Category Archives: Quiz

Trying to keep that ol’ gray matter working

313

I accepted some time ago that I was never going to be a world-shaker on the weekly Slate News Quiz. Aside from the fact that it tends to value news that’s a little outside my areas of interest (like, you know, sports), it’s timed, which tends to rattle me. Because I never ever do nothin’ fast, to paraphrase Tina Turner.

And today, I met my own low expectations, missing five questions and scoring a miserable 313. (I did, by way of consolation, beat this week’s designated Slate staffer, but this was a feature writer, not a hard-news type, so no real honor in that.)

But as I say, I no longer expect to break records. This week, for instance, the top score was from a reader with the alias “LiberalViewer,” with a perfect 600. (How does one get a perfect score on a test in which time counts against your score? Get all 12 questions right in zero time?)

So I’ve started using the quizzes for something else — to test and train my brain. Now that I’m on Medicare and all, I suppose I should think about keeping the ol’ gray matter humming — or making whatever noise it makes.

So right after I score my usual dismal score, I go back and take the same test again, with two aims — to see if I remember all the correct answers and to see how much faster I can do it.

After all, since my annual physical last week was my first on Medicare, they gave me a mental acuity test. The nurse gave me three words to remember and asked me to draw a clock on which the hands pointed to 10 ’til 2. She left the room, and I set to work drawing my clock (the circle part was already drawn, thank goodness). Later, suddenly and without warning, she asked me for the three words. They were “sunshine,” “banana” and “chair.” I aced it — this time. (She never got back to me on the clock thing.)

Anyway, this week I did the quiz again several minutes later and got a 580. Which is good, I think. For a slowcoach like me, anyway. That’s about as fast as my fingers will click…

580

YEAH, baby! You’d better go STUDY UP, Aisha!

419

For once, I didn’t totally embarrass myself on the Slate News Quiz — which, as you know from my constant whining about it, is timed and therefore tends to rattle me.

Yes! Take a look at THAT, Aisha Harris! 419! You’d better go study up next time! That goes for you too out there, Mr. Average!

Actually, I should have gone 12 for 12. Both of the questions I missed were ones where — and I know you’ve been there — my first reaction was the right answer, but being an idiot, I talked myself out of it.

Otherwise, my result would have looked like what you see below. (Yeah, I make a habit of immediately taking the test a second time, to improve my speed and check up on my ability to learn.) Now, y’all go take it!

582

This test says I’m a racist — but a moderate one, let me add!

trap

Y’all know I’m a sucker for a written test, even if, as I take it, I can hear the voice of Admiral Ackbar crying, “It’s a trap!”

Which was sort of the case with this one as it proceeded. Even as I thought I could see the trap taking shape and closing on me, hubris kept me going, hoping I’d ace it anyway.

I didn’t.

I was attracted to the test by this item on the radio this morning. It was a story about all the Starbucks stores that are closed for racial-sensitivity training as I type this. Then came the hook:

How to evaluate your own bias:

The Takeaway invites you to participate in an assessment of your own implicit biases. Click here to access Harvard University’s “Project Implicit.” If this is the first time you’re attempting the test, you’ll have to continue as a guest. Select your country and language, then press “GO!” At the bottom of the next page, click “I wish to proceed.” Then select “Race IAT” — or other implicit association test of your choice — from the following page, and continue to follow the prompts from there to take the test. It should last about 10 minutes.

I went for it, of course. The result? It said “Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for European Americans over African Americans.

Which kinda ticked me off, even though I saw it coming. What caused this conclusion of my racism?

I’ll tell you, but I ask you to go take the test before reading my explanation. No, really, I mean it now! Go take it before you read past this…

SPOILER ALERT!

The test starts off by lulling you. It asks you questions you’d have to be a major, racist jerk — and a particularly dumb one at that — to answer “wrongly.” Questions like whether you prefer white people to black people, and to what degree.

Then there’s another batch of obvious-pitfall questions, about whether you think poor people are that way because they’re lazy and shiftless.

Then comes the trick part. From the beginning, I’m screwed because you’re supposed to respond as quickly as you can. That always messes me up. I like being rushed even less than other people do; in fact it’s a major personal peeve. My hand/eye coordination is about as quick as that of the average giant sloth, and I know it, and I get rattled.

