16 Jun 2017

A Real Grammar Quiz (version 2)

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Several years ago, I created something I called a "Real Grammar Quiz." It was born of my irritation with the many so-called grammar quizzes available on the Internet which treat "grammar" as a catch-all term for "writing usage" and focus mostly on spelling, punctuation, and diction rather than grammar in the strict sense. This quiz has proven to be continuously popular since I released it. I've even received reports of a company using it to help screen job applicants for their knowledge of formal grammar.

So for those who are drawn to such things, I've created a second version of the quiz. This is a parallel form to the earlier quiz, with all new questions but constructed with approximately the same balance of question types and (I hope) difficulty.

Attempts allowedUnlimited
Backwards navigationAllowed
4 Apr 2017
This is part two of a multipart series on the quality of commercial test-preparation material.

In part one, I made the rather unoriginal claim that most commercial test-prep material sucks, and suggested that one major reason it's so bad is that doing good work is hard and that there is insufficient financial incentive for publishers to put resources into doing it right.

30 Mar 2017
Yesterday, I picked up a recent edition of the Kaplan SAT Subject Test Literature guide (the 2015-2016 edition, which I gather is actually identical to the more recent edition) and went through the diagnostic test in it. Unfortunately, this mock test had so many flaws and outright errors, was so unrepresentative of the actual Literature Test, that it's hard to see how it could diagnose much of anything. Just how terrible was it? Here's just one example:
1 Mar 2017
The question of whether—or to what extent—the SAT is "coachable" is a perennial controversy. When the recent overhaul to the SAT was announced, College Board CEO David Coleman made a big deal about how the changes would orient the test so that it more closely measured the skills needed for college success. One intended consequence of those changes was that the test would be less susceptible to coaching. Eliminating sentence-completion questions, for example, was meant to discourage students from memorizing long lists of "SAT" words that they would never need again.
15 Jun 2016

The Wake

Submitted by Karl Hagen
There's an excellent discussion of the fake Old English in Paul Kingsworth's novel The Wake on The Toast.

Against the recommendation of medievalists I trust, I bought this novel and read about 100 pages before giving up on it. It wasn't that I found the pseudo-Old English incomprehensible. Once upon a time, Old English was my primary field of study, and I got what Kingsworth was trying to do.


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