2007-11-26

 

Hyper-literalism

Tania did poorly on an English test last week and Sofia is quite upset. On the other hand, I completely empathize with Tania because she interpreted the test instructions the way I would have.

The test was divided into a number of sections, with each section consisting of a number of multiple choice questions.

The instructions were to select only one answer. Which she did - selecting one multiple choice answer in each section. Unfortunately, she was supposed to select one answer per multiple choice question, consequently, most questions went unanswered.

To me, her response was correct. She was given a precise instruction which she followed. It didn't make sense to her, but then again people rarely make any sort of sense. The world is filled with all sorts of arbitrary rules and inconsistent behaviours and positions that this one was hardly worth batting an eye at.

Hopefully, she will add this to her repertoire of possible exceptions to the inconsistencies of the world and request further clarification in future.

It took me ages to figure out that expressions like, "Let's do lunch, sometime" or "How's it going?" are, in most cases, throw away phrases without the obvious literal meaning of their words. (On the other hand, it was the throw away phrase, "Let's do lunch" that got me my first lunch date with my deaf friend.)

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Comments:
It's extremely important that she understand that the instructions were misleading. Maybe you should also tell her to ask questions in the future if the instructions are perfectly clear.
 
It is difficult!
 
I hate those instructions where you are left clueless of what to do, and even more I hate the questions like :"how are you?" or "how are things going?", that are not meant to be answered. If somebody asks me how am I, being polite myself I will answer "I am fine thank you, and you?" just to be left with an unfinished sentence and the person gone. It is time people started saying and writing (especially in tests) exactly what they mean.
 
barbara: the question is were they misleading for everyone or just for people who have a tendency to be hyper-literate? I told her it was a mistake and it is something she can learn from. She has no hangup about it.

casdok: thanks for visiting and commenting. Yes, it can be hard.

carra: as a writer, you know that clarity is extremely important. This is why we put aside texts and revisit them weeks or months later to ensure they still make sense.

I see no point in asking "How are you" unless you care.

Nice to see you back.
 
Richard, I am glad to be back. Yes clarity is important.That is one of the reasons my short story that I started a month ago is still not satisfactory. It is simply not quite clear!
 
One of the things we teachers do out of necessity is practise taking all the types of tests so they will know how to answer properly. Maybe the teacher was busy, but perhaps could have been circulating making sure they were understanding the type of test it was and what was required. We teach "test-taking skills" big time for the Gr. 3 and 6 government test. (EQAO) Anyway, she'll know now when she sees it again..and that she will quite often! Hope Tania wasn't too upset. One test means nothing.
 
carra: being clear and to the point is important in story telling. Blogging has helped me to be more concise.

MOI: Personally, I have always hated multiple choice exams, anyway. I always preferred essay type exams.
 
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