Testing doesn’t work for everyone

Creative final projects are the way to go

Grading can be subjective in art disciplines.

Whether you love school or hate it, everyone can relate to pre-exam anxiety.

No matter how prepared you are, you stand in front of the classroom or wherever you’re taking a test and freeze. Your heart races, your mind tumbles, and suddenly you’re afraid you’ll walk in and forget everything you’ve spent weeks reviewing just for this one test.

Exam anxiety is common and almost expected of most students since tests are inherently daunting. With how important our grades are for our future, as university students, a lot of our future plans hinge on our grades. Bad grades lead to a bad GPA, and a bad GPA means your post-undergrad options are a little more limited.

But test anxiety isn’t the only issue with testing as a whole.

Since elementary school, we’re subjected to multiple types of testing that determine our academic pathways but, in a lot of cases, testing only tests your memory. Tests don’t address other things you might learn at school, like your ability to comprehend different subjects or your ability to apply what you learned on a day-to-day basis.

In a lot of cases, the ways testing is designed or administered is exclusionary, too.

If you’re neurodivergent, a lot of what testing entails can be especially challenging. Sitting down for hours at a time and maintaining focus is difficult for a lot of people.

In subjects like the Arts, testing is difficult because it’s hard to determine how someone learned something that’s objectively subjective. I know, as an English major, the aim is to teach us to analyze texts, and to practice our writing skills, but how can you set objective criteria for subjective texts?

And finally, test anxiety is real and damaging. A student who normally does stellar on every assignment can flounder and fail an exam. It doesn’t matter if they’ve done all the work and studied, all they can when anxiety can take over and make them not do as well as they could.

It's understandable that an institution meant for learning needs to evaluate and rank how much we learnt. We come here to learn, prove we learn, and earn away into the upper echelons of academia by contributing to the academic world. So, in theory, testing makes sense.

In practice, however, testing doesn’t prove that we learn anything. It’s not always an accurate reflection of our academic progress because learning is much more complicated than being able to memorize readings and quote them by heart.

Proving how well we learn can be more than just sitting in an exam room and writing what we memorized. But that also means re-evaluating how things are taught to us, and which things about academics will be valued.

Ultimately, testing shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of academic evaluation. There are other ways for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned, like making the final a project or an essay instead of a test. Creative final projects would allow students to apply their learning in a more practical and creative way, expanding on what they’ve learned and removing the pressure of timed exams. 

For the sake of inclusivity and students’ mental health, academic institutions should put more effort into changing the ways they grade students.

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