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10 Awful ILEARN Questions

The following ILEARN questions were taken from the Indiana Department of Education's Repository Site. To return to the main ILEARN page, click here.

3rd Grade: 2018-2019 - Question 6

This question asks for two sentences that have mistakes in punctuation, though three sentences actually contain such mistakes.

“Oh, he got me!” I said to Tim.

This sentence has incorrect quotation mark placement in the text.

“Yes,” he laughed, “he tricked you twice!”

This sentence is missing two commas in the text.

The elephants did tricks, like stand on their front legs.

This sentence is missing a comma in the text.

As the state doesn’t provide an answer key for the questions they disclose, it’s impossible to say for sure how they would score this. Since they ask for “...two sentences…” instead of “…the two sentences…,” perhaps they count it as correct if any two of the above sentences are chosen. Or perhaps they missed one of the mistakes and would only accept two specific sentences as correct. Either way, the question is flawed.

4th Grade: 2021-2022 - Questions 2 & 3

The main idea of the passage is to inform the reader about the 2012 Blossom Kite Festival Rokkaku Battle. This entire paragraph merely provides additional context for the other seven. No sentence in this paragraph comes anywhere close to conveying the main idea of the passage. Put another way, no one could make a reasonable guess as to the content of the rest of the article simply by reading any single sentence in this paragraph.

Let’s say you read a news article recapping a Pacers game that was written for kids, so it included a paragraph with a brief history of basketball and generally used flowery prose. What would the author’s message be? That’s right, a recap of the Pacers game.

Whoever wrote this question is trying to make the article into something that it’s not. Given that the article is reporting on this competition, it follows that announcing the winner is most closely related to the author’s message. Unfortunately, that answer, C, makes itself incorrect by overstating things and claiming that Andrew is “the best Rokkaku kit flyer in Washington, D.C.”

Answers A, B & D all provide context to the author’s message, but none of them describe it. It’s impossible to say which of these four answers would be considered “correct” by ILEARN, but none of them actually are.

Note that Part B of the question does absolutely nothing to clarify ILEARN’s intent.

5th Grade: 2018-2019 - Questions 3 & 4

There are lots of poorly worded and poorly framed ILEARN questions, but this is likely the worst I’ve come across.

To start, the question is asking how details in the Uganda text help the reader understand what the Zambia text has to say about the differing roles of males and females. Which is nonsense. The Uganda text has nothing to do with male and female roles in Zambia.

If we assume the question’s author is simply a bad writer, we might graciously assume they meant, “how do the roles of males and females in the Uganda text differ from the roles of males and females in the Zambia text?” Even under that generous assumption, none of the answers to Part A are correct.

Part B fares no better. Given that the student is asked to select three answers, we can generically try to look for statements related to gender roles. Unfortunately, the first, second, third and fifth answers all pertain to that subject, so it would be a guess as to which three ILEARN considers correct.

This question isn’t as bad as the previous one, but it has the same general air of incompetence. There’s no evidence provided pertaining to the order in which these two passages were written. Neither is there evidence that the author of the second had access to or was influenced by the first. It seems safe to assume the writer intended to ask, "What are some similarities in the formats of these two passages?" But if that indeed is the case, both B and C would seem to be correct, and it's not difficult to imagine the test considering D to be so as well. Who knows which answer ILEARN actually scores as correct.

5th Grade: 2021-2022 - Question 3

Here we have an ILEARN question written by someone ignorant of a word and too lazy to look it up. Immense means enormous and can be used in terms of scope or physical size. If you want a dictionary definition, please open a new tab and look one up. While there, you’ll note that careful, strong, forceful and loose are not synonyms for immense.

5th Grade: 2021-2022 - Question 8

With this poorly written question, any answer could be considered to be correct.

Let’s begin by recognizing the author of this piece tells us about two separate, distinct events in the past. First, there’s the time they played kickball and kicked the ball over the fence. That’s the main plot of the text. Within that, there is nestled mention of an even earlier game of kickball, when they missed the ball entirely.

When you are telling a story in the past tense and wish to talk about something separate that’s even further in the past, you need to use the past perfect tense. In short, that means that:

“That day, I tried to kick the ball but missed it entirely.”

should have actually been written as:

“That day, I had tried to kick the ball but had missed it entirely.”

Why is this important? Since the author incorrectly did not use the past perfect tense, it is impossible to say whether the next sentence occurred during the game that makes up most of the story or during the game where they missed the ball entirely.

If it was during the game where they missed the ball entirely, embarrassed makes more sense and the sentence should be written as:

“I had been terribly embarrassed.”

If it was during the game where they kicked the ball, concerned makes more sense and the sentence should be written as:

“I was terribly concerned.”

The author’s use of incorrect grammar makes it impossible to accurately select the more appropriate word.

The second choice is also nonsense. Astonishment and confusion are distinct, different reactions, either of which could be reasonably expected from a group of elementary-school-aged children. There’s no way to know which was exhibited by the other kids on the playground without the author revealing it.

7th Grade: 2018-2019 - Questions 2 - 4

This question would be straightforward if it merely asked, “What does the phrase “overbearing insolence” mean?” In that case, it would be a straight vocabulary question. If the assumption is that 12-year-olds should know the definitions of those words, the answer is clearly A.

Here’s the problem. This doesn’t appear to be a vocabulary question. Rather, it asks what the phrase “most likely means,” which indicates students are supposed to discern the meaning from the usage and context. If that’s the case, the context would make C the most appropriate answer. Further, I think most people would also consider D more appropriate than A.

So if the question is evaluating students’ vocabulary, it’s terribly worded. If it’s evaluating their reading comprehension, its most correct answer is factually wrong.

This question is insane. The text of the paragraph featured in Part B supports every conclusion in Part A. This question is so bad that I don’t know what else to say about it.

Both B and C are correct. The middle section walks us through the periods of Celtic history and stresses much of what we know comes from archeological digs. It also provides details that offer insight into Celtic culture. I have no idea which answer ILEARN considers correct or how students are expected to do any more than guess.

Use the following links to explore more bad ILEARN questions.


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