Well, along the same test-taking lines as other stories reported here, I had to take the CBEST last month (this is an exam required for teaching credentials in California; I am applying for an emergency teaching credential -- but that's another story.)
Unlike the reporter taking the MCAS, I did not have the luxury of omitting the open-ended, essay portions of the exam. I was surprised at how hard I found it to put my thoughts into words with pencil and paper -- for more than 15 years, I have always composed in EMACS or WORD, where one can edit and cut-and-paste as one writes.
It was amazing how poorly worded many questions were. I particularled loathed the math questions in which they asked which piece of information would be NECESSARY to solve a problem -- they really meant which would be SUFFICIENT to solve the problem. (That is, if you know pencils cost 50 cents each and pens cost 75 cents, and you know that Hannah spent 30% of her money on pens, the rest on pencils, would you say it is NECESSARY to know how much money she spent in all in order to find out how many pens she bought? I sure wouldn't, lots of other info would suffice.)
And they had a problem in which there were containers holding apple juice, lemonade, and orange juice. the one labelled "apple juice" had orange juice in it... then you were asked various questions about the others... but it implicitly assumed those containers were labelled "orange juice" and "lemonade" even though this was nowhere stated.
The reading questions were no better (though I found afterwards that I couldn't remember them clearly enough to write down my complaints -- I do recall there was a question concerning a reading passage about a laundromat/exercise club for which no answer was literally correct).
The whole experience reminded me a lot of what I didn't like about high school: I was sitting in a too small seat, trying to keep the exam form and the bubble-sheet and my pencils and my picture ID on the tiny writing surface, in a room decorated with ugly student collages and ancient high school psychology textbooks.
I did pass with generally high marks (my essays were considered just acceptable, but my reading section got top marks. And I lost at least one point somewhere on the math! I wish they gave us our answer sheet back, I'd love to see what I missed.) A passing grade is 50%, more or less (the scoring system is a bit cryptic).
I don't know what I think about this test. I certainly think that anyone who can't score 50% on it probably should not be a teacher. (though there could be exceptions -- should a low score on the math component invalidate an art teacher? Might a non-English speaker do poorly on the reading comprehension within the time limit, yet still make a good math teacher? (some of my best teachers in college had somewhat limited English skills) And I still don't know how my essays were graded. Still, 50% on this fairly basic test is pretty low -- I would be more concerned that people who barely pass this test are considered to have met the standard for certification. (Admittedly, there are additional things one must do for certiciation). I don't know what the score distribution is, either among the set of all test-takers or the set of all teachers. I do know that several people in the room I was in were taking the test after having failed one or more portion previously.