But I can, eventually, sorta kinda get into the rhythm of the thing.

Anyway, in this part of the test, you’re supposed to, as quickly as possible, either hit the e key with your left hand or the i key with your right.

And here’s where it gets REALLY tricky: You’re not supposed to respond according to what you think, but according to how you have been told in advance to respond. And the way you have been told to respond is in a completed irrational, arbitrary manner.

In this portion of the test, the e and the i correspond to “good” and “bad” (or was it the other way around?). Onto your screen will flash two kinds of input — one of a set of photos of faces, and the other and set of words that are obviously expressing either positive associations (such as “happy”) or negative ones (such as “dirty”).

In the first half of this portion, you are instructed to click one of the letters for both black faces and positive words, and the other letter for white faces and negative words. This was kind of silly and irrational, and I hit the wrong key a couple of times, but I muddled through, and thought I was getting a little faster toward the end.

Then, once you’re warmed up, it reverses on you. You are instructed to hit one key for both black faces and negative words, and the other for white faces and positive words. This was both stupid and offensive, but I followed the instructions, and started doing it a bit faster as I went.

And as I did so, I suspected I was getting myself in trouble by getting better at following the instructions.

Sure enough, I was labeled moderately racist for getting a little faster in that last part — because, in the assumptions of the test creators, supposedly it was easier for my brain to associate the positive words with white faces, and negative ones with black ones. And that, they say, is why I did it more quickly.

Obviously, I believe that if it had been the other way around, with white folks associated with good words first, and bad words second, I would still have been faster on the last part. And then I would have been seen as having a moderate preference for black people, which I think would also have been kind of a bogus result.

But I don’t know that. And I kind of doubt that it would be valid to take it again. So I’ll just share with you what it said about me. The result is what it is…

This Pew typology quiz isn’t nearly as good as the old one

needy

Remember the Pew political typology quiz of a few years back? It was an attempt to classify people by their actual beliefs, getting beyond simple “left” and “right.”

It posed a lot of questions with only two answers and both of them wrong, but I found it intriguing. It placed me in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” That bugged me because I didn’t like the “left” part — but I thought the “faith and family” part was fair enough. In fact, I liked it. And how often are any of us comfortable with the ways others describe us? Here’s how that category was described:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

Sounds kind of like me, doesn’t it? Even though it’s the group with the highest percentage of African-Americans (I joked at the time that Pew thinks I’m a black preacher) and I’m the whitest white boy at Bypass High, it felt more or less right. I chafed at some of it, but not all.

But Pew has a new typology quiz now, and I hate it. (Actually, it’s relatively new. I tried last year and hated the results so much I didn’t even write about it. Today, I decided to give it another chance, but it came up with the same stupid answer.) The questions demanding one of two wrong answers are even more egregious, and I simply refused to answer some of them. Which means Pew assessed me on the basis of incomplete information. And this time, it decided I was one of the “New Era Enterprisers,” which right off sort of makes me want to gag.

I ask you, does this sound like me?

This relatively young, economically conservative, Republican-leaning group tends to be relatively moderate on immigration and views about America’s engagement with the rest of the world. Most say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing and that immigrants strengthen the nation. As is the case with other GOP-leaning groups, a majority of New Era Enterprisers reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason many black people are unable to get ahead. Nearly two-thirds favor societal acceptance of homosexuality. New Era Enterprisers are less critical about government than other Republican-leaning groups.

Really? “This relatively young, economically conservative, Republican-leaning group?” I try to picture that person, and I see John Dean before he started ratting out the Nixon White House. And if I were really a member of this group, I would have little memory of Howard Dean, much less John.

OK, yeah, I favor engagement in the world. But doesn’t that make me more of an old school postwar internationalist? More of a John McCain type? Or a Scoop Jackson, among the Democrats? And yeah, I’m less critical about government — but how does that put me in this group?

The only way it fits, overall, is that this category seems to be less ideological all around.

Pictured above and below are two of the questions I refused to answer. How could I?

