Chapter 18
David and Goliath

WHAT HAPPENS when a person complains about particular test questions depends, of course, on the circumstances. While the result is rarely encouraging, it can nevertheless be illuminating. In this chapter we present a particular case history. For reasons that will appear, the presentation must be a detailed one, yet even so it must contain some loose ends.

On March 18, 1961, a high school student wrote to the Educational Testing Service as follows:

I would like to call attention to question 33, Section 3 of the English Composition Test given March 18 at Bethesda, Maryland. The question is a sentence with four words or phrases underlined and the fifth alternative is "no error." My concern is that I did not know whether you intended for the testee to judge the "where" incorrect or if you intended that the sentence should mean that the reader (of the newspaper) learned the location of the fishermen's plight. The later came to mind first, but then I was plagued by the thought that "they" wouldn't put in something like that. On my answer sheet I indicated the former answer (hope it was right!), but I am uncertain of what was intended.

There was another question of the same type in the same

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