Could You Pass a Three-Minute Directions Test That 80 Percent of Test Takers Failed?
September 23, 2022
Is there a correlation between following directions and success?
I think there might be. After all, people pay computer consultants over $50 per hour to diagnose their computer problems. As a retired computer consultant, let me just say that ninety percent of computer consulting consists of following the directions that nobody else has the time, or patience to read.
In order to make my point regarding the importance of directions, I’ve created a three-minute test to see how often people jump to assumptions and skip directions. Not surprisingly, over eighty percent of my test takers fail it.
The test begins with an announcement of Pop Quiz, Ten Questions, Time Limit: Three Minutes. I then leave a line for a name followed by directions that say, “Do not read the questions on this quiz. Simply mark all the questions as false. Do not put your name in the space above. Simply write your name in the bottom right hand corner of this paper, then turn your paper over and wait for the three minutes to be over.”
Next, I write ten, off-the-wall, true or false questions, making sure that the answer to each question is true. Questions like, “Forty percent of one hundred is forty,” or “In United States’ standard measurement, there are eight ounces in a cup.” Even, “If you had a five-foot stick, a four-foot stick, and a three-foot stick; you could put them together and form a right triangle,” and “There are 252,600 minutes in a non-leap year.” My choice of questions usually depends on the background of my audience and the topic of my presentation.
Whenever I give the test, I let people know that their scores will not affect them, that it is simply a pop quiz to help me gage their knowledge. I also lay the test in front of everyone upside down, so that nobody can read the paper until I say that time has begun. Then, I stand back and watch with amusement as everyone turns over the paper and immediately writes his or her name in the space provided. A few people look up at me a few moments later to see if my directions are serious, then try to erase their name before going on to follow the rest of my directions. However, the vast majority of test takers struggle to answer my silly questions within the time allowed.
After calling time and pencils down, I ask someone to read the directions to me. As the directions are read, the whole room gives a groan followed by a hearty laugh. We then have a discussion on the point of the test, and everyone in the room receives a gentle reminder about the consequences of making assumptions and skipping directions.
I have used versions of this quiz in office meetings, classrooms, and conventions. I have even created an Internet version of it on my website. I have found this quiz to be a useful tool when dealing with anyone who needs a fun reminder regarding the importance of reading directions.