Real life examples of biased test questions?

You see this mentioned a lot yet very few convincing examples, unless you go as far as claiming knowing a pumpkin is fruit and a carpenter cuts wood are biased.

And this is straight up bullshit!

I did see a question that struck me as straight up confusing because it used a sport popular in the USA.

The link is 404 - got another one?

Seems to work, its just an example though.

Ah - I see what happened - the “l” was missing at the end of the first link. The 2nd one worked for me - thanks, Grude!

I think that the person that wrote that test had their own motivations.
For example

Ummm, No, if you don’t know that Brazil and Argentina are on the same continent you’re lacking in school smarts, which is exactly what standardized testing is for. Also, now that I’ve cut and pasted that into here, I see that they spelled “transltes” wrong…funny, and interesting.

I remember back in some college class we talked about this kind of bias. The question they used was “What is a deuce and a quarter?” and had a few options under it. I was the only person in the class who knew what it was but only because my dad is a car guy. I’m not sure if it was taken from a real test, made up to show what a biased question would look like or suggested as a ‘fair’ question for certain areas.

So according to that website, only rich kids who get their homes remodeled would have any chance at all of knowing what a saw is used for, and kids who have good “interpersonal skills” should not have to do math?

One I saw recently asked what measurement was most appropriate for measuring a soccer field: feet, yards, inches, or miles. Of course anyone who knows soccer is a sport can eliminate two of those answers, but I think that knowing whether feet or yards is a more appropriate measurement requires more familiarity with regulation soccer than it’s fair to assume all students have.

There’s the famous regatta question from the SAT that started all this. I do remember as a child encountering a question about figuring baseball averages on a standardized test - that’s definitely a biased one (against non-sports-fans, particularly girls, IMHO.)

People have different sorts of intelligence; that’s true enough. I don’t see why that makes it unfair to test spatial ability, number ability, or word ability.

I don’t think any of those examples are unfair. The test disqualifies geography, numbers, spatial knowledge, and several other types of knowledge. My (rhetorical) question to those who wrote that sample test: what should we be testing our students on?

The first example is particularly egregious. It’s a simple word problem similar to what students will be seeing for the rest of their school career. I don’t see how it’s unfair to ask a student to decipher what amounts to (x)+(x)+(x/2) when x is clearly given in the word problem.

If I understood correctly, the first two questions (about the bicycle race and Brazil) were given as examples of proper unbiased questions.

And that’s what the website said. They said the South America question was an example of a question that tested “school smarts”.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I thought they were saying that the first two questions are fair (because they test ‘school smarts’), and the rest aren’t. Although I don’t see why - a kid who’s family travelled a lot will be at an advantage on the geography question just like a kid who’s family has had renovations will supposedly be at advantage on the carpenter question.

In any case, I can see that some tests are skewed, but some of these complaints seem ridiculous - ‘carpenter’ is a perfectly acceptable vocabulary word for a kid to know, whether or not they have actually interacted with one. And the ‘different learning styles’ thing seems to be a red herring to me - unless the entire exam is made up of just one style of questions, why is that unfair? If the test includes a mix of questions doesn’t that eventually cover all the different learning styles and even everything out?

Here’s the response from the first question, the one I referenced. Looks like you’re right, so I withdraw my objection! :smiley:

Way to go! This question is taken from a seventh-grade standardized test. It’s asking a student to apply knowlede he should have learned in school. However, many of the other questions on standardized tests ask students to utilize information gained at home. Even if a student answered every question related to what he’s learned in school correctly, he still might receive a poor score. This is unfair to the student who works hard at school, but whose home life is lacking in academic stimulus.

I will never forget a question on a test I took when I spent 8th grade in Boston, having grown up in California. It involved analyzing the sentence, “The umpire called Yaz out at the plate.” I felt that it should have read, "The umpire called ‘Yaz’ out at the place, although I had no idea what ‘Yaz’ meant (I figured maybe a Boston version of ‘yes’) or why the umpire would be yelling it.

I was a very good student, but that question was meaningless without knowing who Carl Yastrzemski is.

The fruit question threw me, though not for the reasons the website stated.

“A plant’s fruit always contains seeds. Choose the item below that’s not a fruit.”

Then they list four things, all of which contain seeds. Thus, by the information provided in the question, they’re all fruit. I wasn’t sure how to answer the question! There was no correct answer. I thought they were gonna throw strawberries in there to throw everyone off. (Plus, wikipedia seems to describe a cucumber as a fruit anyway, so it is a biased question or just a bad question?)

As far as biased test questions in real life, one of the listservs I follow is for ultramarathon runners. One guys daughter was given this question:

Choose the best estimate for the distance you might run in a race:
A) 50 Miles, B) 50 yards, C) 50 feet, D) 50 inches.

Her dad runs 50 and 100 mile races regularly, as do the people they hang out with. She’s been to those races and seen 1000’s of people complete 50 mile runs. She answered A and was marked wrong.

It’s probably an example of poorly worded question rather than a biased one though. It did ask, which distance YOU might run, which really makes it more of an opinion question.

The fourth one was celery, not cucumber, I think.

This is actually even worse than you think, since (if you consider the goals part of the field), both feet and yards are used: the goals are defined in the official rules as 8 yards wide by 8 feet high. If you were nitpicky, you could even point out that the maximum width of lines marking the field is given in inches (or depending on your edition, they’re all in meters).

Darn it! I fail reading comprehension!

I was paraphrasing; I think the actual question referred to the length of the soccer field.

Even so, it’s a terrible question. I don’t know how long a soccer field is. If it’s 200 feet, then it’d be really weird to measure it in yards. If it’s 300 feet, it’d make more sense to use yards. And if it’s what I suspect, most soccer fields are really measured in meters.