Quiz Show

Administering quizzes is like doling out medicine, no one is happy
with the experience. Unless the medicine works. Even then, it does not
make students happy at the time (although I must say I have come
across some who have loved quizzes – kept them awake in class they
said – forever grateful!).

So, its bad during the quiz. You stand around praying that they do
well enough to know that they learnt something after all. Or at the
very least, learnt what they did not know. Mostly, they hate you for
it – no way around that, its the cross every teacher bears.

The only way to generate happiness is to make the quiz really easy,
which I do, shamelessly and for a good reason. Its better to make the
class hard and the quiz easy, rather than the other way around. My
way, students are scared into learning a lot, and then they hate the
quiz experience less. The other way, they don’t really learn. The
beauty of it all is that if you make the class really hard, and keep
saying how easy the quiz is and that they should not study for it, the
less they believe you – which is fine – whatever gets everyone to
engage, whatever works, whatever causes learning, go for it.

So during and after, there is pain yet light at the end of the
tunnel. Before the quiz? Thats the worst. Students organize into
different categories, some of which are –

(a) Worriers – there are students who get up every morning in a cold
sweat, because the course is hard. They fret that they will finally
fail a class. They wonder how they are going to deal with the quiz. It
usually ends up in an email which begins with the words “I am lost
…”. When I get too many such emails, then I will turn into a worrier
too, but it has not happened yet, so I guess things are not that bad,
and this is not Atlantis. Most “lost” students are sincere and
hard-working, and are really not lost, they just need to stop

(b) Testphobes – are students that spend an inordinate amount of time
trying to get you to tell them what is on the test. There are many
ways in which they go about this. The one that usually works is to
simply ask – “What’s on the test?” – some sort of frank answer usually
suffices, and then its time to prepare. But there are many other good
questions like – Do I need a laptop? Do I need a calculator and a
laptop? How many questions are there? Are there multiple choice type
or essay type? Do we really need to know about the CAPM? (answer =
yes) Will everyone finish the quiz? If I don’t do well, what can I do
to make it up? I know you explained it really well in class, but do I
really need to know what a portfolio is? Can I learn topic X later? Is
the last week of class included in detail? Is any of the extra reading
important? And so on – the only antidote is avoid learning about the
quiz and start learning the material…

(c) Coolios – are risk takers, and have a long history of taking tests
on the fly, from which they have learnt that it only takes
attentiveness in class to do reasonably well. They see the forest but
not all the trees and thats okay for them. Every answer they turn in
is not gold-plated, but seems to evidence a lot of learning. They are
great students, they ask good questions and they balance time and
payoff better than any others.

(d) Steadies – are the diligentsia, and do very well. They take the
time to prepare and don’t worry that they got it all (who does?). Good
test takers, they are centered and not lost. Quizzes come and go,
being small ripples on their equanimous bearing.

It takes all types to make up a class, and everyone has their role in
keeping us teachers honest. Quizzes will remain, simply because they
make us all learn, students and teachers alike.


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