I am not a good test taker. When it comes to exams, no matter how much I study or pay attention in class, nerves always seem to get the best of me and I freeze up, forgetting all the material. After several hours and hundreds of dollars spent on the best tutoring programs for SAT’s and ACT’s I still felt my scores did not accurately depict the type of student I am. I’m sure many other high school and college kids feel this way and would agree with me that other forms of assessment such as projects, presentations, and papers are better ways to test the understanding of the material.
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A test, by definition, is intended to measure and assess student’s knowledge on a specific subject. They are simply taken by students regurgitating facts they spent hours memorizing but not actually absorbing any of the concepts or understanding what they actually mean. Not only that, but exams don’t allow for any creativity or profound responses. Many times questions are looking for a single correct answer rather than a different outlook or idea on a certain concept. This causes students to only focus on specific exam questions rather than the topic as whole. Studies have found that in today’s society, students believe that good grades are more important than a firm understanding of the material. They have begun to study solely the information that will be tested and disregard any other information as unimportant (Brain Connection). How does this make for better learning? Memorization is not knowledge and if students cannot apply the material learned, what good it it? Simply put, exams are not true indicators of one’s intelligence and often times, limit students ability to actually comprehend the material rather than to just memorize it (Telegraph).
Along with not fully grasping subject concepts, tests cause unnecessary stress in students that could hinder their learning. Many times students react to stress by not sleeping, not eating, and failing to concentrate which could mean they are not paying full attention in classes. Not only is their pressure from themselves to perform well, but teachers as well who are comparing them to their peers. To many teachers, a student’s success is only relevant if it is greater than that of it’s peers. Personally, I have experienced that while an “A-” on a test may be an outstanding grade for myself, it will not be the grade recognized by my teacher if it is not the best in the class. This causes me to put additional stress on myself to do better rather than focus on my own personal achievement (Brain Connection).
A final aspect to testing, is the fact that an exam assesses the student’s knowledge on that particular day, not taking into account external factors that may play a part in the student’s performance. Such factors could include sickness, injury, or family problems. Other forms of assessment such as projects, or presentations are done over a period of time rather than on a particular day in a specific time period giving the student more flexibility for other things to arise. Additionally, exams are evaluating a student’s individual attempt rather than their growth throughout the course as a whole. I believe that improvement is something to be accounted for rather than just a grade based on a single performance (Columbia University).
Various others forms of assessment to consider that could potentially replace testing, are sampling, stealth assessments and social and emotional skills surveys. Sampling is a way of evaluating students but less frequently. Instead of standardized tests for everybody, the district could administer tests to a “statistically representative” group of students rather than to every student annually. Hence the name, “sampling’. Stealth assessments diminish the time and anxiety of regular tests. They assess the students’ knowledge over a larger amount of time such as a semester or entire year rather than a single moment. Stealth assessments are administered online through a program which allows students to continuously practice math and english. Social and emotional skills surveys measures levels of hope, engagement, and well being which are good indicators of how well a student will perform on an assessment. This is to predict future scores and G.P.A.’s through the survey results (nprED).
Is it fair to say that for some students exams may not be the best form of assessment? Based on the information above I would say yes. Testing has shown to hinder creativity and original thinking, create stress among students and teachers, and fails to consider the growth/ improvement of the student as a whole. Overall, there are several other forms of assessments that could potentially be better suited to wider range of students that should be considered.