Half of the Class Misses Gimmie Question

My tests are usually devilishly difficult, so when I write my weekly quizzes, I throw in a gimmie or two to help their grade. Apparently, this gimmie was bizarrely hard.

5. The president does not want to sign a bill into law. Which option would he not choose?
       a. Signing the bill.
       b. Vetoing the bill.
       c. Trying a pocket veto.
       d. Having a press conference.

You could miss three weeks of school and, not knowing anything about American government, still infer the correct answer. I didn’t even bother to hide the correct answer in a bunch of mostly correct-looking answers.

The president does not want to sign a bill. What would he not want to do? Sign the bill. It’s an exercise in parsing that I thought wouldn’t trip up the class, but at least half of my students answered this question incorrectly.

Even if “holding a press conference” wrongly tripped them up — even after we covered the importance of press releases and press conferences in politics more than a month ago — I still had students who believed, somehow, that vetoing the bill was an option our chief executive would not consider.

I figure it’s an exercise in reading carefully. As a skill that’ll actually end up being important in their daily lives, I should ask more of these questions.

Moral of the story? Throw the the class a bone and half of them will choke on it.


  1. Maybe it’s the double negative, because I had to read it twice before I realized what you were aiming for. Then again, I test horribly, that was part of English Literature’s allure: essay only.

  2. dkzody

    Too many double negatives. High school students cannot handle those.

  3. They should be able to. I consider this a learning experience for them.

  4. JT

    I missed the “not” in “Which option would he not choose” the first time I read it.

  5. Crimony. I should’ve just used “avoid.”

    Lesson to be gleaned from this: As convenient as it is and no matter how busy you are, never write a quiz the night before.




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