‘the correct answer’

The instruction was ‘Circle the correct word or words to complete each sentence’. The first question was ‘Let’s eat dinner in the bedroom / dining room / hall’. The ‘correct’ answer is ‘dining room’. But is it ‘correct’ and are the other choices ‘not correct’?

When we were young, we always ate dinner (and Sunday lunch) in the dining room; no-one had to suggest it. (We ate breakfast and Saturday lunch in the kitchen.) While it might be very unusual to eat dinner in the bedroom or hall, is it ‘incorrect’ to suggest it? I can  imagine spreading a picnic rug on the double bed and eating pizza and cheesecake for dinner. As it happened, all the students chose ‘dining room’, so the question didn’t arise. (By the way, not many Korean houses or apartments have a specialised dining room.)

Another question was ‘I usually hang out with friends / eat out / work out at the gym on Saturday nights. We cook dinner and talk’. The ‘correct’ answer is ‘hang out with friends’, but about half of the students chose ‘eat out’. A very common meal in Korea is 삼겹살 (sam-gyeop-sal, grilled pork belly), which is cooked by the diners at the table. There are a number of other self-cooked meals, so ‘eating out’ and ‘cooking dinner’ are certainly not incompatible. Even in Western countries, where ‘eating out’ usually means that the food is cooked by the kitchen staff, you can go to a ‘cook it yourself’ steak-house, though it might be less usual to say that you ‘cook your meal’ there; maybe you’d say ‘cook your steak’. On the other hand, for me at least, ‘hanging out with friends’ does not involve cooking dinner. I had to tick ‘eat out’, but I told them about Western-style eating habits.

It is difficult to write quiz questions in which all but one of the choices are ‘incorrect’ without making them obviously incorrect, but too many obviously incorrect choices makes the quiz too easy. Sometimes a choice is possible in a particular context, but there’s no context given. I’ve never seriously written quiz questions. I know there’s a skill to it.

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3 thoughts on “‘the correct answer’

  1. It’s like the old story about Peter Ustinov, who claimed that he was once asked in a test to name a Russian composer. He wrote Rimsky-Korsakov but this was deemed incorrect because the ‘correct’ answer was Tchaikovsky …

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