Of course the country can do more to help the needy — such as passing single-payer. And it does NOT have to go further into debt to do it. False choice.

The one below is worse. I don’t think racial discrimination is “the main reason” many black Americans have trouble getting ahead. Nor would I for a second say that folks trapped in multigenerational poverty are “mostly responsible for their own condition.” There are many forces that can frustrate a poor person’s best efforts, and to say racism is “the main reason” is to blind yourself to all the others.

Anyway, I don’t have time to think about this any more. I need to run out and start a tech company and make a billion dollars. Because that, apparently, is the kind of young fella I am. A New Era Enterpriser. Sheesh…

racism

Slate Quiz: Ha! Take THAT, you young whippersnapper!

405

I know I shouldn’t feel pumped for beating a lowly intern, but I so seldom do well on the Slate News Quiz (it’s timed, and that rattles me) that I deserve to celebrate, just a bit.

Even though, you know, I cheated. Just a little…

Here’s what I did: On the very first question, I could see the right answer immediately. But then I hesitated, thought a bit more, and clicked on a different answer — and it was wrong! I had been right to start with!

I wasn’t going to proceed on that basis, starting in the hole, so I allowed myself a mulligan; I started over.

I ended up knowing most of the answers, and beating both the intern (take that, young Lila Thulin!) and the average by a fairly substantial margin (405 to 316 to 342, respectively).

So I made myself go back and do it again, deliberately getting the first answer wrong. But then, I accidentally correctly answered another question I’d gotten wrong the first time (No. 4), so I had to deliberately screw up another one (No. 12).

But I failed set things right. I ended up with a higher score, 431, the second time — probably because I did it faster.

So, there is wrongness still in the universe, and it’s my fault, and I seem to be incapable of setting it right. But I still slam-dunked this quiz! See how you do.

431

 

I won on the Slate News Quiz! (not that that’s unusual…)

200

As I’ve bragged here often, I tend to test well. Give me a written, and I’m in like Flynn.

Except on the weekly Slate News Quiz. First, it’s timed — I don’t do well with timed tests; they rattle me. Second, the news it chooses to test on is not the kind that’s on the front pages of the NYT, WashPost, or The Guardian, which is where I look for it during the week. Too much News of the Weird, sports and celebrity junk.

But this week, I ruled! And what probably put me over the top was that the sports question was, for once, about baseball! And about a game I had actually watched! (Which is something unlikely to happen more than once a year or so.) Take that, Dahlia Lithwick!

Test yourself at this link

428

 

Top Five Things Wrong With This PBS Quiz

decade

As y’all know, I dig PBS almost as much as I do NPR, and it’s basically the only broadcast outlet I ever watch. (Mostly I have a TV for Netflix and Amazon Prime, and occasionally, when I’m feeling retro, a DVD.)

So I have high expectations when I see the PBS logo. Which is why I was so disappointed by this lame “Which Decade Do You Belong In?” quiz.

The whole thing was phoned in for the shallowest of purposes — promotion of three “Masterpiece Mystery” series. Nothing is offered that would provide a serious time traveler with helpful insight into which decade he would be most at home in.

Here are the Top Five things wrong with it:

  1. The individual questions force you into ridiculous choices. Such as “Choose a Women’s Hairstyle,” and the options are “Beehive,” “Poodle cut” and “Shag.” In other words, you have to have a fave among the most extreme, least appealing, hairstyles of three decades. (The worst: “Who’s your biggest critic?”, with the choices being “The Establishment,” “The Church,” and “Your mother.” Y’all know me: I’ve got no beef with any of those parties. But I chose “The Establishment” because I knew that would make me cool in at least one of the three decades on offer.)
  2. Even if the individual questions offered minimal guidance, there aren’t enough of them to add up to anything helpful. There are only seven of them! I mean, why even bother inventing a time machine to begin with? With info like this, even if I fell and hit my head and thought of the flux capacitor, I wouldn’t bother to build it, because I’d have no idea where I wanted to go!
  3. Crass commercialism. Or, since this is technically not commercial television, crass… I don’t know… promotionalism! There have been loads of fine “Masterpiece Mystery!” shows over the years, set in many very fine decades, but this is all about three that were currently showing or about to have a season premiere. About as shallow as you can get, and strangely trapped in the current moment, considering that the point is to appeal to people who presumably want to live in other moments.
  4. Lack of truly cool decades. Forced to choose between the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, I of course ended up in the 50s, which will surprise few of you. But that’s because the decade of 1800-1810 wasn’t even offered! And you would think that PBS, if it exerted itself even slightly, would be able to manage that…
  5. One of the three shows that inspired this insipidity was a show that I haven’t even watched,
    No Annie Cartwright.

