Multiple choice interpretation

From the General Achievement Test for the Victorian Certificate of Education sat today.

The image of the Australian outback on the next page was painted by Russell Drysdale.

Pamela Bell described the painting in the following terms.

Man reading a Paper is one of the most surreal of Drysdale’s paintings of the early 1940s. For the first time, Drysdale incorporated pieces of corrugated iron and a windmill, motifs which at times appear abstract. A sense of ambiguity is heightened by the suggestion of actions taking place in an internal rather than external environment. Instead of sitting in a lounge chair reading a paper, the mail figure rests on a tree stump, with his jacket hung on the nearest branch. The subject’s indifference to the strange scene around him only heightens the viewer’s feeling of unease.

Bell sees the painting as

  1. eerie
  2. tragic
  3. tranquil
  4. celebratory

The seated figure in the painting seems

  1. at home in the landscape
  2. a victim of the landscape
  3. alienated from the landscape
  4. the destroyer of the landscape

The painting is best described as

  1. tragic
  2. passionate
  3. celebratory
  4. dispassionate

Drysdale’s attitude to the Australian outback seems to be

  1. hostile
  2. scornful
  3. celebratory
  4. unsentimental
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Martin
Martin
10 years ago

Wow, that would have to be as bad a set of multiple choice questions as I’ve seen in a long time.

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

” … the mail figure …”

You’re kidding.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

On the bright side, at least this test is not used to directly mark anyone (unless they apply for special consideration) – rather, iirc, cohort-wide results (I think the cohort is a school?) on this test are compared with the cohort’s results in graded assessments, and significant differences give rise to further scrutiny of the graded papers in question.

But even so, who wrote that??

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

They’re even bad multi-choice questions (perhaps it’s very hard to design decent ones for many aspects of art) — basically “please remember this stuff without thinking or understanding anything and tell us the answers your teachers told you to use, lest you think there is passion in the clouds but the question designing uber-lord happened to think tragic is the 100% correct answer”.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Well that pretty much describes the entire VCE English course conrad – I hated preparing for that exam more than almost any other study I’ve ever done because I hated committing a study guide (and pretty damn banal) essay to memory.

But I could pretty clearly understood that such was the expectation so that was I what I (endeavoured) to do.

That said, I’m not sure how much choice you have if you want to consistently grade a few tens of thousands of English essays!

desipis
10 years ago

I guess there’s more than one way to fail a test…

Patrick, in some ways I think I’d prefer meaningful yet inconsistent grading to a consistently pointless system.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
10 years ago

Probably would have been better to have short-answer – but I can remember similar questions when I was doing English at school.

“the mail figure” oops – Oh well I guess if newspapers are full of typos these days – still sloppy

Glad I didn’t have to do this test – reminds me a bit of the Howard government citizenship tests with multiple choice questions that could be answered in several ways

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

Patrick,

it isn’t especially hard to get high inter-rater reliability even on quite complex essays if you have reasonably experienced markers and a well set out marking strategy (indeed, even without a very explicit strategy, you can get quite good reliability if people are used to marking together). I imagine the real problem is for all the university courses where you need a perfect score — then half a mark here or there may make a difference, and so people prefer strange Confucian style testing with poor validity over other possibilites. Another reason for postgraduate entry courses I guess.

Julia
Julia
10 years ago

I’m going for 1, 3, 4, 4. Was I right?
I think its doable, even in the absence of teacher expectations, but what it is estimating that you actually know, is pretty unfathomable.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

But conrad, the weird multiple-choicey thing is not actually used to generate any marks – it is fundamentally an anti-cheating correlative test!

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Which brings me to think, is this a deliberate ruse – an anti-cheating correlative in the anti-cheating correlative test? I.e. anyone who gets this question perfectly ‘right’ is probably cheating?

Martin
Martin
10 years ago

My art historian wife was easily able to come up with a reasonable argument for every answer, so who knows what the right answers are meant to be

desipis
10 years ago

Patrick, that’s an interesting idea, although I’d hope it’d be applied on a group basis to identify organised cheating rather than individuals. Then again, such an idea fails Hanlon’s razor

Pappinbarra Fox
Pappinbarra Fox
10 years ago

can you run the middle bit passed me again?

Pappinbarra Fox
Pappinbarra Fox
10 years ago

Julia you are 100% right but my answers are a,e,d,c

Julia
Julia
10 years ago

Agreed Papinbarra Fox @ 15, its possible to have two different answers to this one and still be right. The reason is, I think because the construction of the alternatives fails one of the tests of logicians on separable categories – that is “excluded middle”. The first set of alternatives in particular could all be simultaneously correct.
For the rest of us who are not logicians the ambiguous construction of the test is a ratification of the idea that categories, especially language categories are always overlapping, have no fixed irreducible “core meaning” and are a moving target because they are social. (Wittgenstein in “Philosophical Investigations”; Jorge Luis Borges and his “Chinese Encyclopaedia” in his essay “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins” made famous by Foucault’s discussion; George Lakoff in “Women Fire and Dangerous Things”; Ian Hacking in “Mad Travellers” and “Kinds of People: Moving Targets”, for instance)
That I think is the basic silliness of multiple choice questions – they are only answerable if you do in fact, know what is in the mind of your teacher, because without that there is no other way to get to any sort of coherent answer. Its not actually inherent in the categories.

Rex
Rex
10 years ago

I think the question posed in this VCE exam is irrelevant and pretentious.
The question should instead read thusly:

The following image of the Australian outback was painted by Russell Drysdale. Is it:-

a. Good? – Its a Drydale stupid, and worth a lot of money. Of course it’s good!

b. Crap – Never heard of Russell Drysdale, and my eight year old can do better than anyway.

john walker
john walker
10 years ago

It is a comprehension test ( all be it badly written ) I.E- can you read, well enough , to roughly comprehend, Ms Bells formulations, that’s all . A selection from ‘Advice for Novice Goatkeepers’ would have done just as well for the purpose.

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

Wasn’t this the artist who went a bit overboard in his drip vinyl paintings?
Got the modernisms something bad I hear.
I just want to say I admire a state which has a “General Achievement” Test.