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  • Test taking ability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by samtregar (2699) on 2002.09.04 0:07 (#12473) Homepage Journal
    Are you sure you're testing programming skill and not just test taking ability? I ask because I'm a really good test taker and I know how much that slants the odds. If you sat me down with a programming manual for a language I'd never touched I bet I could beat an average test taker with one year of experience in the language. Would that mean I'd be the better guy for the job? Probably not!

    Also, did you make them write it down on paper? I absolutely hate trying to program in pen. I've been tempted to walk out of interviews when I see them take out the xerox of questions...

    There, I feel much better now. Maybe I should start using my own blog.


    • Actually, I think you probably would be better for the job. I'm a good test taker as well, but this is limited to the classic multiple choice tests where the elimination strategy works 80% of the time. The sort of test discussed here is a little different: if you can sit down with a manual of a language never seen and whip out a working and correct program then you can probably pick up everything you need about the language to get your job done. Yeah, you're missing idioms and other features you can reall

      • Well if that's the kind of programmer you want then you might as well test for it explicitely. You could create a manual for a fake computer language, give the applicant an hour or so to read it and then have them do a few test programs. This was actually done in my CS 202 class at college and it was the most fun I've ever had in a test.

        But I'm still really concerned that you'd be missing out on some fantastic programmers that have a different psychology.


        • I can almost see your point, but the nature of the questions that we pose to candidates are so basic (e.g.: what's the potential performance impact of nested loops?) that I am very concerned about someone's inability to respond to them. In contrast, in the Perlmonks thread I started on this topic, someone mentioned writing a routine to go through a binary tree without recursion. While this was described as simple, I find that I encounter nested loops far more frequently than binary trees. I could easily

    • Good question. The questions are here [] and we do ask that they sketch out the answer to the second question. The rest we can just discuss as I want to know how they think, not necessarily whether or not they get the answer right. Now, if I had difficult questions, I think this could be more problematic.

      As for test taking ability, to a certain extent, some of us could argue that this is what all programming is about. The boss runs in screaming "Oh shoot! The knerflebitz aren't fribitgizting! What do w