    No Annie Cartwright.

    from lack of interest: “Prime Suspect: Tennison.” I tried watching it one night, but quickly lost interest, mainly because it takes us back to the Metropolitan Police Service in 1973. In other words, it covers ground already covered far more entertainingly by “Life on Mars.” The central character is a young WPC trying to make her way in a service just beginning, reluctantly, to take female cops seriously. And I’m sorry — I’m sure she does her best, but she is no Annie Cartwright! Anyway, I lived through the 1970s; I became an adult in the 1970s, so show me something more interesting.

In the grand scheme of things, of course, such quizzes are beneath the dignity of PBS, which is probably why the person who contrived this just gave it a lick and a promise. But if you’re going to try to engage my appetite for quiz clickbait, then make it worthy of the PBS name!

That is all…

50s

I’m not one to choose the minimum number of pieces of flair

The Wall Street Journal had a fun piece today about the fad of re-enacting the printer-smashing scene from “Office Space.” Above, you see the spoof produced by the Ted Cruz campaign a few months back. Here’s the original.

But the story was accompanied by a short (only five questions) quiz about “Office Space,” and unfortunately, I missed one. When I guessed the minimum number of pieces of flair, I guessed too high.

Which is not a bad thing if you’re an employee of Chotchkie’s. Seriously, what do you think of a person who only does the bare minimum?

But it’s not good if you’re a huge “Office Space” fan.

So if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about my flair…

smash

Yes! I totally KILLED on the Slate News Quiz this week!

quiz 405

Normally, this quiz totally humiliates me, partly because of its tendency to ask really trivial questions, and partly because I get rattled because your score depends on speed, and I like to think about my answers. So being on a timer rattles me.

But this week, I CRUSHED both the average and the pathetic loser Slate staffer they put us all up against this week.

Take that! In your FACE, Dana Stevens!

I am not a total loser on the Slate news quiz!

slatewin

Yes! In your face, Sharan Shetty!

For once, I didn’t totally embarrass myself on the Slate News Quiz, beating both this week’s designated Slate staffer (the aforementioned Sharan Shetty, who had a really good score, but is a total loser compared to me) and the reader average.

I got 11 out of 12, and would have had the 12th if this stupid test didn’t put such a high premium on speed. I had the information to get it right, and would have done so if I had taken another second.

Why am I trumpeting this pathetic minor triumph? Because normally, I totally embarrass myself on this quiz, mainly because of the time factor (which rattles me; I had being hurried) and the fact that Slate deliberately chooses the kinds of quirky news items that I don’t tend to focus on during the week — or quirky details in bigger news stories.

Since I normally test well, which is a major element in whatever feeble self-esteem I am able to muster at this point in my life (yeah, I know — lame), this quiz is a thorn in my side. And yet I inflict it on myself every Friday.

So I’m relishing this week’s score.

Do you get any EXTRA rights if you get 100 on a citizenship test?

100 percent

As anyone who does get 100 percent on a U.S. citizenship test knows, the answer to that question is “no.”

Although at the moment, that seems particularly unfair to me.test screen

Yes, you guessed it! I just took a citizenship test I saw promoted on the Christian Science Monitor site, and I crushed it — got all 96 questions right! (I did it while eating lunch, by the way, not when I should have been working).

And yeah, I know I shouldn’t be gloating at the expense of yearning, wannabe Americans who have to sweat over this test, but, hey — I am humiliated almost every week by the Slate News Quiz, which not only asks esoteric questions but is timed (timed tests always rattle me), so I need these little boosts now and again. (And yeah, I know we’ve done the citizenship thing here before, but I found it fun to take it again — and, you know, crush it again.)

