Timed testing adds unnecessary stress to students

Dana Shefet, Editor-In-Chief

Timed testing has been around in our school system for so long that many consider it an unpleasant, necessary part of our lives. The true purpose of testing is often times forgotten in schools today due to the ridiculous amount of tests students are constantly required to take. A test is meant to assess a student’s understanding of a subject or course matter. Supposedly, teachers use tests to get a better idea of how much their students have learned. However, tests cannot serve as accurate judgments of a student’s understanding if they are constantly working to “beat the clock” rather than to succeed in the academic world.

If the ultimate goal of tests are to to assess student’s understanding, time limits do little to help this process along. The basic assumption behind timed testing is that quicker answers mean better comprehension, or that students who better understand the material are able to answer questions quicker. This is not always the case. Often times, the opposite is true; quick answers can mean superficial, short-term memorization, instead of a more time-dependent, comprehensive understanding.

In this sense, timed testing actively takes away from understanding, by teaching students how to “regurgitate” information instead of actively learning and understanding. As for the students who actually understand the material, they may receive worse grades than those who memorize the material superficially due to a deeper level of thinking that takes more time. All of a sudden, the test is no longer assessing comprehension, but rather ability to mark down answers without truly learning the subject material.

Time limits add an additional, unnecessary level of stress and anxiety to a testing situation. Important tests like final exams or standardized assessments often cause students to worry just as much or more about being able to finish on time than they do about actually knowing the material. This past semester, final exams were reduced to an hour and a half time period versus the three hours that were given in the past. This forced teachers to make shorter tests, making each question worth more points and causing stress for students that if they do not know a topic as well it will play a larger role in determining their final grade. Extra stress on tests can cause a student to forget the material, make careless mistakes, or even take longer.

Timed testing does anything but level out the playing field for students of all strengths when taking a test. Rather, it introduces several variables — things like capacity to memorize or reaction to stress — which skew results and make a test less effective in its assessment of understanding. When more factors are brought into the equation, there is a greater likelihood that a test is assessing something other than comprehension.

Although there cannot be an infinite amount of time to take tests, there must be a way to determine an amount of time that is ideal for students finishing their tests while also being realistic. Educators should determine an appropriate length of time for tests so students receive an accurate representation of their mastery of material.