit question, to make it more fair since it was more or less a trick question.

As for the worst question, one question from an English test on To Kill A Mockingbird comes to mind. Keep in mind that we took this test on a Scantron sheet with 5 bubbles:

Which character sometimes bakes 3 little cakes and one big one?
<List of 18 frakkin' choices: A, B, C, D, E, AB, AC, AD, AE, BC, BD, BE, CD, CE, DE, ABC, ABD, and ABE.>

First of all, I fail to see how this was important to the book. Secondly, 18 choices is a bit ridiculous, no? And the Sears Tower is a little bit tall, no?

Also, on a high school standardized math exam:
A company sells shirts. (See Figure 1 below.) ...
At the bottom of the page: "Figure 1: A shirt."
Seriously. What the company sold wasn't even important to the problem itself.
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Mous » Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:26 pm UTC

My math book is really pissing me off right now, first off because i don't understand it worth shit, and second off because of this question:
A bomber plane is flying at 792 ft/s (see diagram). At what point should it drop the bomb in order to hit the target?

Except in neither the problem nor the diagram does it give any idea of where the target is in relation to the plane/how far in the x/y direction the bomb needs to travel. I'm feeling really stupid right now because I feel like it's in there somewhere and I'm missing it. :?
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby rath358 » Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:03 am UTC

Mous wrote:My math book is really pissing me off right now, first off because i don't understand it worth shit, and second off because of this question:
A bomber plane is flying at 792 ft/s (see diagram). At what point should it drop the bomb in order to hit the target?

Except in neither the problem nor the diagram does it give any idea of where the target is in relation to the plane/how far in the x/y direction the bomb needs to travel. I'm feeling really stupid right now because I feel like it's in there somewhere and I'm missing it. :?
It shouldn't drop the bomb because bombs kill people and killing people is wrong. Only usable answer.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby muffin of doom » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:58 am UTC

Vicariously-Kaiser wrote:And only the other day on a maths paper
"How could you find out how old somebody is without causing offence?"

I suggested asking them when they last took a stupid GCSE maths test.
I'm curious, what was the answer supposed to be? Personally, I'd go with asking the person's friend. Or possibly waiting until the person is drunk and asking them then. Or give them a fake survey, claiming it's for your statistics/psychology/whatever class, where they have to enter demographic information including their age.

My school experience is too far in the past for me to remember any of the really bad test questions, but I do remember one problem from my physics book that involved someone standing on a frozen pond with a given coefficient of friction throwing a snowball, and then you had to calculate the mass of the snowball based on how far they slid. IIRC, it worked out to something like 12 kg. Pretty big snowball.

Oh, and I also hated the "reading comprehension" questions on standardized tests where they would ask you multiple choice questions like "What is the best title for this passage?" I realize they were trying to see if you understood what the overall topic was, but I always felt like you could make an argument for more than one of the choices... or at least, you could have, except it was a multiple choice question. Usually they were all pretty bad choices anyway.

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby kernelpanic » Fri Apr 24, 2009 6:19 pm UTC

In the Mexican yearly exam, the Enlace, last year there was a physics question that used a full two pages for a custard recipe. After that, it said "In which step does evaporation happen? A: 19: Custard finished, B: 3: Heat the water until lukewarm, C: 4: Put the water in the fridge, D: 8: Add Milk". It happens in all of them. And 4 years ago a question asked you to calculate the area of the triangle in diagram 12. Diagram 12, right next to it, showed a boy playing football with an octopus.The possible answers were A: 12 kg, B: 1cm², C: 3.2 moles, D: All of the above, the correct one being B. Another physics question used notation designed by Satan himself. It read "What's the final velocity g of a ball that fell for v seconds in a planet without atmosphere whose grav. constant is t m/s²?" you used grav. constant t from another question (several pages before) where you calculated time t, and the question before that where you were asked velocity v.
Believe me, I could go on for ages...
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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby Sana » Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:23 am UTC

I vaguely recall a physics question which began something like "a football player throws a baseball..."

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Re: Worst/Most Confusing Test Questions

Postby UnderRock » Sat Apr 25, 2009 7:06 am UTC

1) Today, you are a fugitive electron. You are being chased by 2 police electrons (who
apparently weight exactly as much as you do) with 2 different velocities: Chuck (5 x 10-3
m/s) and Tim (3.3 x 105 m/s).You are all racing down the position coordinate on a
Cartesian graph, and they travel as a group to catch you. While their group is centered on
the origin, at least how many meters away in the positive x direction do you have to be
away from them not to be captured?

Apparently as a group (yes, it was bolded--this gave me a completely different answer!) meant to assume that they acted as one particle or something along those lines. I asked for clarification for what "as a group" meant, since it was apparently so important, but the TA refused to tell me, since it should be something we understand. Clearly we should be able to understand what such a phrase means in a scenario where a fugitive electron is trying to escape--as I'm sure any chemist would.


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