I recently took the Miller Analogies Test, or MAT, as part of my application package for this Masters program. The questions are supposed to start out easy and get harder as you go through the 120 analogies that make up the test. I knew I was in trouble when the first one I had to skip because I didn’t know it was only #16. By the time I got up into the 80s, I was skipping blocks of questions at a time, not because I couldn’t figure out the analogy, but because I couldn’t figure out most of the words! I briefly chastised myself for not taking Latin in high school so that I might now have a chance of figuring out what these words meant by determining their root. Because I took the paper based test versus the online test, I left the room not knowing how I did and knowing it would be two weeks before I’d know.
The two weeks passed rather quickly, and one day I got the envelope with the Pearson return address. I couldn’t wait to open it and see how I did! Unlike most tests, you don’t get a score that says how many you got right or wrong. With the MAT you get a scaled score which is calculated based on the number you got right, but the exact formula is a mystery (at least to me). You also get percentiles based on the current norm group for both your intended major and the total group. So here I am looking at these test scores and wondering what they mean. Are they good enough for me to be accepted into the program? I hoped so, but I didn’t really know.
Assessments are necessary in a learning environment, but what the teacher and learner do with the information in the assessment is what makes the assessment a valuable tool. The assessment could be used to determine if learning is actually happening, or how much the learners already know if it’s given as a pre-assessment. If assessment is done periodically, it can be used to re-direct instruction and learning to match better the pace and needs of the students. But if an assessment is given as an end result and never viewed with an eye toward how it can be used to improve learning or teaching, has there been a bigger opportunity missed?
If the MAT is a pre-assessment to make sure I have a basis of knowledge acceptable for entrance to the program, how does my score indicate which areas I did well on and whether those are relevant to my adult learning studies? Knowing how I struggled with many of the analogies, I wonder how one of my classmates whose native language is not English could ever struggle through the MAT. That brings up another area of concern for testing, and possibly another blog topic – considerations for multi-cultural assessment.