No, not intelligent design, but identifications. (Although identifications ought to be intelligently designed.) While chewing over Ira Socol's piece at InsideHigherEd, I found myself thinking about both objective identifications (the student has both the quotation and an answer bank) and short answer identifications (the student identifies the quotation and briefly analyzes it). What do identifications identify?
1. The student has read the assigned material.
2. The student can remember the assigned material.
3. The student can distinguish author X from author Y, and genre X from genre Y.
4. The student can judge that text X cannot have been written by author Y.
5. The student can remember roughly where quotation X is located in text Y, and why that might be important.
My readers may be able to think of other things, but five should suffice.
It seems to me that #1 and #2 are, in fact, the least important things on this list. Not because they're unimportant--after all, a student who neither reads most of the texts nor remembers what she has bothered to read will fail the exam--but because they involve fairly basic skills. #3, #4 and #5, however, are integral to any kind of critical reading. A few posts ago, I joked about students who confuse Charles Darwin with Lord Tennyson. Alas, students have indeed been known to confuse Charles Darwin with Lord Tennyson, thereby leading their instructors to contemplate committing hara-kiri with their red ballpoint pens. (I suppose confusing Erasmus Darwin with Lord Tennyson might be moderately less offensive; however, to my knowledge, Erasmus Darwin does not loom large on current syllabi.) An alert reader can distinguish between Thomas Carlyle and John Stuart Mill, Mill and Walter Pater, Pater and Charles Darwin, etc., etc., etc.--and, one hopes, can explain why Carlyle is Carlyle and Pater is Pater. More to the point, to get back to Darwin and Tennyson, the reader can distinguish the two because she understands more generally how to think about genre, literary technique, subject matter, and so on. And such skills also help the reader identify literary allusions within texts, even when such allusions aren't clearly identified with quotation marks.