# Making True/False Questions Easy

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When I was training as a teacher, I gave a simple quiz with True/False
(T/F) questions. The results were terrible. Worse than chance. On one
question, **about 20% of the class got it right**.

I had asked a simple question involving a logical AND:

True or False?

A parallelogram has parallel opposite sides AND it has five sides.

Eighty percent of the class chose 'True', even though all
parallelograms have four sides. The other teachers told me the question
was difficult because it was a T/F question. **They said they never give
T/F questions because they only confuse the kids.** They said I should
just forget about T/F and try a different type of question. But it was
my class and my time to explore teaching and I knew that this question
was not that hard. Several connections became clear in my mind: using
the right part of their
brains,
making the problem about
people, and using
their imaginations
effectively. I wanted to give
it a shot.

I planned the next class around answering True/False questions. There
would be an **experiment** to confirm my suspicion (that the kids were
using the wrong part of their brains), a lesson using an **imaginative
process**, and then a **similar quiz** to see how it worked.

The next morning in class, I wrote the T/F question on the blackboard
and called a student up to answer it. He read it and said 'True' (the
wrong answer). I asked him "what about this part?", pointing to the
false part. He was clearly confused. The part about five sides was
obviously false to him. He then began *looking around*^1{#fnref1
.footnoteRef}^ through the question and stopped at the first part (the
true part). He pointed at it and said 'True', as if it negated the
fact that the other part was false. It's hard to describe, but I was
convinced that he was simply looking for something that was true to make
the whole question true. **And he thought that it was the right
answer.** My hypothesis was confirmed: he was using a visual strategy
when it was not called for.

I then demonstrated an imagination process for solving True/False questions. It went like this:

When solving a True/False question, I first imagine someone standing in front of me. He says the statement from the question to me. If he is lying, the answer is

False. If he is telling the truth, the answer isTrue.

I asked a couple of people to carry out the process while narrating it to me. They seemed to be able to do it (and they got it right). So then I gave the quiz.

The result? Correct answers went **from 20% to 80%**. I felt like I was
finally testing their knowledge of the material and not their
understanding of test-taking strategies.

How did it work? By **converting the problem from a logic skill to a
social skill**, the students could totally bypass the need to process
difficult symbolic rules. And we could solve it as a social problem by
using a structured process of imagination.

True/False questions are difficult because there are **so many levels of
binary confusion**. First, you are looking for the correct (as opposed
to the incorrect) answer. Then you must determine the truth value of the
whole statement, which is a function of the truth values of the
sub-statements. It's just a lot of levels to keep in your head.

The imaginative process cuts through all of that and asks one question:
is he lying. **You are offloading the processing to the social part of
your brain**, which can easily do it if framed in the right
way.^2

```
Looking indicates visual thinking. [Use the right part of the
brain.](/why-technical-explanation-alone-is-not-enough)[↩](#fnref1)
In my last post, I hinted at a better way to teach how to determine
whether a function is a pure function. The better way is to imagine
a robot in front of you. Can he run that function "in his head"?
Or does he need to effect the outside world?[↩](#fnref2)
```