If you take it, you will find it’s pretty easy for anyone who keeps up with this blog. In fact, a little too simplistic now and then. For instance, note the question below. None of the answers is precisely right, since the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t, in the strictest sense, “free the slaves.” As Lincoln well understood, it took the 13th Amendment to do that. But it’s pretty obvious that the simple answer that is sort of right beats out the others, which are all totally wrong.

So don’t be afraid. Take the test. I’m sure I’ll be far from the only 100 percent…

emacipation

That’s not a real Beatles album, you morons

Every once in awhile, I click on one of those quizzes that social media is always offering as clickbait, and occasionally I find them rewarding — such as when it was scientifically confirmed that I am, of course, Leo McGarry.fan

But boy, was this one stupid.

I clicked on this Beatles quiz (“How big a Beatles fan are you?“) because I figured I’d get 100 percent and have a small ego boost from it on my birthday, and the first question was so ridiculously easy that I almost didn’t go on. It said something like, “The Beatles were started in…” And at first, thinking they wanted a date, I was worried. Are they counting the Silver Beatles, or the Quarrymen, and didn’t John have a skiffle group that I can’t remember the name of, and when was that?

But the options were: “Liverpool,” “London,” and so forth. I snorted in contempt. Is there anyone on the planet who could not answer that?

But then, the third question was this:

stupid question

Oh, come on! That’s completely illegitimate to any self-respecting fan! That’s not a Beatles album! That’s some stupid repackaging of old songs concocted LONG after the Beatles ceased to be, aimed at people who didn’t already own all those songs on the real albums. Why not offer compilations from K-Tel while you’re at it?

So I stopped right there. Stupid, stupid quiz…

So far, I have a perfect score on the SAT (Twitter version)

Of course, I’ve only answered two questions so far — yesterday’s and today’s. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with, etc.

Since some of y’all shared my enthusiasm for quizzes — well, for quizzes that I ace, not for abominations such as that cursed Slate news quiz — I thought I would call your attention to this, the Official SAT Question of the Day feed.

Enjoy…

Yes! For once, I didn’t stink at Slate news quiz

slate triumph

As I’ve boasted in the past, I tend to test well, but that does not apply to the Slate news quiz — something about the quirkiness of the topics, or the fact that it’s timed (which tends to rattle me), or something. Anyway, I’ve developed kind of a complex about it.

But this morning, I did not totally stink at it! Which for me is a minor triumph. Take that, Features Editor Jessica Winter! Bow down before me, you merely average folk! I edged you out (barely)!

Try it yourself….

Ha! I didn’t stink on the Slate news quiz this week!

quiz win

Y’all know how I like to brag about my great scores on various quizzes (usually civics quizzes, but sometimes about fundamental understanding of issues in the news).

But I’ve mentioned that I tend to do HORRIBLY on the weekly Slate news quiz — which I chalk up to two factors:

  1. The fact that you’re scored by how FAST you answer, and a ticking clock always rattles me.
  2. The tendency for the questions to be about the kind of quirky, esoteric stuff that I don’t pay attention to.

Well, this week I didn’t stink! I was, well, average! Which on this quiz is real progress, for me….

This is a FINE quiz Bryan found (yep, I aced it)

civil war quiz

Bryan Caskey offered this quiz via email today. Y’all know I like quizzes, and this one was of the sort I really like — I got a perfect score.

Bryan introduced it gently, saying:

I’m currently in Vol. II of Shelby Foote’s Civil War, so that’s not really fair to everyone else. Give it a try, I’m sure y’all will all do fine.

http://www.quizfreak.com/can-you-answer-these-15-civil-war-trivia-questions/index1.html

Well, I’m not as well read on the subject as Bryan — the most involved book I’ve ever read dealing with that period was the science-fiction alternate history novel The Guns of the South (South African white supremacists travel back in time to supply the Confederacy with AK-47s — no, really; it’s a really good book).

But folks, you should know most of this stuff by osmosis. That’s how I picked it up.

Give it a shot. There are only 15 questions.

Oh, wait, tell a lie — I’ve also read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. But that was more about politics than military history…