Arguing about test questions

By greenteapanda

April 5, 2007

Category: Education

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Not really a test, but a problem I still clash with Chinese people about from a beginner’s Chinese listening text. I have debated this with many people. These questions resemble those on the HSK (the mainland Chinese test of Chinese proficiency). So I consider it important.

The problem is in a series of statments. Somebody says a sentence on the tape. Looking at the workbook, you decide if the statment has the same meaning as the text on the page. My problem is this.

I hear: 我不想住在六层以下。(I don’t want to live under the sixth floor.)

I read: 我想住在六层以上。(I want to live above the sixth floor.)

The correct answer, according to the teacher, is that the spoken and written statements have the same meaning. That doesn’t sit well with me, since the opposite of live UNDER the sixth floor would be to live ON OR ABOVE the sixth floor. So by reading that the person wants to live above the sixth floor, the statment omits the possibility of living on the sixth floor itself.

Standardised tests in other countries would not ask a question like this with such an answer, because it shows the test writers have fundamental problems doing basic math (a subject in which China supposedly does a much better job of teaching students than many western countries). I shouldn’t need to memorise how to incorrectly answer test questions to get the best score – if the test writers can’t do math, they shouldn’t ask questions that require math, since it is a language test.

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