2 types of tests

As a student and then later as a teacher, I noticed two types of tests.

The first included information the teacher told me about. “Here’s what you’ll have to be able to do/recall/recount in order to perform well on the test. Learn this, this, and this.”

I tended to like these kinds of tests. As long as I knew what I needed to know, it was just a matter of learning it. These tests often required more precision, but in general I knew where I stood going into these tests.

The second type of test included information from a general field of study. “Here are the books/lectures/topics that might be covered on the test. Learn it all.”

This second type of test always felt more difficult to me. I could get away with less precision in my answers, but I rarely knew were I stood walking into these types of tests.

I found that the best teachers employed the first kind of test. Their job – and my job when I taught – was to teach what the students needed to know. The teacher’s job was to distill the material and present it in such a way that the students knew what they needed to know. That’s what the best teachers do.

What I’ve found, though, is that most topics in life present themselves as the second type of test, not the first.

Life says, “Learn it all.” (It’s not a very good teacher.)