Pen or Pencil Exam

Improvement. This skirmish of drips may be over. But that doesn’t keep me from being older than I should be. But at least the stress level will be lower for a few days. Too few!

I have been riding my stationary bicycle and listening to an episode of the "Pen Addict" podcast this period. The entire podcast consisted of the protagonist enunciating his rankings of different issues of a collectible (?) pocket notebook. From prior listenings to this podcast I have become aware of an essentially cult following of this brand of notebooks but I find it quite alien and somewhere between alarming and amusing.

I use these notebooks, or, more properly, I use this format of notebook, but I consider a notebook to be valued for its contents. Hence an empty notebook has a potential value and a cost but is not something for abject veneration or sacrifice. In fact, there are other brands of this format notebook that I consider somewhat superior.

While I use these notebooks, I use them for practical matters, primarily as purchase logs and as memo books. This use arises from their size. In my usage they are unsuited for serious composition. This latter follows from how I take notes and compose. This format notebook is just flat too small for such. Because of how I learned note taking, I am most comfortable with an 11×8.5 in^2 notebook.

But this did lead me to consider the matter of test taking. Of course this is test taking in my day; I don’t know how people give/take tests today although some of my colleagues who teach courses tell me it is all multiple guess these days. In my day, test taking – except the few standardized tests like the SAT and the GED – were done in blue/green books that have been discussed previously.

The difference also had to do with how we put information in those test booklets. In nerd (STEM) classes we took tests with pencil because we were doing maths and perhaps sketching figures. In bog classes, we wrote with BIC pens because the questions required structured ASCII – English language – answers. And syntax was often graded.

It struck me this corresponds closely to Chad Orzel’s taxonomy of college courses, the read before/after taxonomy. Read before courses you take exams in ink, read after courses you take exams in pencil.

This may require some further cogitation.