Editor’s Column: Hang In There

Sarah Willson, Editor-in-Chief

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You never realize how much you have to do until it’s almost too late. Suddenly, it hits you – finals? What finals? And before you know it, you’re knee-deep in a few double-digit papers, two oral presentations and three tests in classes you’re already majorly confused in. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.

Out of the three options listed above, the in-class tests are the ones that keep me up at night. The dreaded horror of sitting down and clearing off your desk while anxiously waiting for your professor to pass out the Scantron can almost seem like too much at times, especially when you’re already overwhelmed with the mounds of other work you have yet to start.

It’s important to remember, though, these tests aren’t everything. They matter, but they aren’t everything. Too often it seems like professors and teachers across the country forget that testing is not an accurate or fair way to measure a student’s capabilities. Not all tests are created equal, and surely some students are better at exam-taking than others.

The most concerning part about testing is the fact that students will do anything and everything to pass, even if it means risking their entire academic reputation. This is because high-stakes tests are too often used to determine whether or not a student will pass a class or even graduate on time. As a result, experts say students are more likely to cheat or abuse performance drugs as a way to better focus.

Too many times, students are also left cramming the night before an exam and often don’t even learn the material in the process. Instead of comprehending the information that’s supposed to help carry them into the professional world, students are too busy worrying about what may or may not be on the multiple choice portion of the exam.

A Brookings Institution study found that 50 to 80 percent of test scores were caused as a result of “fluctuations that had nothing to do with long-term changes in learning.” So, if we understand that testing is not a reliable way to measure a students success and students aren’t learning anything in the process of test-taking, why are we still doing it?

This is not a call to eliminate all in-class exams, but rather a call for teachers and professors alike to re-examine the way they evaluate a student’s success. Nothing about a multiple choice exam values creativity or comprehension. A student’s understanding of a topic can be measured much more accurately in a presentation, group project or even term paper. Unlike professors, machines can’t tell what exactly someone is trying to say.

Students, as finals come hurdling towards us, remember to do your best, but know that one exam doesn’t determine your educational worth. You have learned much more throughout your 15 weeks in the course than a two-hour timeslot will show.