You may or may not be aware that next week begins Advanced Placement exams for the US and Canada. Advanced Placement (or AP) is a program by the same guys behind the SAT, College Board, and involves top-of-the-line high school courses devoted to specific subjects: physics, chemistry, etcetera. At the end of the year there is an AP exam for each subject, which for most exams (an exception is AP Studio Art) is comprised of roughly half essays (Free Response Questions) and half multiple choice.
Recently (May 2011) a change has been implemented in the scoring for the multiple choice section of the AP exam. Once, it was graded in the same way as the SAT:
Answer question correctly: gain one point.
Do not answer question: gain zero points.
Answer question, but give a WRONG answer: LOSE a fraction of a point.
The idea was that by randomly guessing you show absolutely no mastering of the skill, so a testtaker who absolutely randomly guessed would do as well as one who did not answer a single question at all.
NOW, however, there is no such penalty for wrong answers.
I think that that's stupid. The test is about mastering your shit, and I think that having good test-taking skills is not a measure of having mastered your shiti. An example:
I'm pretty smart so I probably won't find myself in this situation when I take my 3 AP exams over the next two weeks. When I took the AP Environmental Science exam last year, one dumbass kid came into the exam literally 30 minutes late, and thus had less time to finish. Let's say that this poor boy only had half the questions answered when the proctor spoke the fateful "You have five minutes remaining." Now, he has two choices.
He can: answer C C C C C C C C C C C and probably boost his score a few points, OR
He can: keep working, maybe he will finish a few more questions in the time allotted.
Which one will get him a higher score? The first one, most likely, if this kid is as dumb as he seems. And yet, it doesn't actually mean that he's any better at Environmental Science.... and that's what the test is supposed to measure.
See, I think that's bullshit. Do you agree with me, Facepunch?