Lauren Wilner

In our public education system, tests are weighted as too much of a priority, especially in high school. Too much time is being spent both taking tests and preparing for tests. The structure of the classroom has always been about learning the material and then getting tested on the material and whatever grade you get is supposed to demonstrate how well you understand what you have learned. Getting a good grade on a test becomes more important than actually learning about the subject matter itself. Tests distract students from what really matters about learning. Working toward lessening schools’ reliance on testing and promoting other ways of learning will make learning more enjoyable and useful.

It is not sufficient to decrease the emphasis on testing in courses. In order for effective change to take place, we actually need to change the test designs entirely, as they are completely inadequate. Tests should not be made to be intentionally super difficult — especially if students are learning this material for the first time. After all, the goal is to test understanding and not mastery, of the content. Students often feel confident that they will do well because they feel like they have understood everything that has been taught to them in class. But when they get to the test, they find it is more difficult than the exercises or examples they did in class. If a student pays attention in class, takes notes, does the homework and studies for an exam, it should be expected that they can do well with a sufficient mastering of the material.

Additionally, the importance given to tests inhibits students’ ability to truly learn the material. Since tests are so impactful to grades and therefore getting into a good college, students often try to ensure that they know everything for the test, but forget most of the material once the test is over. There have been finals that I have studied upward of 20 hours for and, then, three weeks later, I have already forgotten the majority of the material. The pressure to get good test scores creates an environment in which students care more about a number and not genuinely learning.

If tests were not centered in education, then students could appreciate learning more instead of the whole goal being to prepare for a test. Additionally, tests promote mere memorization, which is not realistic for the real world where you would be able to access the internet or a calculator. While memorization skills are valuable, it should not be the only skill that education develops — skills like critical thinking should also be prioritized.

Testing also has adverse effects on students’ stress. The pressure of doing well on tests affects students’ physical and mental health. When studying takes up too much time, students often do not have time to relax and do things for their mental health, which leads to sacrificing important self-care needs, like sleep or exercise. Around the time of big tests, I have chosen studying over seeing my friends or family, slept an insufficient amount for days and even skipped meals just to study more. Learning should be a positive thing in a young person’s life, not the thing that makes them miserable. If less pressure and time is spent on testing in the classroom, students will have more time to incorporate mental and physical habits that are essential for a healthy life.

Tests are also not the best way for every student to demonstrate their understanding. While a low test score may suggest to others a lack of understanding, that is not the truth. Some students may not be naturally good test takers and might benefit from other ways of demonstrating their understanding.

Teachers should be encouraged to get more creative in their classrooms for their students. Two ways teachers and professors can do this is either through projects or discussions, which encourage a more hands-on and collaborative spirit. This way, the learning process can be more similar to how they would apply the material in real-life scenarios. Teachers can get creative and make projects fun. Discussions are also a great way to demonstrate your knowledge in a less stressful environment that feels more natural than a test. It also teaches other skills, like communication and cooperation. Teachers can support a more relaxed discussion or turn it into a debate. Both of these skills promote more than just memorization and may make the students enjoy the content. Overall, less testing and more kinds of creative evaluations decrease stress and benefit students with enhanced ways of learning and understanding.

Lauren Wilner is a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law.

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece which represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.