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September 9, 2008 / Ben Chun

First Quiz

I gave the first AP Computer Science quiz today. It was a quick 20 questions, multiple-choice, and I was a bit surprised by the results.

Some teachers are at a point in their practice where they give quizzes and tests knowing what they’re going to get, and knowing how to use these tools to help students learn and fine-tune things. I’m not at that point. At all. This is the first time I’m teaching this course, and every assessment (even the small conceptual misunderstandings during in-class labs) is a revelation.

Discussing this with a friend today, I remembered something that I found very valuable in my own math education and which I used extensively when teaching math: test corrections. In revisiting missed items, students can tune in to the expected level of understanding, and learn from the questions that take teachers so long to craft. So I’m going to let them earn back points on the quiz in exchange for doing a little more work with the problems.

This was the most commonly missed question:

Consider the following snippet of Java code:

String pb = "Peanut Butter";
String jt = "Jelly Time";
System.out.println( "pb+jt" );

When compiled and executed, what will be the output?

A.	Peanut Butter+Jelly Time
B.	Peanut ButterJelly Time
C.	Peanut Butter Jelly Time
D.	pb+jt

Yes, it is a trick question. But it’s a good trick question. (Please register your disagreement if that feeling arises… I am new to writing items for this subject.)

Anyway, the task required to earn back the credit on this problem is to write a program that prints out all four different answer choices, leaving the variables pb and jt as declared. And, in addition, to write a paragraph explaining in words how String variables, string literals, and the + operator interact. I feel like this is valuable, and that these students will take the opportunity earnestly. So that’s the plan.

2 Comments

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  1. Alfred Thompson / Sep 9 2008 8:50 pm

    It’s a fair trick question. I wonder what the wrong answers were like. Did most of them get the same wrong answer? If for example most of the answered B that is not as bad as A or C because it means they just missed the quotes. If they quessed A or C it also means they don’t understand the concantination operator.
    I always learned a lot from the ways in which students got answers wrong. I tried hard to use that to improve how I taught as I am sure you do as well.

  2. Leigh Ann Sudol / Sep 10 2008 3:38 pm

    For the students – The corrections are important, but you want to make sure that you dont give corrections that will take more time than the points that they are worth. I also only gave back 1/2 points for corrected material as an incentive to work harder the first time.

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