If you're like many other high school students, you probably have a test or quiz to take at school this week. But after a long day at school, the last thing you want to do is more schoolwork. Between other homework and extracurricular activities, you'll most likely end up cramming right before the test or maybe not studying at all. However, test scores can affect your average. Sometimes tests are a good thing, objectively showing how well a student understands the material, but there is cause for concern regarding testing: Results can be misleading.
Teachers will often give students a list of exactly what's on the test and the format of the test, so they can easily focus on what they need to memorize and forget what they don't need. Some students do not perform well on tests because they are worried about it or have trouble with certain parts of the test, such as an essay. Standardized testing has generalized scoring, which means that a few points can make a huge difference in whether or not a student gets appropriate help for a learning disability. Cramming for a test the night before, or even the class before, is effective in the short term but not the long term. Students will remember the material during the test, but they will quickly forget the information because they did not review it enough.
Margaret Staszak, assistant principal at Mount Mercy Academy, says that she doesn't know why students cram the night before a test.
"Even though we tell them about good study habits, they don't follow them," she said.
However, students cram because they don't have time to sit down every night and look over notes for every class. Teenagers today are busy with jobs, sports and extracurricular activities that demand their time after school.
Katlyn Grasso, a senior at Immaculata Academy, studies a little bit every day when preparing for a test but can understand why people cram.
"I think that students cram for tests because they are so busy that they don't always have time to study in advance," Katlyn said.
The pressure to do well forces some students to resort to cheating. Cheating harms students in the long run because cheaters become dependent on someone else for information they should know. It also keeps their average up, despite the fact that they are struggling in school. Tests need to become more accurate in order to give students the credit and the help they deserve.
Students are tested too frequently. On the first day of school, students are already stressed about getting to class on time or just being back in school. "Practice" tests to gauge how much students remember from the previous year only add to the pressure and stress at school. After a long summer break, students have a hard time remembering math formulas or global history facts.
For students taking Advanced Placement courses, the preparation for a college-level test is grueling. In early May, high school students around the country will sit for the AP World History exam. One month later, students in New York will sit for a Regents exam on the same material.
"Students have to try to retain this information for an extra month, which can be difficult as students lose focus as the end of the year approaches," Katlyn said. "On the other hand, students who take AP classes are better prepared for Regents exams because they have already studied the material extensively."
While the Regents exam isn't as demanding as an AP exam, it's important to do well. Testing on the same material is unnecessary, especially if a student does well on the AP exam.
"Unfortunately, most schools require students who take the AP exams to take Regents exams because the scores for the AP exams are not mailed out until mid-July, causing Regents exams to serve as the final exam grade for a particular class," Katlyn said.
"Testing has become more of a focus for students and teachers because much of education is data-driven," Staszak said.
A possible solution to this problem could be alternate assessments.
"Some kind of assessment aligned with instruction is needed. Whatever is being taught needs to be assessed, whether it's projects, reports or tests," Staszak said.
In any case, when it comes to testing, some things need to be changed because students might be making the grade but they are not learning anything.
Lee Haggerty is a sophomore at Mount Mercy Academy.