Penguin Study Software (Penguin) Review | Home Computing Weekly - Everygamegoing

Home Computing Weekly

Penguin Study Software
By Penguin
Spectrum 48K

Published in Home Computing Weekly #110

Two packages designed to teach and test physics and chemistry at CSE and '0' level. Although there are a number of teaching packages on the market, it's fair to assume that anyone with a sound knowledge of a subject, a reasonable grasp of programming, and an up to date breakdown of the questions which have arisen in recent exams, could write a question and answer type of testing program which gives your score at the end. Given that, it follows that the content of the program is not nearly as significant as its structure, that is, the way it attempts to teach and test. It's very clear that the authors have given this a great deal of thought.

Each subject has four individual tutorials dealing with related topics. Questions are presented in multiple choice format, as in the exams, at the top of the screen. You are invited to respond either with the key letter for each answer, or 'H' for help. Should your answer be wrong, you are told so, and given the hint you would have received had you asked for help in the first place. You may then attempt another answer. Get it wrong again, or ask for further help, and the answer comes up, together with an explanation of the principle underlying the question, and any relevant information or formulae.

You then have two choices, either to move on to a question on another topic, or to repeat the same topic, but with a different question. It is here that the authors' cleverness shows. Whilst the data in the question will of course be different, the form of the question is also likely to be slightly different too, as a result of randomising both elements. This means that you cannot "learn" the questions parrot fashion, but must be able to contend with all forms of likely questions on the topic. You may repeat like this, with different questions, answers and format as often as you like until you have a sound grasp of the subject matter. Help is always available.

At the end of each question, you may choose to quit and receive your score. Again, this is very clever. You are given the number of "correct first time" responses,"correct second time" responses, "help" requests, questions attempted, time taken and score. The score is very clever too. Every slothful scholar knows you can get away with murder in a multiple choice! By guessing you ought to score at least 25 per cent. The exam boards know this and compensate for it, and so does the score here! Thus you get a detailed and reliable run-down of your performance, which can be dumped to a printer, and used to see how much you improve next time.

Screen presentation is excellent, apparently machine code driven, with redefinable colours, but a Microdrive option to cut loading speed would be handy. Equally useful for first time reinforcement or revision, it's not cheap, but is the best seen yet.


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